By Aaron Thompson, Jaunty grad
Howdy, I’m a middle school video productions and computer teacher. I grew up in the South and moved to the Bay Area a few years ago for new adventures and to explore filmmaking opportunities. After moving here, I wasn’t being as social as I wanted to be. I joined a few networking groups, but I wasn’t finding a real connection. I felt sorta trapped in a routine. I’m comfortable in most social settings, but I’m definitely not an extrovert, especially in a crowd or in a small of group people I don’t know well. Then Jaunty came along and helped put a little spark back into my life.
I can’t say enough positive things about my experience with Jaunty. I attended the free Jaunty workshop then decided to enroll in the six-week course because I saw it as an investment in myself and a way to make a positive change in my social life.
One of my favorite things to do is travel, to see new places and meet new people. Over spring break, I boarded a crowded airplane on my way to Hawaii. A flight attendant was about to make a passenger leave the plane to check their luggage because all the compartments were full. I knew she was mistaken, so using my new assertiveness skills, I spoke up. I said I had seen some space available in one of the closed compartments. The passenger thanked me, and I felt great having spoken up in a crowd.
Thanks to Jaunty, I’ve found myself being assertive and connecting with people in all kinds of situations.
I recently volunteered as a videographer at the Mill Valley Film Festival, where I had the opportunity to network with actors and filmmakers. One day I was scheduled to record a Q&A session with a director after his film. I arrived at the theater an hour early and was surprised by the way a theater manager approached me. I could tell he was upset by his manner and the tone of his voice. He told me he doesn’t allow camera operators to record a Q&A unless they’re setup before the film begins, and I was there after the film started. I noticed he was wearing a really snazzy shirt, so at one point during our conversation when he said “Do you have any questions?” I said, “Yeah nice shirt, where did you get it?” That sent our conversation going down a different path, and I was able to shoot the Q&A.
What I have learned from Jaunty has been the difference between getting to know someone new and letting that opportunity pass me by. It’s also a lot easier now to take typical “surface” conversations to a deeper, more meaningful level. I have had better conversations with coworkers, and I’ve even developed better relationships with my middle school students, which has translated into a greater level of success in the classroom. Since Jaunty, I’ve been even more social than in the past. I’ve taken up golf as a hobby and started volunteering on a regular basis. I also keep in touch with several classmates and continue to practice what I’ve learned from the classes. Jaunty helped me break out of my routine while having fun doing it.
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
I thought the band was going to kick me off stage. I was fucking up. A lot.
I am currently in Memphis, Tennessee with plans to head down to Clarksdale, Mississippi to rendezvous with a blues society in the exact spot where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. We’ve then got a week of workshops and jamming sessions.
I’ve only been playing the blues for about a year. I was on stage at the Hard Rock on Beale Street tonight with bandmates who have been playing the blues for a collective 150 years, and played with people like Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I played rhythm guitar tonight and I was not playing at my best. In fact, I was lost about 50% of the time. They were good, really good. It was hard to keep up but I had a nerve-racking blast, and was way outside my comfort zone. I was with a great friend who is much more experienced than I am, and he kept reminding me about how the blues, is about community.
The blues is about truth, and stories…and of course of feeling blue. At the break I was envisioning getting the cold shoulder from the pros I played with. I hadn’t backed them up as well as I could have. I thought of Andy Warhol, who would apparently ignore artists at parties he thought of as lowly, which meant professional death for them. That’s not what happened.
Instead, the blues musicians approached me. I was 30 years their junior and they wanted to learn more about me. They treated me as warm as their buddies who they have been playing with for decades. I told them my passions, and they told me to keep it up. The positive encouragement and support meant more to me than the high I had on stage. My friend had only helpful words for me, reminding me that it was my first time on stage in over 11 years.
I see the blues as the most undervalued genre of music. It’s really where everything started in American music. The community is small, yet strong and accepting. The blues started as a creative outlet for dealing with segregation and oppression, and an ounce of that negativity inside the community would turn it inside out.
It got me thinking about the communities we live in. The organizations we are in. The intentions of the people we surround ourselves with. Entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” With that in mind, what kind of people do you want to surround yourself with? People who ignore you or put you down when you aren’t doing your best? Or people who love you for who you are and motivate you to keep trying? Friendship is a two way thing. Are you a supportive, empathetic friend to the people in your life? What can you do to show people even more kindness and compassion while still making sure your own needs are met?
We can choose these communities. The greater our social intelligence skills, the better able we are to consciously surround ourselves with people who help us thrive. How? Because the better your people skills, the more you realize you can approach and create meaningful connections with anyone. That gives you a powerful abundance mindset.
I might not be great yet at playing the blues. But I know that if I show up with a guitar to a session it’ll be my personal communication that speaks louder than my guitar. At Jaunty we call this inner vs. external status. The same can be worked on with social skills. Your intentions of empathy, and assertiveness, and storytelling are way more important than your resume. I might be playing the blues, but feeling that genuine connection with good people, makes me very happy.