By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
Originally published in Jaunty's September 2014 newsletter
"Let's check out that art thing over there with the spinning umbrellas and then go to the Hug Deli."
This was my second year at Burning Man and I know I'll keep going back for more. It's the sense of community I feel out there from 70,000 people coming together to build a temporary city in the desert. It's people's openness, emotional vulnerability and how present we are without the distractions of our phones. And it's the tremendous sense of social freedom I feel on the Playa.
The event has a reputation for being cool and it certainly is. But this is cool without attitude. It's the real cool of people doing whatever they like and following their joy. It's a nonjudgmental cool. If you want to play on the swings in a tutu, that's great. (If you're a dude then that's great too.) If your joy is to walk around naked or in shorts and a t-shirt, or check out workshops on geology or astrology or bondage, that's all cool too.
When I took Jaunty's six-week course last spring, I learned that no one really cares what we do anyway. When we're twisted up in knots with social anxiety, afraid of what other people will think of us, we're the ones doing the twisting.
Over the past few months I had become a bit complacent and stopped pushing myself to do as many cold approaches. Burning Man was the kick in the pants I needed to get my Jaunty on again. On the Playa, I struck up conversations with countless strangers every day. It felt effortless and fun.
Now, back in the "default world," I've cleaned the dust off my things, but I've kept that feeling of social freedom right here at my side. I feel more playful again, interacting with strangers and not worrying what other people think. To me, the Burning Man culture is a breath of fresh air and I feel energized to keep following my joy and building the community I want here in the Bay Area.
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
I used to be a professional social butterfly. When I worked in finance for Merrill Lynch, part of my job was to attend black tie events three times a week, and schmooze. From private penthouse parties, to rented-out museums, I honed my social intelligence skills, chatting with the city's elite.
I did this for two years straight, with my business partner, who happened to be the best wingman ever. At Jaunty we teach how to connect with anyone, anywhere. A lot of us can feel a bit intimidated by uber powerful people, but you know what? They're just people.
Here's what I learned about connecting with San Francisco's upper crust:
1. You get qualified....very quickly - The who's who crowd is great at sizing people up. Sometimes the intentions are good, sometimes not. They embed conversations with things like, "Who did you come with?" "What do you do?" and "Where do you summer/live?" I don't think it's to compete so much as qualifying you as "one of us." Rolling with these questions but then taking the conversation deeper and making them feel good with humor, fun "weaving," and even flirtation, really differentiated us at these events.
2. They are competitive between themselves - As we gained clients within this circle, we learned they were relaxed about their finances and retirement, and upbeat about travel and other experiences. But what really stressed them out was how they were doing in relation to their neighbors. There is a definite hierarchy within these groups and they were always trying to ask us how they compared. Keeping up meant asking where the Jones' had bought their newest property. Being able to recognize the concerns of the people you are talking to, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, can show empathy. Especially since many other people would roll their eyes, when you consistently keep an open mind, you show you're thoughtful.
3. They are not happier than anyone else - According to a Princeton study, we apparently feel happier the more we earn, but only up to an annual household income of around $75k. Beyond that point, more money may not make us any happier.
Most happiness is from within. I met a lot of elites who seemed uninterested in their spouse and bored. Even when feeling unexcited about engaging with someone, putting a wedge in this feeling and really paying attention to what the person is saying with their words and their body, can make all the difference. Seriously, when was the last time you asked what someone's body language or vocal tonality was really trying to convey? This is where we came in and brought some exciting conversation using stories and empathy. They loved it and this is how we created some great relationships with them.
4. Don't put anyone on a pedestal - This one can be hard sometimes, especially if you're talking with someone who's done something you think is really cool. But really understanding yourself and getting comfortable with people skills, we can feel social freedom with anyone. Also, if you want to talk the lingo, they always say, "Nice to see you." and never say "Nice to meet you." when greeting someone new or not. I use this all the time now.
There's no right or wrong, or good or bad when it comes to external versus internal status in our lives. However as we discuss in our workshops, we've found that internal status trumps external status every time.
Today, start a conversation with someone with high external status that you wouldn't ordinarily talk to. Maybe it's your boss' boss, or a well-dressed stranger on the street. If you've come to one of our free workshops you already have some ideas of what to do. If you've attended one of our six-week courses you can take the conversation anywhere you like. Have fun and let me know how it goes!
This blog was originally published in Jaunty's September newsletter.
By Eric Waisman
When you own it, some strangeness can impress and intrigue.
Look around you. Most people do their best to conform and fit in...like it's a good thing. But when it comes to being memorable or attractive, blending in spells certain death.
When I studied abroad in Israel, I joined a group of 500 students from all over the world, all excited to establish our places socially. In the first few days, cliques formed and a few beautiful, alpha females and loud, good-looking alpha males, started rising to the top of the social hierarchy. When the alphas got together, they wore tight shirts and used very loud (sometimes drunk) voices. Meanwhile I tried to meet people across all different groups to see who I liked.
I had accidentally enrolled in a Hebrew language class that was way too advanced for me. Instead of learning basic words, this class was already working on advanced storytelling. I felt like an alien. I ended up saying really weird phrases, but owning the fact that I probably sounded ridiculous. This may have come off as independent and creative, I have no idea. Interestingly, I started getting a lot of attention from the other students.
On the weekends, I sometimes disappeared from the group as my cousins showed me around Israel. As I got immersed in the culture, I started dressing, talking, eating, and acting like Israelis. I'd come back to the group, tanned and full of great stories. They listened, eager as I shared tips about the best hotspots around us. I was unknowingly leading, and I started holding very strong eye contact, which Israelis are accustomed to. For an unknown reason I also started to use darker humor.
I quickly realized that almost everyone wanted to hang out with me, including the alpha females. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was just exploring, experimenting, and doing what was interesting to me. It turned out my being a bit different was interesting to a lot of other people too.
Think back on some of your first few weeks at school while you were growing up. How did you establish yourself socially? What would you do now to either be yourself or try to fit in? Think about the kids you admired in your schools and what they did to stand out. Now I urge you to celebrate your quirks rather than hide them. Have fun expanding and exploiting what is uniquely you. Now, go and be your weird self.