Heritage Wednesday::The Elevator Speech

A Heritage Elevator Speech? Yes. If you are a professional, a small-business owner, an academic, an artist or a dreamer, you have inherited a culture that is short on time yet ravenous for great ideas. The elevator speech is what bridges the gap between innovators and their supporters. If you are fortunate enough to encounter an interested or strategically placed person who can propel you on your path, you need a hook, a compelling and SHORT story to engage them in your vision. These interactions are often the result of chance social encounters with friends of friends, colleagues at professional conferences or all-staff meetings at work. At best, you may get a 1-4 minute audience with this person, so make it count!

Elevator Speech Opportunities

“So, what do you do for a living?”

I have heard it said a few times by artists and academic-types that the sales-pitch feels like the hardest part. “Why must I sell people on my idea when it is clearly something that: will inspire others / help the greater good / is intrinsically valuable”. Yes, your idea may be all of those things, but no idea is helpful without the support of other people. It’s a condition of being born a social being. The truth is, if you have a degree, a job, or you have friends who support your endeavors, then your inner-salesperson is alive and well. We sell people on ideas of who we are, what we are capable of, and even convince companies and institutions to believe that we are ambassadors for the best interests of an academic discipline, department or product line.

If you dislike the “sale” then that is an indicator that you approach the sales moment with the sensibilities of the inner artist, or academic etc, that is to say, you may be approaching the sales moment with the portion of yourself that prefers to be alone and simply do the work, rather than drum-up support for it. That frame of mind is good when creating or writing, but does not directly serve the proliferation of your goal, project or idea. You will need to free your inspired salesperson self to share your idea, or it will remain small and undernourished, and will eventually wither and die young, never having received support from those who could help it thrive.

Overlapping interests are the bounty of the elevator speech

“No kidding? I have always been interested in that! Let’ set up a meeting time to discuss this further. I’d love to help you in any way I can…”

Approach the following exercise with the passion of the artist, the honed expression of your inner academic, and the tact and extroversion of your inner salesperson.

Elevator speeches should be customizable on the fly, so this requires you to really think about your project, ideas or goals, and think of as many possible applications or collaborations that you would ENJOY pursuing. This refines your thought process about the project, and cultivates a flexible approach to describing your idea.

If your networking goal is to meet as many allied people as possible, then your elevator speech goal is to craft as many versions of an introduction.

Now that you know the “whys” of an elevator speech, let’s discuss the “how”.  There are five dimensions to the elevator speech. They cover the points most likely to interest the listener, yet leaves them enough time to comprehend the information and ask for more if they so choose.

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
  2. Why is this new fangled thing better that what already exists? What does your offering give that has never been offered before?
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?

 More on STEP 5

After the sales pitch, the rest is up to the listener / audience. You can make a quick introduction, but the buy-in cannot be rushed.  After you finish your elevator speech, make eye contact, smile, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders while counting to 5.  By the time you compose yourself, you will be ready to listen to their response, and answer any questions.

Remember, this is a conversation, and questions signify interest and active listening, not necessarily criticism (remember: critique is good); so receive their questions as guidance toward the clarification and manifestation of your goal. No idea is created in a vacuum.

Give the listener time to digest and respond to your “speech”. Let them begin to sense the greater implications and importance of your work. If you give them time to respond, inevitably, they will respond with thoughtful questions. Keep your answers concise. Less is more. The “less is more” speech is composed of the prize nuggets that makes listeners want to seek more information. This is salesperson-ship at its best! Your brilliant idea enhanced by a refined presentation does all the work!


Kudos to You!

Congratulations! This was a long post, so if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already primed your inner salesperson to do you proud. The hardest part is writing the speech, so once you’ve written the first draft. Say it aloud, practice it, test it on your friends and family, coworkers, and your boss (if appropriate). When you can improvise alternate versions and feel comfortable with the process, you’re ready to take it into the field…

I thought I’d share my revised elevator speech with you as an example, so here it is, in outline format:

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
    1. My name is Shawndel Fraser and I am an Environmental Psychologist. I am building a creative and healing arts retreat for women survivors.
  2. Why is this newfangled thing better that what already exists? Why is your project / goal / idea unique?
    1. Where most retreats cater to luxury consumers, yogis, or spiritual seekers, The Blue Dome is a retreat for women who wish to hone new emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual tools to transform limited and limiting beliefs about past intense experiences.
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
    1. The Blue Dome is a restorative and safe place where women create community; they repose in physical, emotional and psychological comfort, and take part in creative and healing art activities that help them realize one thing: survivors don’t simply survive, they Artfully Transcend. Any survivor has the potential and ability to transcend all types of violence and circumstance.
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?
    1. My goal is for the women to realize during their stay, that their past traumas were divine lessons in disguise.
    2. My vision is that they will come to learn that their survivor status is actually a call to contribute in global healing though their unique expression of leadership in their everyday lives.

I hope this is helpful, do share your elevator speech should you feel so inclined. I will offer constructive critique if you do!



Heritage Music Day: Evolution of Gospel

This is an oldie but goodie; this song “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness is from the “Evolution of Gospel” album, and it holds amazing memories for me. I was a camp counselor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the oldest (and most radical) Episcopal church in Harlem, New York City, and the self chosen spiritual home off my youth. It was there, on 126th Street and Old Broadway / St, Mary’s place that I took my first communion, I first interacted with live chickens and turkeys, served on the altar, and sang in the junior choir. I learned that it is good to be a P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass) to oppressive authority (thanks to then head priest Rev. Robert Castle, (Jonathan Demme’s cousin), and I learned to open my heart, mind and social space to people who live without homes, and with HIV/AIDS. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church taught me deep compassion for people, and each week I witnessed unconditional acceptance as people of many persuasions served on the altar, sometimes to the displeasure of the Cardinal. St. Mary’s Episcopal ushered me into a noble adulthood that I cherish to this day.

In 1993, I served as a summer camp counselor, and we created a closing ceremony for our campers that required all camp staff and students to take part. We all marched and danced to this song together, and it caused us to share and develop a deep appreciation for that moment in time with every replay of the song during our many weeks of rehearsal. The adult camp counselor with the greatest seniority, Tim Collins passed not too long after our summer camp, but I remember his humor, his candor, his loving family and well….his candor 🙂 He was the glitter on many of my summer moments. Although he left us, he also left an indelible mark that I remember every time I play this song.

I share this song with you almost 20 years later because it still moves me. I still sensorially reconnect with St. Mary’s altar, where I served as altar girl, choir member and camp counselor. Everyone has challenging and heavy days that seem endless and consuming, but the Sounds of Blackness tell us “You can win! As long as you keep your head to the sky!” I remember Tim chose this song. Although it seems difficult today, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and it holds infinite possibilities for happiness. “Keep, keep on…”

Sounds of Blackness was ahead of their time, with the video, the mixture of choreography traditions and their sound. They paved the way for many other interpretations of gospel music. I am lucky to have had them as a soundtrack to my early youth, I thank Tim for the timeless advice he offered us all through this song, and I am so grateful to St. Mary’s Church for being such a safe space in my early years. Even now when I read the blog or occasionally call the new head Priest Father Kooperkamp,all I feel, hear and think of is “home”. St. Marys was an incredible place to grow up back in the day! This song holds all this profundity for me, accessible via a simple mouse-click in iTunes. I hope you enjoy it, even half as much as I do.


Just Married! Art and Craft!

I have encountered a number of uniquely crafted instruments over the years, however htis is the first moment when I’ve heard the artisan state that their work is a marriage between art and craftsmanship. Indeed, the look of the instrument and fine sound, also tells me that it may be a polyamorous relationship as *technicality* seems to have influenced this pairing.

Avocado Ukelele

Snail Shell Ukelele (Snailele)

Dove Hole Mandolin by Celentano Woodworks

To be an artist, artisan or fine crafter, one must fully embrace their medium, materials and tools for all of its possibilties, quirks and challenges. Then, one must consolidate that knowledge with the skills honed over time and circumstance to bring the idea to form and innovate. Truly the expertise, intensity, joy and beauty necessary for and produced by the artists and crafters derives from the same inner source, yet I am perplexed by the fact that society views one as finer than the other because the objects have different practical potentialities.

Navajo Spindle: Earth by Roosterick

Polwarth Wool Roving - Handpainted Felting or Spinning Fiber by Woolgatherings

Raibow Upcycled Sweater by Katwise

I wonder if one must devote themselves to one art form to truly be considers a great artist… or must you know everything about one craft to be a master craftsperson. What about the person who appreciates the vastness of any given art or craft area, endeavors to learn to do one thing really well, then pursues the next medium, material or art / craft form to repeat the process of learning. What is that person called? What is the name of the art of pursuing practicable knowledge about craft?

Offering No. 29 - Handstitched Clamshell Book Sculpture by Odelae

An Innocent Fluttering - Mini Handstitched Journal by Odelae

View the Craft In America Episode: Process that explores the makings of a craft career.  “What inspires a career in craft?  How does one learn a craft and make a living at it?”

1) Know what materials / emotions / places that make you want to create

2) Indulge your curiosity, inspiration is always near

3) Trial and Error. Even the “mistakes” can be beautiful!

4) Collect an email address for every patron who buys your art

5) Open an etsy shop. Start your own cottage industry!

6) Honor your vision. What is amazing to you will find it’s audience. See below!

All the artworks featured in this post are from some of my favorite artisans and shops on etsy! they inspire me. Saving them to y favorites means that I’ve created a small gallery of beautiful handmade items; I love to look at them!

Nevada Cut Coin Jewelry by bongobeads

Toothless Ring Made With Fake Tooth And Topaz by dolldisasterdesign

Tardis Corset- blue underbust corset, steel boned, custom made, doctor who inspired by Corset Wonderland

Encourage Yourself


Sometimes you have to encourage yourself

Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test

and no matter how you feel, just the speak the word and you will be healed!

Speak over your self, encourage yourself, in the Lord, ooooh

(choir) Sometimes you, have to encourage yourself

gotta pat your own self on the back, yeah

(Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test)

And no matter how you feel, speak the word over your life, ooooh and you will be healed

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself, in the Lord.

Second Verse

Sometimes you have to speak the word over yourself,

Depression is all around, but God is present help!

Well the enemy created walls, but remember giants, they do fall

Speak over yourself, encourage yourself, in the Lord, oh!


As I minister to you, oh, I minister to myself…

Life can hurt you so, ’til you feel there’s nothing left…oooh!

(chorus) (no matter how you feel)

Speak the word over your life and you will, you will be healed!

(Speak over yourself)

Sometimes you gotta look in the mirror and tell yourself “I can make it!”

(speak over yourself)

You gotta remember that life and death lies in the power of your own tongue.

Even if nobody tells you you can run on, YOU TELL YOURSELF!

You gotta remember I’m more than a conqueror!

(I’m encouraged!) Greater as HE rests me …..yeah,

(I’m encouraged)

I believe that the Lord said about me!

(I’m encouraged!)

Everything that the enemy ever told me: It’s a Lie! It’s a Lie! It’s a Lie!

(I’m encouraged!)

Yeaaaahhh! Yeaaaahhh! Yeaaaahhh!

(I’m encouraged!) I’m encouraged!   (I’m encouraged) Oh Yes I am!

(I’m encouraged!) Oooh Yes I am! (I’m encouraged!)  Yeahhhh!

I,  will lift up mine eyes unto hills! yeah. All of my help, all of my help comes from the Lord!

I believe, I believe everything he said about me! Oh yeah!

(I’m encouraged)  Oh Yes I am! (I’m encouraged) Oh Yes I am! (I’m encouraged)
Oh…Yes I am! (I’m encouraged) hey , I am

I am, I believe I’m gonna run on, I’m gonna see what the end’s gonna be.

(I’m encouraged)

I know something better is out there waiting for me!

(I’m encouraged)

I believe everything the Lord said about me!

(I’m encouraged).

Speak over yourself, Encourage yourself, in the Lord.


Seek and You Will Find Yourself

The past few days have been professionally and personally challenging. I am apparently at a transitional phase in life where all prior supports, concepts of self, modes of communication, methods of harnessing personal power and attachment to friends all fall away and crumble to the ground like some fine talcum powder. In the confusion before the dust settled, I felt confused, like I was walking around coated in post 9/11 debris, horrible to see, yet much worse to experience. Shaken to the core that my personal d-day had arrived, the end of all trust, I couldn’t give in to the fatalistic thoughts because life must marched forward to its own tempo, despite the worries that clouded my tiny energetic speck of the universe.

The dust seems to have settled and I am easing into this new phase. I’ve learned some wonderful lessons with the help of a few masters. El maestro don Juan, Carlos Castaneda’s teacher taught me how to release self-importance when dealing with petty tyrants. They are a necessary step on the warriors path to knowledge and a life of impeccability. While there is no easy way to summarize don Juan’s teachings, I can say this. when you open a Carlos Castaneda book, prepare for the teachings to appear in your life. Every time I revisit these books I forget, I wind up breathless in an energetic lesson like this one, and ultimately I leave stronger for it. Consider yourself forewarned. 🙂

Another recent teacher is National Geographic’s Cesar Milan and dog Roscoe. Together they demonstrated that patience, a willingness to improvise and trust in the new will allow you to overcome, to push through and ultimately transform the mind-controlling fear. There is a better life on the other side of the fear threshold. Click here to watch the full episode, or watch the short clip below.

And tonight, after a long, productive day at school, working on my research, meeting about the Nature Ecology Society and just all around feeling effective and lucky to have a daily life filled with activities I sincerely enjoy, I reconnected with a power song of yesteryear, sweet reggae music by Freddie McGregor “Seek & You Shall Find”, which I included at the top of this entry.

The lyrics to song inspired this blog post, bolstered my train ride home at 11pm and overall made me feel like all of my dreams are possible; not only that they are possible, but that my dreams are my future reality, that they are already mine, already true. All I need to do is show up and be present when the time comes. For those of you unaccustomed to the island lilt of my people, I’ve excerpted some of the lyrics below:

I can see my blessings coming…in these troubled times we gotta be strong! and as sure as the sun shines, I’ve gotta get it cause it’s really mine, won’t stop won’t give up the fight, I’ll do it with all my might, right now cause… Jah Jah will do it. If you seek then you will find it (x2). Mankind knows not the minute or the hour, so  do the best in life….the things you wanna achieve in life is there for you right now, I know that!

Some think to themselves, there’s no hope there is no solution to these major problems created by man, oh yes, but as sure as the sun shines, I’ve got to get it cause it’s really mine, don’t stop, don’t give up the fight. Do it with all your might, my people. Jah Jah will do it, just seek then you will find it. Mankind knows not the minute or the hour, so  do the best in life….the things you wanna achieve in life is there for you right now, I know…

Be wise now children and listen to the words of wisdom, in these troubled times we’ve got to be strong…

Why do academics “em-boring” things?

Dear Thinker-Feelers,   

 How many of you attend classes, conferences, artist talks, readings and the link, only to be distracted by the rumpled, mismatched dress of the presenter while being bored senseless by the lackluster powerpoint presentation and lack of engaging verbiage and audiovisual accompaniment. These avoidable faux pas only serves to distract our audiences from our content and visually undermine the expert standing  that we work so hard to attain within our respective fields.  I say that this is a condition of academic adulthood. We have forgotten how to have fun, and we do a great job training students to do the same.   

I wonder, how can we challenge ourselves

Stylish Dress while leading an multidisciplinary, interactive multimedia Conference Day

Stylish Professional


How can we challenge ourselves to craft conferences, lectures and presentations that would be interesting to our students, or friends and family and colleagues in different academic disciplines? One suggestion I have is to shape craft research questions that are amenable to data collection and analysis using technologies and methods and collection sites that engage more than the visual cortex.   Let us not fear different approaches to interesting ideas. What about the Dance Your PhD  contest from Science Magazine? Why aren’t there more unique programs like Brooklyn College’s Borough as a Classroom  which demonstrates the real world applicability of lectures and reading via field trips for experiential learning and group bonding?  And why the heck don’t we academics dress elegantly and stylish when teaching, or attending and presenting at conferences?      

Academics and other professionals who take themselves and their work too seriously, are ADULT adults. 

The reality is that most of us have become proficient at “de-funning” this life long process we embarked on – the privilege of seeking answers and inventing new ways of delving into THE most intriguing questions that we can think of; the honor of spending our days, nights, weekends and summer vacations engaged in conversation with people who are similarly enraptured with and “expertised” in related topics. People with whom we can explore topics at levels of theoretical abstraction  or scientific precision, conversations that are not ‘par for the course with our loved ones’.  Is this a sign that we should aim for general understandability? Should we be able to talk passionately about of favorite subjects while being understandable to the greater majority? I offer a resounding (((YES!))).  I think that our sometimes masturbatory use of abstract concepts and scientific terminologies prevent us from sharing ideas or discussing our work with people outside of our discipline or education level.    

 Questioning our choices and thinking about options:

  • If we be schlubby dressers, who  lecture AT students without the benefit of the dynamic multimedia of their everyday life, doesn’t this in effect show that we already do not care about them, their  world outside of our disciplines, our classrooms, the world in which our students live when they are not in our classes?
  • How then to interest students in what you have to offer? Even if it is to refute the accuracy claims of commonly used opensource media such as Wikipedia, etc., we must incorporate those things which are relevant and interesting to students. If we make the conversation accessible and participation will likely follow. The world  has changed. The privileged mediums for transmitting information now includes Twitter feeds from favorite and Facebook posts of NYT Online , news articles.   Wikipedia is the choice du jour for quick research projects and many of us likely receive term papers with Wikipedia citations. What to do then? Is the use of Wikipedia information sub-par research or is the student’s vetting of the information more the concern. Either way, it is a conversation that is grist for the mill, WITH our students.

 Any other ideas? A couple of my esteemed colleagues and I discuss these and other issues at length. In our everyday, travels, we strive to spread the message both verbally and by  example. You can visit their blogs via the links below. I also wonder how many of you made it to the end of this posting…hmmm 🙂     



Welcome to Think. Feel. Grow!

Thinkers! Feelers! Friends!

Welcome to Think. Feel. Grow! For the foreseeable future, and with your help, we will think deeply about the various ways that our relationship to nature and one another is created and reinforced by the Everyday Myths of pop culture.  We will think about the messages encoded in our books, advertising, science,  music, cinema and traditions. We will discuss the way we feel about their affect on our beliefs and choices. The combination of which will help us to grow a sustainable, deeply social and aware community of environmental thinkers, ’emoters’ and doers!

By delving into  art, books, science, advertising, movies and song we will decode the messages we passively imbibe and share with our loved ones. The goal is not to mourn our misguided efforts, but to take the opportunities presented to us every day, to actively envision different ways to think about and relate to nature and one another. Through critique and discussion we will usher in the new way of being by becoming the change that we want to see in this world. Today we begin to co-create!