Saturday, December 3, 2022

Reading Opens Doors and More


Today is an important day if you like to read - it's Take a Child to a Bookstore Day. To quote Jenny Milchman, "Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer. On December 3rd, 2022, take a child in your life to a bookstore. Watch his/her/their face light up as you give free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow."

As a member of the Twitterverse for more than 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Kt McBratney from Atlanta, Georgia, and issued an invitation to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about entrepreneurship, marketing, reading, and business inspiration. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Kt McBratney (they/she) is the co-founder & chief community officer at OwnTrail, the new social network for people to achieve their next (fill in the blank). They’re also an artist, strategist, recovering marketer, and aspiring Jungle Cruise skipper.

QUESTION: You are a Co-Founder of your own company. How did that happen?
Kt McBratney: I knew my next career move would be entrepreneurial, but I didn’t know what form that would take. I was working with a wonderful team in my role as chief marketing officer at Seed&Spark when I met my now co-founder, Rebekah Bastian. She introduced herself with such unapologetic authenticity as a tech executive, writer, parent, and aerial acrobat that I had a strong feeling we’d hit it off. I asked her out on a friend date to get to know her more. It was over this coffee that she shared the idea she’d had for her upcoming book launch, which had the possibility of becoming something much bigger. That was the seed of OwnTrail as we now know it — the platform where people can be their most authentic selves, make meaningful connections, and taking action toward a more fulfilling life.

The impact OwnTrail could have struck me right away. As we brainstormed, Rebekah mentioned that she knew she’d want a co-founder. She invited me to work with her first as an advisor to see how we worked together, and a few months later, I knew I had to make the leap to cofounder. We transitioned out of our respective leadership roles at Zillow and Seed&Spark to go full-time on OwnTrail right as the pandemic unfolded in the first months of 2020. It was a wild time for any career move, especially launching a company, but I don’t regret it one bit.

QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
Kt McBratney: Consensus-building is a muscle I’m always working to strengthen, and I don’t think anyone is perfect at it, let alone me! But we need it in all areas of our lives, especially in a culture that can easily confuse winning with success.

To develop consensus-building chops, it takes:
(1) Clarity - so you can convey the idea effectively.
(2) Empathy - so you can create space for people to process it in a way that works for them.
(3) Confidence - so you can help move people from idea to action.

TWEET THIS: We need consensus-building in all areas of our lives, especially in a culture that can easily confuse winning with success. ~@k_to_the_t #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What is your favorite RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?
Kt McBratney: "Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true."

Reading was my first love. I was the kid who would skip recess on a beautiful day to read The Hobbit unbothered in the library. The ideas, places, people, and possibilities that reading has opened up for me are literally countless. While it’s easy (and valid) to quote RBG on gender and women’s rights, this quote reminds me how READING is one of the keys to making that reality and so much else.

TWEET THIS:  The ideas, places, people, and possibilities that READING has opened up for me are literally countless. ~@k_to_the_t #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet, you state that "Business leaders should read at least as much fiction and creative nonfiction as they do business books." So what are you currently reading in the fiction and nonfiction genres?

Kt McBratney: I’m currently reading The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow, which is a light 800-pager on human history and social evolution. It’s fascinating to look at how we tell the stories of civilization through their perspective as an anthropologist and archaeologist, especially as we think about possible futures.

On the fiction side, I just finished Outlawed by Anna North. It’s a Western novel in an alternate past where women unable to bear children were often hanged as witches, and the hero Ada joins a gang of outlaws who just might create a new frontier along the way.

Both deal with the past as a way of looking toward better futures, which is so related to my work with OwnTrail!

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any three people from history or the current era, who would you choose, and why?
Kt McBratney: I’m not one for small talk, so I’m stacking my fantasy dinner party with people unafraid to get into the deep, abstract, or strange! I have to include my longtime role model LeVar Burton. His work as a storyteller and advocate absolutely shaped the trajectory of my life, from encouraging me from a TV screen that loving books was actually a great thing, to helping me realize that a creative and nonlinear career can (and arguably should) center on your values. Imagine the stories he could tell!

We definitely need to invite Dolly Parton, who can hold her own and then some in storytelling, but is an inspiration for humility, generosity, and letting your sequins shine as bright as the sun.

And, in that last spot? The final spot is a toss-up between bell hooks and Jim Henson. Both are incredible teachers of important life lessons on love, identity, community, and care. Complete geniuses in very different ways. I would be honored to pour them a glass of water, let alone share a dinner table.

(For those who may not know, bell hooks was an American author and social activist best known for her writings on race, feminism, and class.)

QUESTION: In your Twitter bio, you describe yourself as many things including "an aspiring Jungle Cruise skipper." As a Disneyophile who worked in the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, I know what you mean, but please explain for others.
Kt McBratney: I now have a thousand questions for you about that experience! My aspiration to be a Jungle Skipper is just that — my retirement dream job is to be a skipper on the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride, slinging puns, making people laugh, and putting joy into the world via the simple magic of human connection and wordplay. I promise I wouldn’t take the job for granite!

(Clarification for non Disney fans and those who don't ride the Jungle Cruise every time they visit a Disney theme park, Kt's last sentence alludes to a memorable joke from the Jungle Cruise ride: “The rocks you see here are sandstone. But some people just take them for granite. It’s one of my boulder attractions.”

My thanks to Kt for sharing their marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kimberly Farmer via Unsplash.

Connect with Kt at these links:
Twitter: @k_to_the_t
Instagram: @k_to_the_t

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