Lessons learned from unadulterated eye contact

There is no more profound way to connect with another human being than through sustained and unguarded eye contact. The trouble is, nobody is doing it anymore. Thanks to technology and the frenetic pace of life, it’s become an antiquated process.

Meanwhile, a few pioneering people throughout the world have begun looking back over our history for better ways to live. This includes cooking from scratch, consuming organic products, pre-agrarian diets, barefoot running, bodyweight exercise (a la crossfit), simple living, and building their own tribes.

In my own exploration of life as led by instincts, I found gazing. Not just eye contact, the infrequent flitting of eyes back and forth between two or more people in an effort to be courteous and provide a bare minimum of acknowledgment. I am not talking about staring (or leering) either:

I am talking about gazing: Sustained, meaningful eye contact.

Last spring, I was introduced to the process from a few different sources. It was not an easy habit to rebuild, for a lot of reasons. [For more on how to gaze, check out powerofeyecontact.com.]. Exporing this ‘primal’ process has been a profound teacher. It seems most communication roadblocks and intimacy issues stem from the absence of this simple action. It fosters a connection that we all crave and can be as nourishing to our hearts and minds as a home-cooked meal is to your stomach. I also discovered the following:

  • Eye contact takes practice. It’s like a muscle that needs worked out constantly to prevent atrophy.
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to gaze.
  • You have to be ok with yourself before you can make quality, lasting eye contact with another person.
  • You have to be ok with seeing (and accepting) things in people they do not necessarily want you to see.
  • You can communicate volumes more love and friendliness with a “present” glance than with hours of conversation.
  • People are afraid of eye contact to whatever degree they are afraid of themselves.
  • Gazing makes people feel received and understood and so they linger. It quickly becomes a crash course in how to exit conversation gracefully.
  • Gazing does not have to be romantic.
  • It’s just as important to make eye contact while listening while speaking.
  • Gazing makes way for appreciation of another person’s humanity.
  • Babies and small children gaze fearlessly.
  • It is a constant reminder that we all have one commonality: being human.
  • It’s addictive.

Gazing is not only about other people and their reactions to you. To do it successfully and continuously, you must have a willingness to learn about yourself. Without the safety of words and protective humor, your own emotions bubble up. Emotions you may not have known were there can become suddenly, and unexpectedly, present. Anger, hurt, sadness, mistrust, physical attraction, love, kindness and so on. Then, the challenge is how to apply this information. Do you shut down? Do you attack? Do you turn inward? Do you self-medicate? Do you accept and go with the flow? In many ways, gazing teaches you more about yourself than about others. It is a good barometer for how comfortable you are in your own skin. Discomfort with eye contact marks a very real discomfort with the self.

That is part of the reason so many people are uncomfortable with giving and receiving eye contact. It’s also why so many people find a passion for gazing laughable. Many people react like gazing is new-age nonsense when it is, in fact, the oldest and most direct form of communication.

It’s a lost art, a retro trend, that I (and a handful of others) are bringing back to Phoenix. If anyone is interested in finding opportunities to build this skill and share it with others, please let me know! 

More information and events to come, please stay tuned.

The Pros and Cons of a Vanity URL

In an “I Facebook, therefore I am,” era, your online presence matters. Why not take control of it?

You Are Not Anonymous

Whether or not you want to admit it, if you are online, you are leaving a trail. Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter and LinkedIn are all high-ranking sites with search engines and as a result, so are member profiles. It might be deeply buried (yes, I’m looking at you, John Smith) but it still exists!

Even if someone has never used a computer, he or she is probably online somewhere. Noone is safe from various online directories, such as whitepages.com, spoke.com or classmates.com. (They like to publish your information without your consent to build numbers and attract users.)

Is it safe?

My grandma, who has never touched a computer in her life* beyond dusting one, was very worried about my purchase of shaunastacy.com. She felt for sure I would accrue stalkers, a bad professional reputation or – even worse – trojan viruses!

The irony here is the simple fact that if you are on Facebook, you already have a personal website. You might think it’s safe because it’s one of millions or because of Facebook’s “privacy standards” but one shift in their policies and details about your personal life are suddenly hanging out like a person off the side of a boat.

Besides, if someone really wants to steal your identity, they will find a way regardless of whether you have a vanity URL or not!

Visibility is a Good Thing

It’s still uncertain if stalkers are accruing,** but in this job market it’s proving to be a leg up. For savvy employers and prospective clients, a personal website immediately puts a face and a voice to my list of accomplishments. It has upped the number of referrals I’ve received, boosted freelance and contract work, and has come up several times during interviews. A vanity site sets you apart and leaves a stronger and more accurate impression of one’s personal brand than any cover letter ever could.

Just remember: As long as you take the time to develop a clear vision, navigable design, and create clean and articulate content (or find someone to build it for you) the positive results will outweigh even the occasional stalker.

So why should you buy a vanity URL? That’s simple:

  • To be easy-to-find, 24/7
  • To stay relevant
  • To control your online image

If you’re thinking about setting up a personal website but are unsure about what to do next or need some help, feel free to email me by clicking [here].

*(and who is highly visible online thanks to my excessive referencing and quoting of her awesomeness) **Let’s face it, stalking is the sincerest form of flattery in this digital age!

The Next “Big” Industry

Many think it’s Green Building.

Some think it’s robots.

Seth Godin thinks it’s sorting data.

I think it’s connection, and not the kind that enables your wireless internet network to work. I’m talking about human-to-human.

People are going to get tired of spending all their waking hours behind a screen and when they finally recognize that ache as longing for face-to-face connection, the people that create environments that foster connection – in business, play and love – will profit.

The Social Media Bubble

A few years ago, there was a big demand for housing. Perhaps it was President Bush’s call to action to renew the floundering, post-dot-com-bust economy that sparked it. Perhaps the September 11th attacks and Iraq war made people long for the comforts of home. Perhaps people just wanted a new place to keep all of their stuff…

Architects, realtors, contractors and – especially – developers profited. As demand grew, everyone got in on it in the hopes of making a quick buck. The barriers of entry were low and supply grew quickly to feed this urgent need.

Shoddy work was performed. People got scammed. Houses collapsed at the first big rainfall. The economy began to slow, the industry began to die, and still people were continuing to get their real estate licenses and buy “investment properties,” without concern for waning demand.

Now, there is a big demand for social media. We are inundated with Fan Pages to Like, tweets to Follow and listservs to which we can subscribe. Technologies are still fledgling. Twitter itself can’t keep up with amount of digital waste it’s creating [Did you know each tweet creates an entire web page on their servers?] Barriers of entry to become a ‘social media expert,’ are low and by the time credible curriculum and certification surfaces, the training itself will be obsolete… It’s an arms race to grab whatever slice of attention you can from your audience.

Social media is not the “next big thing.” It’s a new(ish) way to appeal to what people have always craved most: connection and appreciation.

Done right, it can leave a great impression, but doing it right means you have to do something remarkable. [Old Spice viral marketing campaign]. If you’re participating in this arms race without offering something remarkable, you’re racing to catch up to the guy who puts flyers on your windshield while you’re at the gym.

So… What do you do with all those flyers?

*Does Seth Godin have a trademark on that word yet?