The upsides, the downsides, and the vulnerability of creating publicly
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Whenever I’ve launched a project on Kickstarter, it’s always been a turmoil of feelings. Every time, starting about three days after I’ve publicly announced what I’m interested in and hope to discuss by launching a project, my doubts arise. Has it really been necessary to ask people for money to work on something I care about? Has it been necessary to look for people the way I do?

If a project succeeds, then, of course, it’s all great! It will be celebrated as a success, and I’ll get what I wanted and what motivated me to launch a project in the first place; people will talk to me about what I’ve declared as a subject of my personal interest.

But then, of course, what if a project doesn’t succeed?

I’ve finally stopped procrastinating on learning my TEDx talk. (Writing it was hard. I had someone I consider an exceptionally thoughtful writer edit it and help me shape my thoughts into words.) Now, every single day, I get to listen to my voice repeating out loud what’s become a mantra.

In short, and in the words of Dan Harmon, “If you find your voice, shout with it from the rooftops – and keep doing so – the people who are looking for you will eventually find you.”

That’s what always remains on my mind whenever a project is public; are people interested in what I’m interested in? Do I know such people? Where will I find them? How will they see me and will they find me in time?

Many doubts arise doing what I do and have repeatedly been doing for years. However, I also know I’ve met many incredible people because I’ve been “creating out loud” for years. Having projects live has always given people a reason to talk to me (about something I’m interested in). It’s also given me a reason to approach strangers without it seeming all too awkward. Over the years, I’ve met people who I now call friends because I did something I shared online. I’ve been referred to clients because of something I’ve created and people thought it was interesting. It’s been great and rewarding. Yet, I also question, will it work again? Or not?

It takes a lot of courage to share unfinished work publicly and even though I know the benefits of doing so, I also know I’ve always felt the way I feel right now every time I’ve gathered the courage and shared work in progress. To me, however, it’s not just about working on something I care about and trying to find my people through the work I put into the world. It’s also got to do with my personal philosophy;

“If I had told people I aspired to become a writer before I published my very first book, it would have made publishing that book much harder for me. I would’ve probably needed someone else also to declare me a writer and give me the self-confidence to do something more than practicing writing online and on social media. I might have waited until an agent picked me up and a publishing house approved of me, rather than to go down the path of self-publishing.

If I called myself a writer, it would’ve made me vulnerable. It would’ve allowed the world to criticize me, and possibly hurt me if it did. Yet with social media, I felt it’s all work in progress. And having others watch and notice my progress without claiming perfection has always felt encouraging.

When I started working on my first book, I knew that if someone were to say the book wasn’t any good, it would’ve been relatively easy for me to swallow that criticism. Given I had no official training or any sort of references, I didn’t have to justify mistakes or failure. It was easier for me to start because I had nothing, not even my image—or as it’s now called, ‘my personal brand’—to lose.

I wanted to write a book, and I knew I needed help to make it good, yet I didn’t aspire to become a writer. I just wanted to write, so I did. On social media, I shared my progress, and I was open about the journey of improvement.”

And I can now see where it all led.

You might question why not finish something, find a way to monetize it through a bigger company, and then present things as a success after?

It’s because I believe in transparency. I believe in sharing the process of unfinished work and have others see how something is being done. I believe in it because I believe it gives others the necessary courage also to try and start from scratch and create something. I want others to see the struggle. I wish for people to see the slow curve to “success.” I wish for people to understand they too can try. Because that to me is the power of the internet.

I keep reading about mental health. I keep reading about how people struggle with social media, however, I also believe it’s an incredible tool to create and find “your” people.

In a way I still want to prove that; I merely believe that if someone connects with me because of something I’ve created or at least tried to develop, it will be the most meaningful connection for both of us. And that’s the advantage. The power. The tool we all have at our fingertips. I’ll talk about it more in Graz, yet just really wanted to share this with you. To keep things transparent.

It’s a wrap! January 2019
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When I published This Year Will Be Different four years ago, I never would have thought it would become the mantra for every year’s beginning.

I kicked off the year with a trip to Israel, Palestine, and Spain trying to soak up some sun. I’ve been trying to write about my experience crossing the border between Palestine and Israel and my feelings, especially because I get to cross where the wall in Berlin once stood each and every day, yet haven’t managed to depict my feelings. I’m still pondering about the essay and what it should be...travel writing is hard.

I’m excited about having launched another Kickstarter campaign to capture the history of Berlin’s architecture. I chose 50 buildings, trying to get to the essence of what Berlin as a city is about. The campaign will be live until the 14th of February, 2019.

Meanwhile, I’m also still working on Beyond Small Talk, the book about meaningful gatherings and how to host them. Transcribing is a lot of work, yet it’s a good feeling to be able to say that I only have one interview left until I’ve transcribed them all and can finally start editing.

This month, I was invited to join the Recharge Serviced Apartment Summit where I finally met Marc Jongerius, one of Zoku’s founders, in person. If you haven’t heard of Zoku, do check it out. It’s one of the most incredible hospitality projects I’ve personally come across.

I’ve also been invited to join the Community Summit hosted by Co-Matter, where I facilitated two sessions to explore what makes communities sustainable and what will make them sustainable in the future. It’s truly fascinating to see how the nature of communities is changing, which is also something I’m talking about with the different companies and potential clients I’m currently talking to about future work. (I’m still available for projects, so please reach out should you need help with something. Here is the list of my services.)

I was also really pleased to see another feature of my work. Inc.com recommended My Creative (Side) Business as a great book for people thinking about changing their career. I’ll be speaking more about that subject in February at TEDx in Graz. For now, I’m still practicing my speech.

Would you like to have me teach you more about mobile photography and editing on your phone? (In Berlin or Vienna)
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Just wanted to quickly drop in and let you know I’m introducing two new rewards to help the Kickstarter campaign reach its funding.

  • You can get the architecture guide and also last year's guide to Berlin's café scene.

  • ... and if you’d like to join me for a photowalk to take pictures together and for me to show you how I edit pictures with my phone, then let’s do that. I’ll take you to some interesting spots in Berlin (or Vienna as I'll be there a lot in March) and teach you what you can do with different apps to get the most out of your pictures. You’ll get a set of #kathmoscards on top as well!

Hope to be photowalking with you soon!

Why I keep a list of places I’d like to visit one day

I just launched a new Kickstarter campaign featuring interesting buildings in Berlin. Below is the story how the project came to be.

Whenever you visit or move to a place, how do you try to make it feel like it’s home? Do you feel the desire to understand what’s happening in the streets around you and why some things are the way they are?

Last year I published a guide to Viennese coffee culture, and then a couple of weeks later, made one for Berlin’s café scene. It’s actually ridiculous to think I’ve been to more than 100 cafés where I also took a picture. Why would anyone do that?

It’s got to do with something that happened 11 years ago...

When I was 21, I moved to the UK for a year. Back then I didn’t know it was just for a year, so I took a lot of things for granted; like I would do them one day. Most days, I was just doing the same things I did all the days before. Because it was the easy thing to do. I’d go to the same places, visit the same cities, do the same thing over and over again. Then after moving away, I realized I lived in the UK for a year, yet never took the time to go up to Scotland. This realization of not going to Scotland while I lived so close remains to this day a reminder that I don’t want that to happen again.

Whenever I then spent longer stretches of time in places, I’d make it “a thing” to seek out destinations to visit and try to better understand why my environment is the way it is.

It must have been what inspired me to start a list of places I’d like to see and visit one day. It’s a list where I add all places – from cafés to sightseeing spots, which I’d like to see.

Whenever I hear of a good place or read something in an article, I add the place to my list. And then, in the day to day, I make sure to open that list regularly to get out of my way and see something new.

It’s so easy to just simply do the same thing over and over again because it’s what we’ve done yesterday or last week. It’s easy to not look around and ask what this or that mean, as we’re distracted by what we deal with in our day to day.

I’ve launched another Kickstarter campaign. This time it’s a guide to Berlin’s architecture. It’s pictures of buildings you might potentially not even know exist and then bits and pieces about their history and societal context. If you’d like to get a part of “my list” of places I consider worth visiting and knowing about, this is your chance to get this set. Just like last time, it’s a limited print run only.



“What do you want to do?” might not be the right way to ask this question
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I wanted to share something with you that’s been on my mind lately.

“So, what do you want to do next?” is the question I keep hearing since I publicly announced that I’m looking for new projects. In a way, I’ve answered it in my call for new projects. In a way, I’ve also not answered it. At least, not in a way that would lead to a great outcome.  

Speaking with someone who works at an accelerator, you know they hear many good (and bad) ideas every single day. Yet what is it that distinguishes a good pitch from a bad one?

“I keep hearing a lot about solutions. I hear how people want to solve this or that. It’s almost as if the problem wasn’t even worth discussing. If someone is passionate about a problem and they managed to explain why they are the right person to solve it, I’ll listen up. Because then you know even if the first approach to solving a problem fails, they’ll go after finding another solution. And should that approach not work either, they’ll keep looking. Then it's just about them convincing you they're the right person to solve that very problem by sharing WHY they care.”

In the startup world, it’s become normal to try out different ideas, pursue different businesses, and even switch between industries if what you tried to do didn't work out as planned. Often, people don’t just go after a whole new sector. They also change the problem they want to solve.

After having spent the afternoon preparing for my TEDx talk, all my guiding sentences, my values, and ideas... everything I’ll talk about in Graz in February popped up in my mind.

I’ve always loved the internet because it’s an incredible platform to share what you’re excited about. It’s a platform to share those ideas and passions freely. And it’s a platform that enables each and every one of us to find and be found by our like minds. If we master how we tell our story, we’ll eventually find those who’ll want to listen, who’ll support us, and who’ll share our passions too.

In Work Trips and Road Trips, I wrote that one finds purpose if they decide on the community they want to serve and see benefit. And I still believe that’s one side of the coin. Yet, it’s also very much about the problem one wants to solve. I’ve always loved the internet for giving each and every one of us the possibility to become and be seen for who we want to be. It’s something I’ve been vocal about since I worked at Somewhere.com. It’s something I’ve been preaching in all my books. It’s something I’ll talk about at TEDx too. In my last post, I might have shared my thoughts and ideas on the formats in which I want to work, yet I’ve not acknowledged my guiding sentence, and what it is that’s deeply connected to my personal values.

Which brings me to..

Next time you have to decide what you want to do next, you might want to ask yourself:

  • Who are the people I want to serve with my work?

  • What is the problem I’m genuinely passionate about solving?

  • What’s the mission I see be the red thread in my work and how can I continue solving the problem I deeply care about?

Answering those questions might make it easier to tell your story. It will definitely be more comfortable to explain mine.

Personal Statement 2019: Call for new projects!
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I got my first computer when I was 14. I just moved to Austria and didn’t speak much German. I remember using Skype, searching for people in Vienna and sending them a contact request, then chatting with them and eventually meeting them in person. Back then, it was considered a bit crazy to meet strangers for coffee. Yet I was desperately trying to make Vienna my home.

Then in 2015, I went on vacation with someone I met on an app called Wander four years prior to this incredible adventure. Wander was an app dedicated to connecting people who lived in different countries to learn more about the cultural differences and what unites people regardless their heritage from locals. When Roy and I met on Wander in 2011, no one knew how breakfast looked in Australia or what sort of public transport people took in South Korea. After our week, our connection through the app was over, so Roy and I followed one another on Instagram.

Given I always wanted to see South Africa, yet I didn’t want to visit the country as a tourist, I gathered all my courage and asked Roy if he would go on a road trip through his country with me. I thought that after following someone on Instagram for four years, I had a pretty good idea what that person valued and how it would be to hang out with them. (And I was right.)

To this day, I consider this the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken! I got to see Roy’s country with the knowledge only a local has and he got to rediscover his home through my fresh eyes. We both demonstrated trust and respect and most of all, we’ve created a beautiful friendship that will last forever.

The social web has always been a place for me to find like-minds and build trust with people regardless their heritage. I’ve had meaningful conversations and received so much kindness from strangers who I “only knew” digitally. It was all these tiny experiences that made me so excited about the social web and its possibilities.

I used Instagram when I first moved to Utrecht to meet locals. I did again when I moved to Berlin. I love how with the help of Instagram, Airbnb, Meetup, Couchsurfing, Foursquare, and probably some other social apps it’s become easy to feel connected immediately. I love how Etsy, Kickstarter, Creative Market, EyeEm, Skillshare, etc. give everyone the possibility to start a business and grow it regardless of where they were from or who they know. It’s these platforms that make me excited about my career as a community strategist.

When studying interior architecture, I was most excited about using spaces as a platform to merge different industries. I was excited about using spaces to bring together people. And I was excited about drafting floor plans and thinking about how people moved through spaces and connected with one another. To this day, it’s never been much of a surprise to me that I started working as a digital community strategist when the social web was all about defining how people met and connected on this new platform. Coming at it with the mindset of a designer made my approach unique and my work incredibly exciting.

All of my work has always been about building bridges between people. About using space – digital or physical – to create platforms for people to meet. Not necessarily just as friends or professional contacts; often – and especially during my time leading the outreach initiative for Kickstarter in Europe – with the aim to exchange money for a service or a product. My approach to communication has always been based on the ideology to help people live by their values, to find their tribe, and to feel a part of something.

In recent years, I’ve noticed how much less I’ve cared about the ordinary approach to online communication and marketing. I’ve noticed how much my focus has shifted to focus on how people connect offline. To me, online has become a tool to provide information and make it easily understandable whether a product or a service is suitable for the consumer/reader. It’s about speaking clear language, yet it’s definitely not about distracting people through an endless flow of Instagram posts, Facebook updates, tweets, etc. To me, it’s much more about creating a digital experience where people find what they’re looking for clearly outlined, structured, and readily available.

With my work, I care to create real value; I care to create value propositions and help ideate offerings for people to easily understand it’s an offer they’ll appreciate. I care to create experiences and gatherings for people to connect and find the value they’re missing and seeking. To me, such is about defining a very clear, targeted offering that’s communicated clearly. It’s about defining instructions and a framework to make people feel welcome and invited. And it’s about considering how people meet and interact to feel connected and like they are “in the right place.”

In 2019 and with my work I’d like to focus on:

  • concept, creation, and production of temporary and permanent spaces dedicated to intensify communication between people

and

  • audience facilitation at events

In the past, I’ve worked on projects for companies such as Kickstarter or LifeStart by Virgin Money. In the future, I’d like to work on projects with innovative, future-minded corporates, public sector organizations, museums, and the like.

I’d love to do things such as rethink how people meet and interact with one another at airports.

I’d love to oversee the audience engagement at conferences.

I’d love to rally communities around a common cause, such as the upcoming European Election.

I’d love to work on projects that help people live a more intentional, creative life and that create a world where people dare to go on a vacation with a stranger.

You might think I’m idealistic. All I’m saying is I care about the cause, the possibility, and the (human) experience.

Please email me (helloATmkanokovaDOTcom) if you have a project in mind or know of someone I should talk to. I’m available for new projects starting January, 14th!

Monika Kanokova
It’s a wrap! December 2018

Kicking off December with a workshop for people who would like to become creative freelancers hosted by the Creative Region in Linz, I had to think about the projects I’ve worked and how life has been since going freelance four years ago. What I’ve always loved about freelancing is that project briefs are specific, goals are clearly defined, and people respect one’s time. People prepare for meetings. It’s kind of amazing. I’ve loved the trust that comes with working as a freelancer. But what also comes with freelancing is that many projects have a deadline. At the end of December, my contract with Hanzo to work on Student LifeStart ended and I handed over my duties to my most incredible junior, Cleo Anderson, who’s been a shining star all along.

I’m super glad we got to travel to Madrid once more to celebrate together with the Hanzo team and get to know the people we’ve mostly only communicated with over Slack the past couple of months. It was an incredibly fun end to the project and I’m incredibly grateful my wonderful friend Eva Liparova thought of me when they were looking for people to create formats for community engagement. (You can read some more about it in this case study.)

I’ve spent most of December thinking about what projects I’d like to take on in 2019, which I’ve summarized in a personal statement.

I’ve also kept working on the book project I’m currently researching, which is about gatherings and creating spaces for people to meet and connect with the help of food. In this book, I’m portraying initiatives such as the Restaurant Day, Clam Club, Spring Street Social Society, Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, Norn, etc. I’m looking for a publisher to help me shape my vision and make my idea come to life. It’s time to try something different than self-publishing via Kickstarter as I’ve done in the past.

I’m available for projects starting mid January. In 2019 and with my work I’d like to focus on:

  • concept, creation, and production of temporary and permanent spaces dedicated to intensify communication between people

and

  • audience facilitation at events

In the past, I’ve worked on projects for companies such as Kickstarter or LifeStart by Virgin Money. In the future, I’d like to work on projects with innovative, future-minded corporates, public sector organizations, museums, and the like.

I’d love to do things, such as rethink how people meet and interact with one another at airports. I’d love to oversee the audience engagement at conferences. I’d love to rally communities around a common cause, such as the upcoming European Election. I’d love to work on projects that help people live a more intentional, creative life and that create a world where people dare to go on a vacation with a stranger. You might think I’m idealistic. All I’m saying is I care about the cause, the possibility, and the (human) experience.

Please email me (helloATmkanokovaDOTcom) if you have a project in mind or know of someone I should talk to.

I’m available for new projects starting January, 14th!

It's a wrap! November 2018
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Oh. Wow. NOVEMBER! A lot has happened this month.

Besides me going to Paris to join one of Jim Haynes’ legendary Sunday suppers, I’ve also managed to start working on an event series myself. Together with Kate Sagovsky from Moving Dust, we’re planning a series of 12 live performances to spark an honest, soothing conversation between people of all ages and cultural backgrounds, but more on that later!

I spent parts of the month transcribing interviews for the book I’m currently working on. While I don’t have a name for it just yet, I’ve been collecting stories of people who organize dinners and brunch clubs to bring people together in their communities.

As much as I’ve always loved the internet for bringing like-minded people together, over time I’ve become very aware of how important it is to also gather people who don’t have the same opinion. It’s become increasingly important to create gatherings for strangers of diverse backgrounds to talk and exchange thoughts and experiences. Speaking to people such as Timo Santala, the founder of the Restaurant Day, the tireless idealist Joe Edelman, who loves to play with how people make a connection, Maciej Chmara, who together with his wife ran the Mobile Hospitality where they hosted people despite being just visitors in different cities, and others has inspired me greatly. So far, I have 14 interviews of which I’ve already transcribed six, and given I’ve always been most productive in the winter months, I’m pretty excited about how this project is evolving.

For this particular book, I’m actually not so sure if Kickstarter’s the best way to launch it, so instead I’ll be looking for a publishing house to help me shape the final product. I believe this might be interesting to a publishing house that focuses on coffee table books, city building books, and similar. If you know someone who knows someone, you know where to find me! And should your lead get to something, I promise you a seat at one of the live performances I’ve mentioned above.

On a personal note, in 2019 I’m planning to move into more hands-on community building by running events and offline initiatives. I’d love to get involved with conferences to bring people together, in team building initiatives. I’d also like to work on more customer-focused experiences, such as the LifeStartFest I got to program earlier today. Maybe, I’d even like to become more political and get involved in the European election next year. If you know someone who needs someone, I’m currently looking for new projects starting on the 14th of January. Please don’t hesitate to introduce us via hello@mkanokova.com.

It’s not just future outlook I want to talk about in this monthly summary...

In this past month, I got to collaborate on the launch of the Virgin Galactic Unite LifeStart Challenge that gives UK students the chance to submit to an idea competition and win a trip to the Virgin Galactic Space Port in Mojave, California and up to £1000 in cash. The Challenge is open until the 10th of December, 2018.

Last but not least, and potentially of interest to all freelancers, I’ve launched a new Skillshare class explaining how to frame side projects and use social media to spread the word about them.

Anyway, thank you for reading until the end of this report and please do get in touch if you know of any projects I can get involved with starting in January!