Stacy Sacco: Watch New Mexico Rise

Stacy Sacco

 

Stacy Sacco

Stacy Sacco

 

The middle parts in a long series are the easy ones – so many ideas to share of those who have inspired me. But this first post – as well as the last one, they are the two bookends of this series. This first post needs to be a shining star, and, thus, the choice of topic took some serious thought. Well, I’d like to say that’s true because it makes it seem more profound and difficult to decide, but, really, it didn’t take much thought at all. Where else could one begin besides Stacy? He is simply the glue that keeps us all together and the reason why many of us are compelled to do good for others.

When I first launched APPCityLife in 2009, I knew a few people in town from my days as a freelance reporter, but, by and large, I was building a business that needed community support without knowing much of anyone at all.

I met Stacy at one of the first social events I attended, likely an event hosted by Albuquerque The Magazine. Stacy hurried up to me as if he’d known me for years, thrust his hand out and, with a smile that brightened his entire face, welcomed me to the event. I didn’t know it then, but I likely stuck out as one of the few people Stacy didn’t already know. With his warm welcome, he made me feel safe and a little bit braver. We talked for a few moments, and try as I might, Stacy deftly deflected my attempts to get him to talk about himself – something I’d learned to do as a reporter. Instead, he asked me a barrage of questions about my new business. This was followed by rapid-fire questions that began, “Do you know …” and “Have you met …” followed by, “Oh, and you should also meet … they could help you.”

Stacy is like a walking Rolodex with a heart of gold. He is passionate about Albuquerque and about making this a place we can be proud to live. He remembers almost everything about everyone he knows, and when he hears of a problem or a need that someone has, he almost always knows just the person to help. But he doesn’t stop there. He follows through and makes sure it all worked out.

In digging through my archived email, I found this early note from Stacy after an early talk I gave about the then-new concept of mobile marketing. I found this message in my inbox later that day:
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

This message is the epitomy of why Stacy is the glue who holds us all together. Not only did he boost my own courage and confidence to keep on growing and learning new things so that I could run the company I wanted to build, but he praised another’s talents and talked up the value of an organization in our community. He still rarely communicates with me in writing or in person without sowing the seeds of hope and praise for others in our city.

Stacy and Dorothy - 2011.

Stacy and Dorothy – 2011.

Stacy, born of immigrant grandparents, was only one of four to complete high school among his thirty cousins. Ask if there was that one teacher who inspired him to believe he was capable of bigger, and he’ll tell you it was Sidney Humble, his high school Algebra teacher. And you may not know that Stacy once a part of Up With People, traveling with his 300+ cast members and staying with more than 135 host families. He says that their generosity and opening their homes to him still fills him with gratitude.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Stacy and his lovely wife, Dorothy. She is equally as positive and joyous as he is. I consider it my fortune to count them among my friends.

Stacy is respected for his wealth of knowledge and the many years he committed to serving the startup community, and his passion as an educator has inspired many a graduating college student to pursue their own dreams. He recently did an audit of his life – of all of the associations and committees he belongs to, the volunteer and consulting work he does, which could in itself be someone else’s full time job. He is a professor at both Webster University and the University of New Mexico and is the Director of UNM’s Small Business Institute. As he reviewed the ever-growing list of current commitments, he laughed, “I’ve decided to start a new group – Over-Committers Anonymous!” Even with so many personal ties to the community, it is likely that Stacy is best known for his massive email list to whom he sends monthly updates about upcoming events and opportunities to connect with others in the community.

A few years ago, Stacy delivered a moving TEDxABQ talk about the importance of living every moment to the fullest. He inspired many with that talk, not only by his words, but because his life backed them up. You can view it in its entirety below.

But I think even more than any of his professional connections or contributions, the way that Stacy most affected me as a fledgling founder of a startup was just how real he was – no games, no power plays, no hidden agendas. He helped without expecting anything back.

If it hadn’t been for some of those early connections which Stacy initiated on my behalf – and the unspoken endorsement of me as a person when he used some of his personal capital to gain me entrance with someone whose influence would help my efforts – I don’t know that I would have survived that first year as a solopreneur. His belief in me and the vision I had for APPCityLife carried me through a lot of self-doubts and fear, and the desire to not let him down or make him regret his willingness to introduce me to someone were very strong motivators to do what I didn’t know how to do and learn what I needed to know.

Stacy is, for me, the perfect way to kick off this journey. If he’s had an impact on you, leave a comment and share your own experiences with him.

“I choose to live each moment as if it were my last… without any regrets over a mountain not climbed, a fear not faced, a dream never attempted, a love not expressed, a thank you not given or my life half-lived.”
– Stacy Sacco, TEDxABQ, 9/7/12

Can An All-Male Panel of Speakers Really Help Women Make A Difference?

IMG_2583Ok, so let me just preface this following post with the caveat that I know absolutely nothing about the group whose event came to my attention recently. And I am acknowledging up front that there might be a completely plausible explanation for why the organizers chose the speakers they did for their upcoming event. I haven’t spoken with them, so I really don’t know. But what I do know is that it just didn’t sit right with me that a group would create an event focused on women and then invite only men to speak at the event.

I recently came across an announcement for an upcoming event in my city that promised to highlight why Women Make A Difference. As a cofounder of Hautepreneurs, a networking group created to elevate the game of women entrepreneurs in our state, and as the founder of APPCityLife, a mobile development company focusing on the civic space, I was intrigued. I love seeing women support other women, so I thought at first that this might be a group I should connect with and support. It was then that I saw the lineup for their all-day event:

Key Note Speaker: Wayne Story
Presenters: Rob Winestein, David Crum, Mike LeMoine, Ron Patel

Is it just me, or does it seem incongruous that every single presenter and the keynote speaker is male when this is an event organized by women with a theme of Women Make A Difference? I’m not questioning any of the qualifications of the speakers. I am sure they have a lot to share that would be of value to any business owner.

But what doesn’t make sense to me is why the organizers couldn’t find a few woman to address the group as well? I know of several highly qualified women – including both of my Hautepreneurs cofounders – as well as journalists like Megan Kamerick, whose TEDxABQ talk on women went viral, women entrepreneurs like Nerissa Whittington of bigbyte.cc or Kyle Zimmerman of Kyle Zimmerman Photography, women civic leaders like Ann Lerner of the Albuquerque Film Office or Agnes Noonan of WESST – all of whom would have made riveting speakers with plenty to share.

I firmly believe that the only way opportunities, pay, and advancement for women will grow is if the conversation includes men and women. We cannot change perception or build support in a vacuum, and while I have enjoyed many a gripe session with my fellow women entrepreneurs and appreciated the commiseration – and while I certainly don’t think women’s groups need men to participate on panels to validate any of the issues or concepts discussed, I do know that when men are a part of the conversation and sit on panels for women-centric issues, it changes men’s perspectives and often builds consensus and support for changing the opportunities and playing field for women. That is why we worked so hard this past year to make sure the Women In Tech luncheon during ABQ Tech Fiesta Week included several male panelists to balance out perspective and generate a deeper, richer conversation about the challenges and opportunities in front of us.

But here is where the rub lies, at least for me. To host an event by women for women and put together an all male panel? I truly do not understand that. I wish I did. For far too long, women have been kept from the table and not been given a voice in their own destiny. We have made amazing strides in the past few years about changing that conversation and the opportunities for women to not only be heard but hired. This just feels like a step back, and I’m not sure why we’d want to do that. I want to reiterate that I know nothing about the organizers, their group or their backgrounds. I can hardly imagine that their goals are anything less than making a positive footprint in our community. But I feel compelled to express my dismay that in today’s climate, that an event could be organized without balancing the representation of speakers across both genders. I am truly baffled.

I was recently talking with one of my cofounders at APPCityLife about what a good blend it has been to have men and women filling leadership and employee roles within our company. There is a variety of viewpoints and experiences that have not only made our workplace richer but better for the balance. It has been an amazing opportunity to work with strong men and women, and I am constantly amazed at the gender-blindness that there has been within our team. When there is mutual respect for the opinions, talents and unique leadership of men and women – that is when there can be real growth and synergy.

The organizers are right about one thing. Women really can make a difference. But leaving their voice completely out of the room during an event to highlight this mantra – that is hard to understand.

On Protecting Our Unique Thinkers

Man With UmbrellaSo the story goes that when someone once asked Einstein why he didn’t try harder to memorize his own phone number, he replied, “Because I have no intention of calling myself.”

Had he been born today, enlightened behavioral scientists and child psychologists would have labeled Einstein as twice exceptional – someone bearing both an exceptionally high IQ and documented learning disabilities. The would have likely thrown words around like Autism Spectrum, Aspergers, Memory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, and Dysgraphia. But with or without a diagnosis, most of the misperceptions which plagued Einstein would still exist today. Teachers and doctors would still wonder if he was mentally retarded when he didn’t start speaking until age nine. His failure to learn how to spell along with his inability to memorize random data such as times tables or names on a map would still result in most teachers thinking Einstein needed to focus on these failings to “catch up” with his peers. And for those teachers who actually saw the spark of genius behind the learning disabilities, many of those would believe he was playing them and lying when he tried to explain how he lost yet another assignment. They would never believe that someone that smart could be that forgetful.

It seems Einstein’s bane was keeping up with an umbrella. He lost them everywhere he went, and stories are recorded about his wives complaining about him constantly losing things.

So why am I writing about Einstein? Because I can’t understand how we can celebrate this man’s quirks as part of his obvious genius and contributions to society – and how we can understand that in great part his genius was because his brain was created so uniquely – and yet we persist in trying to shove all of our unique thinkers of today into the same box that people tried to fit Einstein in. How is it that our education system hasn’t evolved to the point that when a teacher sees these same quirks in a child today – the forgetfulness, the gaps in standard skills like spelling and memorizing, the out-of-the-box answers – that there isn’t this lightbulb that goes off that maybe, just maybe, we have the gift of another “Einstein” for this generation?

In the course of the past few months, I’ve received emails from my child’s teachers accusing him of not making enough effort to memorize important material for a test, of purposefully “playing” the teacher – that no one could forget an assignment that many times in a row, of being lazy (that one might be a bit fair; he’s a teenager). But my favorite has to be the teacher who told him to get help so he didn’t “turn in the same kind of crap” he did on his last assignment. That’s right. There is a teacher certified to teach special education that believes that this is how we should be talking to our students. All I can say is that he has no idea how hard my son tries. I watch the hurt in his eyes, and I see him being tempted to give up just a little more every day – and because I see the brilliance of his mind and the possibilities of what he can contribute, I get just a little more frustrated every day. My son is lucky. He has parents who see him for all he has to offer, and he has a few in the school system who are advocating for him (and for those I am so grateful; they make it bearable). But all in all, it is disheartening that this is what we are doing to our children in our public schools. Mine is just one of how many who face this every day?

If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend listening to the TEDxABQ talk this year by Alix Generous, a brilliant thinker of today whose mind has generated such unique approaches to current problems that, barely in her twenties, she has already addressed international audiences with her insights. She advocates more eloquently and effectively than I ever could for the need to protect – not “fix” – the unique thinkers of our day.