Insights from a potluck of ideas with Mac n’ Cheese Productions

Last night we attended a potluck where the “dishes” were speakers. Instead of bringing homemade cookies or crudité people brought ideas. Hosted by Saya Hillman of Mac n’ Cheese Productions and Pete Aiello of Team PetePotluck brings together Chicagoans from diverse backgrounds and encourages them to speak undisturbed on the topic of their choice for six minutes.

From the perks of being on criminal probation to why we should sympathize with pedophiles, every topic was unexpected and hilarious. Even though some topics may not be appropriate to support on this blog, there were a few insights shared with the audience that we wanted to pass on to you.

Here’s what the “dishes” brought to the table:

1. Beer bloggers may be referred to as historians or beverage enthusiasts, never as alcoholics

The ability to drink on the Metra train coming home from work inspired Nik White, an IT professional, to experiment with beer and start Chicago Beer Geeks, a blog dedicated the pursuit of rare and tasty beverages. White refers to Chicago as a living breathing museum and aims to tell the story of the city through beer on his site. “Pre-prohibition, a brewery was just as common as having a church or a supermarket in your neighborhood,” said White after explaining that the craft beer movement in our richly historical city is growing. It is the mindset of thinking and drinking local that drives White to blog—a distinction he says qualifies him as a Chicago historian, not an alcoholic.

2. Looking back on an old diary can reveal surprising things about your current self

In 1993 Andrew Huff, editor and publisher of Gapers Block, found a blank datebook from 1954 at a used bookstore and began chronicling his life as an 18-year-old. While recently reading over this diary and archiving it on the web Huff made some personal revelations. In addition to learning that he was a moody, hopeless romantic, Huff realized that the diary was foreshadowing his current career: he had created a community site in the form of a book that traveled with him in his back pocket. The diary shared news and provided a forum for community members (Huff and his friends) to share what was going on with their lives. Essentially his diary had the same mission as Gapers Block. Fortunately, Gapers Block lives on the Internet for us all to enjoy and is not confined to Huff’s back pocket.

3.  The secret to picking up girls when you work with computers is telling them you are a “conversation specialist”

It seems that working with computers makes finding dates really, really hard. Yesterday, before attending Potluck, I stumbled across this video on Built in Chicago that featured dating tips for engineers. At Potluck, Robbie Abed, Technori’s Technology Director, stood up and started explaining how telling potential mates he is an IT consultant is a sure fire way to make them run away. To remedy this he began to make up exotic careers titles. According to Abed, a foolproof career choice for getting girls is to tell them you are a “conversation specialist.” What does a conversation specialist do? Teach workshops where men learn how to have conversations with woman—that ought to get your attention.

4. A positive career change is only three catalytic actions away

Leah Marshall compared herself to Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club. Sort of. Instead of attending support groups for cancer victims she is addicted to attending conferences. Following a bad work meeting, she attended a conference and met Victor Saad, the man behind The Leapyear project. The Leapyear Project, an organization that encourages people to take a risk and share their stories across social media, gave Marshall a sense of possibility and inspired her to make a career change.She described three catalytic actions that worked for her: Get a crystal-clear idea on what you’re looking for in your job, make a list of organizations you want to be a part of and then proudly broadcast that message (the list) to anyone who will listen.

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