Joining NLC Austin: A timeline of my first Institute weekend


by Cassie Champion, 2018 NLC Austin Fellow

January 6, 2018, 6:30 a.m.
What even is “Life Entrepreneurship?” Why did I voluntarily sign myself up for more work and fewer chances to sleep in? Because I love organizing and progressive politics and learning new things. Because NLC alums and board members found the process inspiring and personally rewarding. But I also love sleep… Come on, Cassie. You were so excited about this. Go!

9:00 a.m.
Inspiring? More like intimidating. My cohort is made up of 18 of the most impressive folks I’ve met in Austin. I just got a new job last week, and I’m more nervous sitting in a room with these people than I was at my interview. It’s okay. If I don’t get along with everyone, I can just focus on my Capstone. That’s why I’m here. NLC can provide me with a network, sure, but also a framework through which I can complete this project I’ve been wanting to tackle for so long.

5:00 p.m.
Ouch. My brain hurts. My heart aches. I’m exhausted. But in the best possible way. These 18 impressive people just shared their personal histories with me. They were vulnerable as they spoke about all the messy, hard, scary stuff. And the proud, joyous, growth stuff. They bared their souls and their ambitions. And so did I.

January 7, 2018, 5:00 p.m.
What was I worried about, again? I can’t remember because NLC is exactly my jam. I didn’t even know I had space in my life for 18 new friends. Not to mention the board members and the extended NLC network. But with the tools I worked on today - this vision map and clear action items for my personal and professional goals - I can make space. We can support and encourage each other on this journey. I feel like every one of us is on the verge of changing this City. This State. The world. But none of us can do it alone.

We recently finished our 2nd institute weekend. Once again, the hours we spent in the Institute were long and hard, but packed full of information that can propel us toward our goals. I can’t say it was as much of an emotional rollercoaster as the first weekend, but I think that’s because we’ve settled into the idea of doing the work. “Life Entrepreneurship” weekend is serious business. February was focused on Communications and Messaging. Since I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to Comms efforts, I found the hands-on practice most helpful. I was able to draft message triangles and emails that will help with my Capstone. But I expect the upcoming weekends on finance, fundraising, political management, diversity and public policy, etc., will launch me into new ideas for my life and my role in the community.

I have been practicing some of my new skills. I bought a day designer journal to keep track of daily goals, tasks, and gratitude. I’ve been more conscientious about checking in with my vision for my year and my decade. It’s rad. It’s also rad seeing my cohort everywhere from the grocery store to women’s marches, community meetings, and City Hall. We may only be 18 individuals, but with our vibrant patchwork of backgrounds and countless friends, colleagues, and allies, and our willingness to do the work… watch out. I feel like things are about to get way more progressive around here.