An Interview With Edward Sylvan
The book is written to free introverts from the crippling social constraints that come with launching and growing their businesses and careers.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Parkin.
Monica is an award-winning international speaker, podcast host at the “Juggling Without Balls” Podcast and author of “Overcoming Awkward,” The Introverts Guide to Networking, Marketing and Sales. When she first started out in business, she found herself struggling with how to build connections with a fear of attending large events and no understanding of how to build relationships. She has since evolved into a master relationship builder and successful serial entrepreneur and enjoys teaching others how to do the same.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
To be honest, if I ran into my childhood self, I don’t think I would recognize her even if I ran right into her. The person I am today is so completely different from the person I was growing up. It’s like we are two different people. In school, I was a shy, socially awkward kid. I was the “weird” kid at school with ADHD. I had no idea how to talk to people, what to say, or how to make friends. I annoyed the teachers with my constant questions and was afraid to talk to the other kids because I didn’t speak their social “language”. I spend most of my time either sitting out in the hallway, in trouble for interrupting the teacher or reading a book, because my social circle consisted largely of the characters in my favorite books.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
I was a huge bookworm as a kid, in fact, the characters in books were some of my closest friends. I don’t have a specific book that made an impact on me, but I always love anything with animals in it and to this day I am still an avid animal lover. I have an assortment of dogs, cats, chickens and even goats. They are my stress relief. They love unconditionally and they only want to spend time with you with no expectations attached.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Yes, somewhere along the way in my career I realized that I had to stop being who I thought people expected me to be and be myself. Part of being me included showcasing my “crazy goat lady” self. I love my goats and I started showcasing my interactions with them on social media with my handle “Mortgage Monica”. I had no idea how effective this was until I dropped them off at the vets one day for their vaccine appts, and when I picked them up the receptionist said several people saw them and asked “are those Mortgage Monica’s goat’s?” To this day whenever I go to an event, someone will invariably ask me about the goats and bring up their favorite photo of them that they have saved on their phone.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
The book is written to free introverts from the crippling social constraints that come with launching and growing their businesses and careers. Anyone can evolve… I used to make myself crazy with all the social cues I did not understand and wondered why this comes so naturally to some people but was so impossibly hard for me. Today, I love the opportunity to go to events, meet people, hear people’s stories, and build relationships. I have the best of both worlds now and so can others.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
One of the first things that I had to do when I started out in my industry was to attend a networking event. My first reaction was “I did not sign up for this!”
I did what had worked for me in other socially awkward contexts like high school dances: escape and hide. I retreated to the bathroom and spent most of my time “fixing my makeup” and scrolling through my phone until dinner was announced.
It felt awkward and weird to be face-to-face with others, having to share my thoughts and exchange ideas with them. So many obstacles confronted me as a socially awkward introvert. Do I smile or do I not smile? If I do smile, how long a smile is too long?. Is my smile coming off as a creepy smile or a friendly smile? Do I put my hands in my pockets, or is that too casual? On my hips or is that too stern?
I did it though, I sold myself and I came home with a pocket full of business cards.
When I got home, I pulled out all the cards I had collected that night and realized that I would never call any of them. I had no connection with any of them, I had just listened to their pitch with no intention of ever calling them. I decided to throw the cards in the fire. As I did so, the realization hit me that if I was throwing away their cards that meant they were likely throwing away my cards too!
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I was just lying in bed on a Saturday afternoon scrolling through social media when an ad popped up for a 30-day writing challenge. It was $100 and I thought that was not so much money that I could not afford to do it, but just enough money that I would feel compelled to take it seriously and follow through. At first, it was just a fun project, but as I honed in on what I wanted to say and why I came to realize that the message was important and that it’s something that would have been so helpful for me to have heard when I was younger. In the end, I didn’t push through and finish because of the $100, I did it because in my gut I knew it would serve others on their own journeys.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
There are so many its hard to pick just one, but one particular person who is really good at what she does, and really at the top of her field wrote me and said that the book helped her to finally accept herself and value the qualities that previously she had always hated about herself. She said reading the book felt like a years’ worth of therapy, and that it has changed the way she thinks about herself and the way she interacts in the world in a positive way. It made her feel like part of a community of similar people and less alone. She no longer hides the fact that she is an introvert. She can love and embrace that part of herself that she always thought was broken before. She feels more confident and empowered and excited about being herself in the world. That kind of feedback is better than any royalty check.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- In order for introverts to really shine in workplaces, they need space to be their authentic selves. The first way we can address this is to allow space for individuals to be their real genuine quirky selves at work. Not just by creating “workplace policies” that talk about it, but with leaders that demonstrate this themselves in their own actions. When leaders are willing to be vulnerable and real, it gives everyone else in their organization permission to do the same.
- This starts early, in schools, educators need to foster that sense of self and the idea that you don’t have to fit into a cookie-cutter mold to be a useful member of society. Letting kids learn in a way that best supports their personality type, whether that is small groups, online learning or having opportunities to support their own unique talents and abilities gives them the confidence to turn their unique abilities into strengths as they grow into adults.
- If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that a remote workforce is not only possible but highly productive. When you trust employees and give them the freedom to get work done away from the office, you free up time for creativity and innovation that comes from a work-life balance that doesn’t include hours of commuting time each day.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership to me is the ability to see those unique qualities in other people that they don’t necessarily see themselves, and engaging them in such a way that they want to come along on your journey, and are motivated every day to grow and contribute. Leaders lead by example and inspire others, they don’t push, pull or drag them across the finish line. They run the race with their team, and they model what is expected. As a metaphorical example, if it was my job to get a group through a marathon, I could tell them what to do, write down all the directions and say, “now go do it”. Or I could lace up my shoes and work out with them and run beside them as they cross the finish line. When you show something is possible, it becomes possible for others.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Listen more than you talk — At the beginning of my career, I would attempt to cover up my nervousness by talking. I thought I could hide the fact that I was an introvert by being the loudest person in the room and it backfired. I just came across as arrogant and rude, and when I stopped talking and started listening is when I really started to build deep and meaningful relationships with others.
- Be curious and ask meaningful questions — I always have a stack of great questions in my head. Not “how do you like this weather?” but deep meaningful questions, and let people share what makes them excited, and reveal our commonalities, or how I can help them grow. I once asked someone why she decided to become a restaurant blogger and she told me it was because she has so many food allergies and wanted other people to be able to find great local food that was safe for them to eat or would accommodate their sensitivities. That question led to a deeper conversation about how fulfilling her work is, and the feedback she gets from readers. That then led to a conversation about the power of a great blog, and before I knew it I had started to form a real connection to this person, and I developed a new understanding of the struggles people with dietary restrictions face. That helped me to be more sensitive to the needs of my own friends and as a result, strengthened those relationships also. When we ask good questions, it opens up opportunities we could never uncover if we stick to small talk and shallow questions.
- People notice people who notice them — Be the person who notices other people. Leave them a review, give them a shout-out on social media, take a second a send them a note to congratulate them on their new venture. I once stopped at a food truck and they had the most amazing food so I took a photo of myself in front of the truck and left a 5-star review. The next time I went back the truck owner said, “thank you so much for your review, it really made a difference to my business.” Six months after that I got a call from his daughter asking to hire me for my services as a Mortgage Broker because her dad remember my review. People notice people who notice them. Be that person that notices other people and abundance will flow from those interactions.
- Don’t be a jerk — It sounds simple, and it is. Just don’t be a jerk, be patient, kind and generous to others and leave a lasting impression that is good. Be the person that makes others feel heard, respected, and valued and they will always associate you with feeling that way. You never know how an interaction you have with someone today is going to come back to you in the future. I once saw someone out looking for their dog and I stopped to help. I didn’t know the person, but I had the time and I love dogs, so I stopped what I was doing and pitched in. That person went home and gave me a shout-out on social media and I got 2 clients from that. I didn’t ask for them, I didn’t expect them, but kindness creates reciprocity, and it costs you nothing.
- Get involved in your community but only if you have time — if you have the time and you can coach hockey or teach girl scouts or spend some time on an organizing committee for a local charity, only good things will flow from that. I have also seen that backfire though, and I have watched people sign up because it’s good for business and then realize they don’t have time. They end up doing a poor job, they let people down, and they create resentments by overcommitting. What started off with good intentions actually hurts their reputation and their business. Only bite off what you can chew, or it might hurt you more than it helps you and it certainly will not help the organization you are trying to serve
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is “be the change you wish to see in the world”, by Ghandi. We can’t change people, but we can change ourselves and model the behavior we want to see from others. I heard once that if you meet 3 jerks in a day, you are the jerk and I think it’s true. When I stopped being a “jerk” and started extending more kindness, patience and grace to others, I stopped running into jerks everywhere. And those people that I thought were jerks had not changed! I changed my own behavior and I changed the lens I viewed the world through and that in turn changed the way I spoke to people and interpreted their words and so my experience of them shifted. Instead of letting a mistake in my order at Starbucks ruin my day and blame it on the barista, I get to be grateful that the barista is willing to remake it, and I get to use the delay to connect with her in a meaningful conversation that will brighten both our days. The more I model the behavior I want to see, the more of it I get back from others.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Great Question. Oprah Winfrey has had a profound impact on my life. I grew up watching her show, then listening to her radio station as a young adult, and now listening to her podcast “Soul Sundays”. One thing I very clearly remember is her sharing a story about the power of not just setting your intention but then surrendering and allowing it to come to fruition in its own way .and in its own time. She reminisced about wanting so badly to be on The Color Purple. So badly that it was all she could think about and all she wanted, but it was only when she let go and just accepted that it was beyond her control and stopped trying to control the outcome that the call came. She also talks about preparation meeting opportunities and how opportunities have no value if you are not prepared. I heard those things when I was a very young pre-teen, but I have carried that wisdom inside my mind for decades. I don’t try to control people, places or things, or to have expectations of others. I just try to be as prepared as I can be and wait for whatever opportunities the universe provides, and then embrace them as they show up. When I stop trying to force my own will on everyone and everything, that is usually when the most unexpected and wonderful opportunities show up in my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find more information and links to all my social accounts at www.monicaparkin.ca
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.
In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.
Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.
With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.
At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.
Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.
As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.
He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.
A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.
Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Monica Parkin Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.