Ambassador Alexander Kacala is a freelance writer and content creator based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Currently, he contributes to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly.com, New Now Next, and NewsWorks as well as various other online and print publications. Check out his advice on how he found his grey below:
How did you find your grey?
I hadn’t gone to school for journalism, but always had an interest in the industry. I knew a lot of people in Philadelphia from working many different jobs at many different types of businesses. I saw that someone had left their position at a popular LGBT magazine, so I jumped on the opportunity and emailed a contact of mine at the same company. He immediately set up an interview with the new Editor-In-Chief. I was hired on the spot as a post-grad intern and worked for free for one semester.
I was 26 years old. I made my money during that time managing a gay bar at night. If you are able to work for free in a job you really want, do it. That experience was a phenomenal foundation for my career.
What motivates you to grow and do great work?
What motivates me to grow is the desire to keep creating unique content and hopefully to continue learning through practice. My writing needs work. But I believe I will become a better writer the more I write and the more I read. I think in order to grow you have to keep going and learn from your failures along the way. Don’t ever stop.
How do you live in the grey? How does your work relate to other aspects of your life?
I am extremely passionate about the LGBT community here in Philadelphia. Philadelphia right now is a really exciting place to be for everyone, gay and straight. There are a lot of amazing things happening on the horizon and businesses being built from the ground up by passionate and innovative entrepreneurs. Change is particularly tangible here in Philadelphia. I feel extremely grateful to be surrounded by some really amazing thinkers who are creating that change.
How has working helped you live a fulfilled life?
I was working on the public relations side of things, but found that space to be extremely stressful and just not for me. Client expectations were constantly not being met because at the end of the day, if an editor or writer isn’t interested in what your client is selling, you are screwed. And they might not be interested for many different reasons. I wanted to commit to the editorial side of the industry.
At first, I was obsessed with finding a full-time staff-writing job somewhere. I was wasting time looking at the doors slamming shut in my face instead of looking towards the windows of opportunities. While contributing and working as a freelancer is constantly a hustle, if you figure out how to play the game, I think it can be a rewarding experience.
It has been an uphill battle for sure, especially when it comes to finances. I am lucky if my checking account has more than $100 in it. But it’s really not about the money. It’s about doing something you love. If I can be this fabulous on a budget, just imagine what I can be with a savings account.
What is your favorite part of your work?
My favorite part of work is meeting new people, hearing their stories and then retelling them. I love sharing stories about the LGBT community. It is important that these stories about us are written by us. I also love interviewing different types of people, from celebrities like Wendy Williams, to the karaoke DJ at a local South Philly dive bar.
How did you become qualified enough to do what you love?
I think it is a constant journey for me. I didn’t go to school for journalism. I actually didn’t graduate college at all. So I approach things differently.
I hope that my passion for storytelling shines through my writing. When it comes to my work, I believe the power of empathy to be the best storytelling device there is.
Time Magazine wrote about Oprah, “What she lacks in journalistic toughness, she makes up for in plainspoken curiosity, robust humor and, above all empathy.”
I remind myself of this quote every day. Above all, the power of empathy is limitless and I hope to evoke that in my work.
What’s one thing you do every morning to get ready for the day?
I drink a big glass of lemon water and then a bigger cup of coffee.
What are three things you try to do every day?
- Remind myself that struggle breeds strength.
- Call my mother.
What’s something you wish you had known at the outset of your career?
I wish I had known that while I may want to help everyone, not everyone wants to help me. I still believe in my naiveté, and I will always be there to extend a helping hand to others, competition or not. I am on everyone’s team. It’s just good to understand who is Varsity and who is JV, because there is a difference.
How have relationships played a role in your career and what advice do you have about building them?
I read this quote in the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi: “There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” – George Burton Adams.
Building strong relationships are key. It is important to get out there, meet people face to face, connect with them in the moment, and then follow up.
I think people are at times intimidated by my ability to network and connect. They view it as cut throat and tenacious. Maybe. But, in this age of technology and social media, all the information is out there. You just have to use it.
How do you ensure your intentions become actions?
I ensure that my intentions become actions by sharing them with others. This creates accountability for myself. By sharing my goals with others, I am more likely to actually meet them. Especially when I share them on social media.
What advice do you have for beginners in your industry specifically?
I think establishing a strong point of view in writing is important. This is something I am still crafting. There are probably going to be five articles written about the same thing. So you really have to figure out what is going to be unique about yours, and the easiest way to craft that is by infusing your writing with your unique personality and point of view.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy working out, being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, traveling, watching Bravo and E!, eating Buffalo wings, dancing, and singing karaoke.
I stopped drinking almost two years ago. Although I’ve stopped drinking, I still love to party. I just do it differently nowadays.
Do you have a motto?
“Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
The best advice I ever heard is something my mother told me. I was mourning the loss of a relationship with a boy I had barely dated. I was complaining about this to my mother when she said, “The next bus comes in 10 minutes.” This is not just true about men, but also about opportunities. The next big thing is always right around the corner.
The Live Grey Ambassador Program is a collective of grey individuals dedicated to spreading the Live in the Grey message and helping others to blend their personal and professional lives. This series offers some of the wisdom they have to share as they progress on their journey.