On the spectrum.

I’ve never spoken publicly about autism.

I speak at conferences about my work and communities and co-ops and such, but my personal life has never been a source of material. Until now.

In October at the CU Water Cooler Symposium, I’ll be speaking about my experience raising a creative, talented, self-aware, anxious, sensitive and sometimes volatile boy who has gained great gifts and terrible burdens from his autism. I’ll be exploring the power that comes from focusing on a “special interest”, and how harnessing that interest can help people overcome great challenges in their lives.

For my son, his special interest is music. By the time he turned ten, he had finished three albums of original rock songs and would jump at any opportunity to play live for people. He can write and record a song in the time it takes me to write a blog post. Sometimes less. His music has an honesty and innocence that I find awe-inspiring and humbling.

He says that he owes his musical gifts to his autism – in fact his musical pseudonym is a nod to his disorder: he goes by Spectra.

I’ll be speaking about my experience with my son and his autism, and then Spectra will join me on stage to perform a few of his original songs, showing off his tremendous talent, confidence and creativity. Afterwards he and I will jointly do a Q&A with the audience to explore what it means to be autistic, and have a special interest to unlock our potential.

It will be a unique experience, and I hope a special time for all of us. Join us at the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Kansas City, Missouri this October to take part.

Originally published on the CU Water Cooler.

Disconnected interconnectedness.

One of the things I love about getting to speak at conferences is visiting different places by myself. I spend a lot of time around other people, and need some solo time to regroup and reconnect with my own thoughts.

waves at Cancun

Today, I was lucky to spend a glorious day in Cancun at a lovely resort, but quickly left it and walked down the busy beach to a rocky outcrop into the ocean where very few people were walking. It was igneous rock, pummeled by centuries of turf and waves crashing down on it, carving little canyons into the surface closest to the water.

The rock had formed little grooves and nooks and pools, many of which had small fish swimming around, crabs crawling, some sea flora growing. There were pelicans and iguanas sunning themselves nearby.

And some of these grooves and little pools had grown together, and had become interconnected into a single little ecosystem in which little whitish fish with zebra stripes running across their bodies swam together. And this little pool received seawater from the waves that crashed and sprayed against the rocks. Some of them were quite big, expanding down crevices worn into the rock, into an elaborate network of water and life.

And inevitably these little interconnected pools did end. Sometimes they ended against a rise of rock taller than the waves could get past. On the other side of these rocks lay another similar ecosystem of grooves and canyons and crevices and pools of fish and seaweed and beautiful little cupped plants that grew in tight groups.

Maybe it’s because I recently rewatched the amazing remake of Cosmos, or because I saw Interstellar over the holidays, or because I have a curious 10 year old, but I thought about how interconnected we all are, and yet how disconnected we are as well.

You could spend your entire life in one of those pools, thinking you understood how the world works, never knowing that just beyond your world is a similar world that you’ll never learn about. Whether we’re talking about a tidal pool, a remote community, a likeminded group of people insulated from diversity of thought, or zooming way out and thinking about our polluted environment on our little planet, our solar system or the network of galaxies in the observable universe.

You can scale way up at a universal level or way, way down to the scale of a tidal pool and this truth remains: We only know what we know, and if we give up on endless curiousity and the humility that we don’t really know much of how the universe works, we are turning our back on our potential.

Between two Water Coolers.

I recently sat down with Matthew Hawkins for the weirdest interview I’ve ever done.

Between Two Coolers: William Azaroff from Tim McAlpine on Vimeo.

Every year I go to the CU Water Cooler Symposium, and every year it is hands-down the best event I go to. And every year people say to me that they were so sorry to miss the Symposium, and that they’ll definitely go next year. Well people, 2015 is your year! Come to Kansas City in October for a great event.

If you have a few extra dollars in your professional development budget that you need to allocate before the end of the year, check out the CU Water Cooler Symposium Credit Union Multi Pack.

It’s a special price for credit union employees and board members interested in attending next year’s Symposium in Kansas City on October 1 and 2, 2015. If you buy two or more tickets at the same time, the price is just $249 each. Check out the Symposium page and snap up the deal before it’s too late.

The CU Water Cooler Symposium agenda is out.

CU Water Cooler Symposium

The 2014 Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium

Anyone who follows my blog is very, very likely to know how much I love the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium. It is a somewhat inexplicable combo-conference focusing on the Credit Union-ness of topics such as Marketing, HR, technology, design, and other opportunities and challenges we all face. I love it because it defies convention, and is loaded with brilliant people and an endlessly surprising agenda. I love it because, like my work, it isn’t pigeon-holed into any one focus.

It’s one of those things where the sum is far greater than the parts.

The 2014 Symposium agenda came out this weekend, and I’m so honoured to be a speaker again this year. My talk is called Sawdust, Empty Bottles and Moustaches: A Retelling of the Co-operative Story and I’m working on it now, telling the genesis story of the co-operative movement and linking it to today’s surge of the collaborative economy, and drawing on my very early experience on the Board of Modo. We’ll see how it all comes together, but I’m having a great time putting it together and thinking through the narrative.

So, think seriously about joining us in Austin, Texas this September 11th and 12th for what will promise to be an amazing time. The Super Earlybird discount ends on March 31st, and you can get in for only $329 (and if you’re a credit union employee, you’re eligible for an additional $100 discount).