Tiffany Benedict Browne, Author & Historian
On the day I photographed Tiffany, I had the opportunity to witness her enthusiasm for history first-hand. For part of our time together, I followed her on a tour of the Heslar Naval Armory, which is slated to become a second campus for Herron High School in 2017. There were many “oohs” and “ahs” as Tiffany saw a multitude of features singular to this building. The two I found most fascinating were the 4 giant murals in the gym depicting famous naval battles in U.S. history (which the school plans to restore) and the training area…
Walking down the hallway you encounter a door like you’d find in a ship’s hull. Once you enter, it’s as if you’re inside a ship with all it’s rivets and steel, pipes and controls. And, almost unbelievably, this entire area could be flooded to simulate a compromised hull. Whoa!
Tiffany writes articles for various publications and is a historian-for-hire, but her main gig is historicindianapolis.com. Be sure to follow her site and keep up on all the great stories she uncovers!
The following set of six questions will be answered by each of the subjects.
1) Some people call it a “true calling” or their “life’s work.” In the book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho calls it your Personal Legend. What do you consider to be your true calling, or Personal Legend?
Inspiring, connecting and exciting people through sharing Indianapolis history.
2) When did you first realize that this was your calling?
After moving to Indianapolis, I didn’t know anyone, but had bought my first house — a Victorian in Herron-Morton Place. I wanted to learn everything; to connect with my new city, neighborhood and home. I had so much fun searching for the stories of my house, my neighbors’ homes and then the neighborhood and city. It was such a fun adventure that I started doing research in my free time for other people. I was volunteering for the neighborhood association in a couple of roles as well; it eventually lead to the idea of what would become HistoricIndianapolis.com.
3) People often become completely engrossed, losing track of time or outside concerns while performing tasks related to their calling. This might be referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.” When do you experience this most often?
When I’m playing detective on a building, person, or long-lost Indianapolis event—so usually in a library, archives or online. I get such a charge from reconnecting pieces that have been largely forgotten. It’s also gratifying to hear from people who have moved away but still have an affection for the city or other people who contact us to share how what we have done has added to their life in some way. One reader created a deeper connection with her dying father by reading him stories from our site as a starting point for a dialogue they hadn’t had before. That is awe-inspiring!
4) What is the greatest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced in pursuit of your life’s work?
Finding a model that works financially and otherwise. Many of us in the digital space are still trying to figure out how to make that work. We ask readers who value what we do to become voluntary/paying members of our “Booster Club” and also sell sponsorships with businesses. Despite the common misconception, running an online publication is not free. It takes expertise, time, creativity and money to publish our site.
5) What has pursuing your Personal Legend taught you?
One of my favorite people, Tony Robbins says “Nothing has any meaning in life except the meaning I give it.” That resonates with me strongly. I think about what I have the honor of doing: digging up stories of the places we pass every day and maybe think nothing about or wonder about. So many things catch your eye when you’re paying attention. We’ve got a big, beautiful city, with so many amazing stories that illustrate the best, worst and everything in between — of humanity, of creativity, innovation, design, gumption — you name it. I LOVE finding little hidden gems, learning every day and the inspiration and connection I feel by hunting down and sharing those stories.
6) What piece of advice can you offer to others seeking their true calling?
When you find something that delights and frustrates you; that stretches you and asks you to become more; that captivates and obsesses you, you know you’ve found it. And even if it’s something that you never saw on a list of possible future occupations or job titles, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. If you have a dream and vision — go make it happen. Anything is possible. If there isn’t a path where you’re headed, get out a machete and carve one. It also helps to surround yourself with supportive people — even if just one or two. I have found it really helpful to hire a consultant to help me bounce ideas or think through things. Having someone help, even if just to advise, is incredibly helpful.
Are you following your Personal Legend? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Subscribe to the blog, or add us to your RSS feed to follow along as we post a new set of images each day for the next 30 days. For background on this project, check out our first post in the series.