People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped. ~Author Unknown
I’ve really been struggling since arriving in Austin for SXSW last week. It’s been an internal struggle, and I have been working through it most of the week. It was a thought provoking trip on many ways that made me feel as if I had been tossed out of the boat and was trying to swim through the rapids–a whitewater of craziness swirling around me.
My word to describe SXSW interactive is overwhelming. There were times during the week where I had to step outside of the convention center and sit in the sunshine and just *be*. I felt if I didn’t do that now and then I would be sucked into some sort of undertow. For the most part, I felt like the little boy in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I wanted to shout out, “He’s not wearing any clothes!’
I’ve always been about the “social” side of social media. For me it’s been a fun way to connect with people, I have some amazing people in my life. It became clear by those friends that surrounded me in Austin I am very lucky to have a huge network of very smart people. Meeting them face-to-face for the first time and passing out hugs was the best part of the trip for me.
I also quickly realized that there were a lot of people who knew far less than I who were shoving themselves to the front of the room as social media experts. I started to look at myself and realize just how much I know about all of this, beyond the buzzwords and snippets. It was a major lightbulb moment for me, and shook me to my core. What am I doing with my life? I have a job that I love, great people surrounding me, but I have so much more potential than I have ever given myself credit for.
It was my first experience with groupies and entourages–no I wasn’t part of either of those crowds. While I patiently waited in line to attend a friend’s gathering I saw an entourage of about 20 people approach. When the bouncer clearly did not recognize this important person, they were sent to the back of the line. Lots of grumbling and complaining, I found it quite hilarious. The *elebrity* returned with camera in hand shouting press and forced his way into the party. Next up were a group of people who told the bouncer that they must be on the VIP list. Once again they were pushed to the front of the line and up the stairs. If the room was at capacity, was this really a place you wanted to shoe horn yourself into?
Finally my friend and I made it to the party area. It was interesting to watch how people quickly dismissed you and went on to the next person. I called it the the “oh shiny” syndrome. It quickly got old for me and I was ready to leave and started looking for the host. In that search around the room I did cross paths with 4 Twitter friends who I was so excited to finally meet. The room was noisy, but we did have time for a short conversation, and of course lots of hugs. My perspective of the evening shifted. We had not had dinner yet, so we decided to tell the host good bye and head out for something wonderful.
As a parting gift I received a genuine great big bear hug and a kiss on both cheeks from the host. We’ve become friends over the years, and he has in fact inspired me to do a few things in my life. It was worth all of the drama earlier in the evening for that hug. Maybe this SXSWi wasn’t so bad after all?
Saturday I was invited to a lunch sponsored by a long time friend. I had no idea it was a small intimate gathering of people that he admired and respected–being included in that category truly was a great compliment. There were several oh what do you do—ohhhhhhh shiny conversations during lunch. I chuckled when my friend, the host from the night before yelled at me from the next table. Ann have you had a hug today? We both jumped up, and I received another giant bear hug and kisses on the cheek. When I returned to the table, suddenly I was interesting?
I was not out at the various parties around the city up all hours on Friday and Saturday night. I was in bed sleeping by 10 both nights. I had great dinners out with my friend and the two of us really got a chance to connect and get to know each other. To me, that was worth more than any session that I would attend at the conference. Oh, the sessions, that’s an interesting story.
I attended a few sessions while there. There were two that absolutely knocked my socks off. @GaryVee is a dynamic straight talking speaker that had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I came home and bought his book Crush It and am already half way through. I attended a session on non-profits and social media that was done in a format that was new to me, that I will take away as a great way to facilitate a session. The rest of the sessions, really were not that great. Those that looked at me as a corporate trainer and thought I had nothing to add, could have done with some advice on how to run a session, how to interact with people. The worst of all the sessions involved 2 speakers who sat the entire time. HELLO!!?!?!
…by Sunday night I was ready to go home…
But the arrival of a friend from Florida on Monday…a new friend from New York added to an adventure and front row seats at the Tech Karaoke party. On Tuesday I wanted to attend the 140Conf and things seemed to settle in and be better for the last two days.
I had a lot of time on the drive back to think about the experience. Thank you Austin for the extra hour sitting in traffic. My big take aways were I am smarter than I realized..and why am I not doing something with that knowledge? I’ve been out of sorts all week about this, feeling like I am at a major path change. This weekend I’ve hibernated, and worked on decluttering my apartment which has started to declutter my brain. I’m working on finding a focus and figuring out what I want to do next.
I love my job, and have no inclination to stop doing what I do. But, there are things that I love, that I want to shift my focus to in that time when I am not at work. I’m working to find some sort of balance. My biggest gift from my adventures at SXSW had nothing to do with the free t-shirts, the photos, or the router thing-a-ma-jig I won, it was this post by my friend Michelle.
My mind has been spinning non-stop about next steps and future plans. For now I’ve made a list of 4 things I want to work towards accomplishing:
- I want to stop saying I am going to write a book, and write it. I’ve picked up more than a few books lately that when finished I knew that I could write better and more interesting content.
- I’m going to work more on my Etsy shop and expand out and find other places to sell my craftiness online. If nothing else, as an income source to fund my travel and adventures.
- Continue to build community and expand my idea for Need A Dance Partner? I know that I am not the only person who loves to dance, but struggles because I can’t find a partner–just someone to dance with.
- I want to use all of this social media knowledge that I have to begin to work with non-profits. It blends my two loves and seems a natural fit.
You know, I’m never one for easy goals. I like the challenges that life brings me, and feel that those adventures take me to the next level of who I am meant to be. I think my reason for being at SXSW Interactive was more about the personal lessons I needed to learn than the sessions and lessons from the experts.
The shortest answer is doing. ~Lord Herbert
P.S. Another epiphany on my drive home from Austin..I changed the name of this blog 🙂