Not because of the number of people—though 1,200 is a lot—but because of the number of opportunities that presented themselves. I have never had so many great conversations in a short four days, and I mean never.
It was amazing to be face-to-face with so many like-minded, capable people and everyone was so open and friendly. And, though this was my third year attending, I think this year was a real success for me for two main reasons:
- I was open to receiving.
- I was less afraid to put myself out there.
1. Wow! Open is the way to be!
I have trouble accepting that others want to help me be successful. I’ve always believed that I need to stand on my own two feet and that depending on someone for any reason is a sign of weakness—which might explain my strong preference for the FIRE lifestyle. ;)
It might sound funny, but I dug deep this year and decided to go with the flow and see where conversations lead, as opposed to feeling the need to show everyone that “I’ve got this” or avoiding conversations altogether. I’m finally realizing that this unecessary assurance of self-sufficiency and independence cuts off virtually any exploration of collaboration on potential future projects. I cringe to think of what exciting stuff I could have worked on/helped with prior to learning this important lesson. Better late than never, I guess.
2. Less fear = greater opportunities
This year is also the first year I’ve put myself out there and sought out and spoke with the people I want to work with and/or collaborate with. I was more open about what I’m trying to accomplish on a number of fronts and didn’t allow myself to feel that any one thing had to be all figured out before I could share the idea. I also spoke with people I admire and whose work I have tremendous respect for and was delighted by their willingness to share their experiences and advice with others.
By being willing to be vulnerable, I opened more doors for myself and others in just a few days than I could ever have dreamed I could in a year!
Openness Combined with Lack of Fear Leads to Pretty Sexy Stuff
By being open to receiving assistance or ideas and being less afraid to share ideas and progress on pilot projects, I experienced the wonderful state that is unbridled collaboration. I had conversations that absolutely blew my mind and, based on the reactions of the others I was speaking with, the feeling was mutual.
I’ve had this type of exchange before but this usually only happens with people I’ve known and/or collaborated with over a long period of time. To have this number of eureka moments with people I’ve just met was absolutely incredible.
More to the point, by having deep conversations with near-perfect strangers, all parties walked away better off than when we started the discussion. Our ideas fed off each other and we were able to create concepts and potential projects on the spot, something we would never have been able to produce on our own, or at least not so quickly. We each contributed based on our individual strengths or areas of expertise and the results were unbelievable. It’s as though our ideas had sex. We watched them multiply in front of our very eyes…it was all PG of course, like a National Geographic special, but I think you get the idea.*
*As an aside, I mentioned this concept of "ideas having sex" to one person during one of these amazing conversations and I got quite the look of surprise. Note to self: make sure you know someone a bit more before you make any sort of statement about sex!
Days after the conference wrapped up, I’m still on Cloud 9. I’m giddy with anticipation to learn what will come of all these new initiatives I’ve started to work on and I’m excited to know I have smart and capable people I can reach out to if I need to run ideas/issues/thoughts/concerns by anyone. And I love that they feel the same way.
This past week has been a powerful lesson that I hope I don’t soon forget. In case I, or anyone else needs a reminder, here’s the bottom line:
Put yourself out there!
We all want to connect, learn, share and—most importantly—have the opportunity to be part of something bigger; and being part of something bigger is impossible to achieve alone.
For more on this concept of "when ideas have sex" and why we're stronger together, see Matt Ridley's TED Talk by the same name. (If you don't think you can sit through a 16-minute presentation, I recommend starting at 13:30 to get to the meat of his thesis.)