Have you ever decided to do something you were excited about but had no idea what to expect or how it would go? Then it turns out to be more than amazingly awesome? That was my trip to Austin for SXSW.
Last Wednesday I officially decided I was going to go. Why so last minute? Well, I knew I wanted to go but hadn't really thought about it until hotel rooms were all booked up or too expensive for my pockets. So I was pretty sure the trip would have to wait for 2014 until something happened...
I haven't shared this with you guys but last November I was selected as Dell's 100 Most Inspiring people. (What an amazing honor!) We share a private FB page and that's where I saw a fellow Dell 100 post about a space that had opened up in the (gorgeous!) house she was renting. After getting the details I suddenly had a place to sleep! Everything else was easy.
Between the meet-ups, hang outs, SXSW sessions, meals (lots of delicious meals), connecting with so many dynamic people, and an awesome house party with a fly DJ (which led to a full 24 hours without sleep) I couldn't ask for a better trip.
Because of this I decided to share what I learned from this experience, mainly what I learned about myself.
1. Follow your gut. My theme for 2013 has been to listen to that voice that we all have to do or not do something. It sounds cliche, I mean we hear this all the time — but we always know when something feels right or wrong. Because everything was so last minute and little was planned, and because I was staying in a house with strangers this trip could have gone horribly wrong. But at my core everything felt right. I knew it would be great. And it was. We have to listen to our gut.
2. You have to be open and ready to talk about yourself. In a non-marketing way. I hate small talk! I'm horrible at it and I'm horrible at talking about myself to strangers. It's probably because I just have a private personality. Also, hearing others brag about themselves turns me off, so I make every effort to not do the same thing. But when you're connecting with people who meet a lot of people, have a limited time, and it's someone you'd like to stay in contact with you have to make an impression. It sounds lame but that's the way the world works.
During SXSW I saw so many different ways it's done:
- There's the name-dropper (I don't recommend this one). It's annoying to me, but some people are into it.
- The be-quick-on-your-toes and have something good to say about everything the other person is sharing.
- The Q&A person, which is great because people love talking about themselves, but this doesn't really allow you to share who you are.
- Then the warm-and-genuine, the person who is just friendly and simply interested in having a conversation.
It's important to find what makes you comfortable and feel most yourself, because all of these work. Either way I learned I have to be better about sharing my light and more of who I am in meet-up situations. (Because I'm totally cool with getting a drink, snacks, and people watching.)
3. Dream big. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, but was totally reinforced during the SXSW visit. Connecting with developers producing world changing applications, an engineer who worked on the Life of Pi and hearing speakers from online brands who are fearless made me realize I could dream a little bigger and take more risks. There are SO many opportunities to be had, but are not available to those who don't reach for them. Life is magical, we just have to harness that magic and allow it to propel us forward.
This is just a taste of all the goodness I experienced. SXSW was cool and I recommend it if you haven't been. If you have participated in SXSW please share what you have learned, or something you've learned during a last minute trip anywhere.