I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently if I would be at SXSWi or the World Domination Summit this year.
Actually, they’ve kind of just told me that they would see me there. I guess the assumption is that everyone will be there, so we may as well skip the question of attendance.
And that’s a fair assumption to make. Most people I know who are involved with businesses, blogs, or who are living a non-traditional lifestyle (or wanting to) are going to one or both of these events, and that’s awesome. I’m sure everyone will walk away with some new connections, some valuable information, and a whole lot of inspiration.
I’m skipping both, though, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m in Iceland. I do this whole four months in a new country thing, and though I sometimes hop to nearby countries to check out places I haven’t been yet, Austin and Portland are both old hat to me, and it kind of seems like cheating to bounce back to the States whenever there’s a fun conference going on. There are so many conferences these days, too, that doing so would be a dangerous precedent to set.
The only reason that I would consider going would be to meet up with people, and I can do that anywhere. What’s more, I can do it better anywhere else, because there won’t be the craziness/drunkenness/lack of sleep that always comes with these kinds of conferences, so I’ll get a more legit experience, rather than meeting everyone’s ‘conference persona.’ I have an advantage here in that I travel so much, and I plan to use that advantage.
I’m sure the presentations will be cool, but frankly I haven’t been to a conference yet that told me something new that I couldn’t find online. Mostly these things are excuses to get together and network/party with like-minded people, and the speakers are there to add legitimacy to the experience. I love networking and partying, but I do that most of the time anyway, so I don’t really need an excuse to do it more.
I can’t help but shake the feeling that if everyone is at the same event, everyone will walk away with similar thought processes. I’m a big proponent of zigging when everyone else zags, and I find that generally avoiding big conferences helps me continue to think about things a little bit differently (whether for better or for worse).
Finally, both events are set up to help people find what they are looking for, whether it’s connections or meaning or inspiration or resources, and I’m incredibly happy where I am, what I’m doing. I told a friend the other day that I couldn’t be more thrilled with life because if I died today, I could honestly say I died doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, and that’s a thrilling thought.
Those are the main reasons that I don’t attend, but these reasons apply almost exclusively to me.
Both conferences are going to be a hell of an experience for everyone who is going. Just remember not to get caught up in hype, to take in what new information you can (and all of it with a grain of salt), and to do your best to form real bonds with amazing, interesting people.
Also: remember to apply all the motivation you’ll walk away with to your life, not just the few days you’re away at a conference. All too often people are only enthused and ‘making moves’ when surrounded by others who are doing the same, but the real test is if you can continue to be just as motivated when you’re back in ‘real life,’ surrounded by people who just don’t get it.
Update: February 8, 2017
A lot of this is still true. I seldom attend conferences unless I’m speaking, as the value proposition for me just isn’t there. For some people I’m guessing these events are quite valuable, but for my purposes, it’s mostly seeing people I like and meeting some new people I may come to like.
Also, that zigging and zagging thing still rings true to me. I worry about going to the same places, reading the same things, watching the same movies as everyone else, as there does seem to be a kind of groupthink that causes us to look at certain things in the same ways, and that groupthink spreads partially through popular culture. I’m not always successful in avoiding this (and I wouldn’t want to be 100% successful, as that would leave me unable to understand what’s happening around me), but it often leads to a valuable perspective, regardless.