Each Year We Get Better
Every year, we get a better at smoothing the edges of what we’re inventing — our businesses, our community, and this event that we build together when we walk into that room.
At SOBCon08, a beautiful young woman joined us. She signed up with only her first name. She was in the room the whole time, but I didn’t get to know her well. This year she returned with her full name and seemed so much more involved. As I read her story, I wish I had reached out to her more last year. She’s inspired me to make sure that I look to do that more.
Reflections on the ROI of SOBCon09 by Amy LeForge
I’m just home from a weekend in Chicago for SOBCon09. The theme this year was The Return On Investment (ROI) of Relationships and I’ve been reflecting on what my personal ROI is for this trip. This was actually my second time attending SOBCon. That fact came as a surprise to more than one of the attendees this year when I introduced myself. The reason they were surprised is because they didn’t remember me from last year. That’s right. I went to a marketing/business/entrepreneurial/blogging conference last year and hid. I sat back in the shadows and listened and learned. I made a few friends, but I shied away from actually stepping out and having conversations or building relationships.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no one to blame for this but me. No one at SOBCon was (or is) anything less than stellar and wonderful and amazing. Every last one of them. I was out of my comfort zone the entire time; it was clear that I was in the company of people who knew and understood so much more than I and I was intimidated. I do not exaggerate when I tell you I sobbed for a good deal of the drive home last year.
I have long wondered what caused my attack of shyness. My husband, upon hearing me describe what had happened at SOBCon08, was quite puzzled. “You’re not shy,” he said. And he’s right. I’m not. Perhaps it’s that I’m an introvert, but even that label does not completely fit. It’s true that I am a listener, but I also love to tell stories. I wouldn’t be a blogger if I didn’t.
I came to SOBCon09 bound and determined to do better. This meant stepping far out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to join conversations, ask questions, and get to know people. Most frightening were the evening social gatherings. I went anyways. (I won’t lie to you: I had to have several rather stern talks with myself about not giving up and running away.)
If you talk to SOBCON attendees from years past you’ll hear how people walk in as strangers and leave as family. Friendships are forged that extend far beyond the boundaries of this one weekend. It’s all true.
I cannot begin to adequately describe how kind and welcoming people were, or how blessed I am to have been able to friend so many. Even when I very honestly said, “I’m scared out of my wits here,” I was warmly received and supported.
It was a conversation with Chris Cree that really crystallized things for me. When you feel so completely out of your league, as though you’re surrounded by people who are just so far ahead of you it’s emotionally exhausting. You finish every day just raw inside. Chris told me he knew what that felt like; that he had experienced it himself and that fear was playing a big role. That’s when I realized: sometimes we need to change what we fear.
I was reminded of a field trip I arranged for my behaviorally disordered students to a ropes course several years ago. If you’ve never seen a ropes course, it’s basically an obstacle course about 20 feet off the ground. I got it into my head that my class would benefit from doing the course.
Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights?
There were safety harnesses of course, but that didn’t stop me from almost passing out at one particular obstacle. Two trees were a few feet apart, each with a small platform. All I had to do was step from one platform across open space to the other. It couldn’t have been more than an 18-inch gap. With all the kids watching I didn’t dare to quit so I took the step. In order to succeed, I had to change what I was afraid of.
This weekend, I was blessed with the wisdom, expertise, time, and friendship of more people than I have space to acknowledge here. I cannot begin to put a value on the support I received or the help I was given. I deserve none of it. I am no more special than anyone else and yet I walk away having been given priceless gifts. I doubt I could ever thank people enough.
So what was my ROI on SOBCon09? Huge. Priceless. Beyond description.
And guys? No longer will I allow fear to stop me from walking into a room to make new friends. No longer will I allow myself to run and hide when I really need to stand and shine. Instead, I will fear letting you down by not using what you’ve taught me. I fear disappointing you after having been given so much.
I have changed what I am afraid of.
I’ve been afraid like Amy has been. Sometimes, in some rooms, I find I still am.
I was afraid when I read this blog post that she, you, and me would only see that I let her down last year. It’s hard to think someone has courageous as she is would have feel so sad on her way home.
But so much would be lost if I didn’t share her story.
I had to change what I’m afraid of. I don’t want it to happen again.
A new outcome is inside a new point of view.
How can you change what you’re afraid of?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!