Monday night I stepped out of the party at Bar Lurcat to call my daughter and say goodnight. The first thing she asked me: “Daddy, are you making lots of new friends?”
Confab was a joy to attend. It was well-run, interesting, educational, and stuffed tighter than a card catalog with brainy people sharing useful wisdom. The least impressive session I attended* would’ve been a highlight many other places.
So what did I learn? Three big lessons, though I don’t think they’re probably typical.
1) I know more than I think I do.
Here’s something that surprised me: I was inspired by all of the presenters, but I was not awed by them. (Not all of them all the time, anyway.) I came away from several sessions realizing that I know stuff like that, and I could probably work on doing a better job of sharing that knowledge. (Could? Should.)
That sounds dumb to me now, but it turns out I’ve spent the last couple of years nursing a mild inferiority complex.
2) Man, do I have a lot to learn.
Yeah, yeah, I know a lot and I’m so awesome. But there’s so much that people are doing that I was only slightly aware of. There’s so much that they know, and that I could learn, and that I should learn.
Good thing this field is packed with incredibly generous people willing to share that knowledge. It makes it possible to bodysurf through a moshpit of giants.
So I’ve got a lot to learn — a lot I will learn — but I don’t need to know everything.
3) Even if I don’t like what I’m doing, I like what I could do.
So I wasn’t exposed, even to myself, as a big faker. (People sought me out to say hi. That is perhaps the world’s weirdest feeling.) Yay! Does that mean I love everything I’m doing? No. Is my career everything it could be? No. (I suspect it’d help if I really figured out what direction to hike in.)
But do I have the potential to do some awesome shit? To fall truly, madly, deeply in love with my job as a content strategist? Oh yeah. Yeah, I think that can happen.
Gooey personal stuff. You can stop reading here, if you like.
True confession: The last year or so has been difficult for me, way down deep where the psychological magma churns. I left a job that I hated, but where I’d learned a lot. Yet I still second-guessed my decision to go freelance. Constantly. And I wondered: Am I really any good at this? Really?
I was really looking forward to Confab. For a while my expectation was that it was going to be a life-changing event. Like prom in an ’80s movie, or at least like being locked in a department store overnight with Jennifer Connelly. (Metaphorically speaking, honey.)
Then I got some help rewiring my head, which was a good plan. That let Confab off the hook to just be a great conference with a lot of cake, and that’s something that it succeeded at in spades. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, just for that. (And I’m already jealous that the CS Forum in London this year is not gonna happen for me.)
But funny thing: Confab was life changing. Not in the grand way I secretly hoped it would be on bad days. But in a subtler, richer way. I left Confab remembering that I have a terrific job, that I can do, that pays the bills, and puts me in daily contact with a whole lot of awesome people.
I made a lot of new friends. And as Clarence noted, no man is a failure who has friends.
OK, time to post this before I chicken out. I really enjoyed meeting everyone I talked to. I’m sorry I didn’t get to spend more time with you. And I look forward to meeting even more of you next time. (Also, if you’re in Seattle, say hi.)
*No, I’m not calling it out.