My 5 Favorite Things About SXSW
I recently attended my first SXSW conference in Austin, TX. I know you’re probably tired of hearing me say this, but several of those days were the best days of my life. The six days in Austin were filled with incredibly deep conversations, strategy sessions with insanely successful internet entrepreneurs, lots of dancing, and tons of laughs and hugs. So much happened in my time there that it feels like I was there for a couple weeks. It’s been hard to narrow it down, but here are the 5 favorite things about my first trip to SXSW.
1. The Drive To Austin
I made the drive down to Austin with Sean and Jenny, leaving on Wednesday night and arriving on Friday afternoon. I was a little worried at first since we had no plans or place to stay but it worked out perfectly. It was the smoothest, funnest thirty hours I’ve ever spent in a car. We stopped in Nashville and had lunch with Matt Cheuvront and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame. We had the best BBQ ever in Little Rock. We stayed in a hotel in Texarkana, TX for $7.23 (using the Expedia Best Rate Guarantee travel hack). We sang karaoke and had some impromptu freestyle sessions. And we talked for hours upon hours about entrepreneurship, philosophy, relationships, health, and happiness.
Once the drive was over I felt the same sense of accomplishment that I felt when I first jumped out of an airplane or ran the Spontaneous Marathon. It was pretty damn hard, but it was all worth it for the life experience.
2. Openness and Transparency
In an environment where everyone is absolutely rocking it in life, there’s not much room for small talk. No one cared about where I went to school, where I grew up, or what kind of car I drove to Austin in. On the other hand, I found myself in numerous incredibly deep conversations with people who I had just met, talking about my life’s purpose, what I was proud of in life, or what I was most excited about.
No question was off limits, no subject was taboo, and everyone shared freely their deepest fears, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. With this incredible openness we were able to get to the heart of what matters most in the shortest amount of time and as a whole we were all better because of it.
Quick tip: Here are some of the best conversation openers I used or had used on me.
- What are you most proud of?
- What are you excited about lately?
- What are you obsessed about?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
3. People Building Up Other People
Along with the openness came a desire from each person to help everyone in the group as much as possible. I had some huge personal breakthroughs around my hangups around money, self-confidence, and business. Likewise, I coached others on their own hangups around relationships, confidence, and sales. I would guess that the most commonly used phrase at SXSW is: “How can I help?”
A perfect example is a huge breakthrough I had around money and the fact that I grew up in a family that didn’t have any. A friend helped walk me through my thoughts and the conversation came to a climax when I said something to the likes of: “Although we didn’t have much growing up, everything I have in my life I owe to my parents. My dad came home every day after work and as a family we played at the park together. My mom helped me learn all my multiplication tables before I was in kindergarten. I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of money, but it was so rich with love.“
When I said the word love I burst out into tears and cried on the shoulder of someone who I had just met a couple days prior. Magical, but just one of the many breakthroughs I had that week.
4. Total Spontaneity
SXSW is absolutely insane. At any given time there are literally hundreds of gatherings, parties, sessions, and roundtables going on. The fun thing is that even if you think you know what you’re going to be doing that day, you totally don’t. And since everyone is totally open, awesome, and present in the moment, things that would seem absurd in the real world totally make sense at SXSW. Examples include:
- Jogging home in your clothes from the night before so your friends can go pick up another friend further away
- Crashing at someone’s house that you just met the day before with three of your friends and raiding their fridge with no remorse
- Instigating a dance off in the streets with hundreds of spectators
- Scheduling breakfast meetups and dinners the next day while out at 2am
- Talking our way into a private open bar party and becoming the life of the party
- Going to Chuck E Cheese’s to eat lunch, play skee ball, and get friendship bracelets for everyone
- Going boating with six others and being attacked by a super aggressive swan
5. The People
I’ve said it before, but the best thing I’ve ever done was start my personal blog. Instantly I’ve created amazing friends all over the world through it and I had the chance to meet some of them in person at SXSW. Five of them stood out to me because of their amazing spirits, hearts, and generosity. I spent a lot of time with the five of them and I highly recommend them in any interaction due to the strength of their character.
Dane Maxwell – Internet entrepreneur extraordinaire, wakeboarding beast, and skee ball ninja. Helped me tremendously by asking all the right questions when I needed it the most.
Adam Piplica – Personal finance expert and one of the most transparent people I’ve met. Wicked sense of humor with a voice like an angel. Seriously.
Betty Jean Bell – Puts those of us who call ourselves polymaths to shame. She’s already had several lifetimes of experiences with many more to come. Made amazing green smoothies for me and the boys after we crashed in her living room.
Heather Romiti – Two time Iraqi war veteran, queen of smoothies with a heart of gold. Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met.
Andy Drish – Can’t even put into words how much I love this guy. If you meet Andy and don’t instantly like him then something is wrong with you.
I met many, many other people who blew my mind. It’s amazing what’s possible when you’re around the right people. SXSW was just another reminder that I’m going to be totally alright in this world.