South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual, huge, internationally-famous smorgasbord at the intersections of technology, creativity, business, and more began today in Austin, Texas. After four days volunteering for the educational conference (SXSW EDU), I was already exhausted. But having mostly earned my free platinum all-access badge, I wasn’t going to sit home all day and miss out. Although I got a slow start, I found my way downtown (by bicycle, of course) to join the festivities. Herein is my report.
You Can’t See It All, So Don’t Bother
I won’t explain the whole thing (look it up!), but SXSW is a collection of conferences, festivals, events, parties, and more. Ten thousand of people descend on Austin hotels, convention center, and scads of other venues to learn, network, perform, recruit, innovate, collaborate and more. As a budding writer, I went last year to glean what creative energy I could through osmosis. And in the year snce, I have written three-fourths of a book. On on the days I wasn’t doing that, I wrote this blog. Based on that fact alone, I’d say last year’s event had the desired inspirational effect.
This year, I’m a little wiser but also cynical about it. That’s because much of it is way too technical, or business-y, or otherwise irrelevant to my goals. Alot of the people are “not in my tribe,” so to speak. Still, keeping an open mind and trying new things is the way to go. Having a plan would have been better, but again I couldn’t find much relevant content for writing, blogs, books, and bikes. So I went to the Info desk for a good while, then stumbled around getting the lay of the land, people-watching and looking for the unexpected. There was enough to keep me occupied for a while, especially since I’m always on the hunt for freebies, especially food. Here are but a few examples of what I experienced:
- Linked In took over a building, so I had a consulation about my job-search profile. I enjoyed a free hot chocolate with almond milk that wasn’t on the menu and a juice, and skipped the yummy-looking cookies. Plus, I chatted with a Swedish guy about The Girl with Dragon Tatoo and other Swedish crime books I read a few years ago. It turns out, he had worked as a producer on that very show (it aired on TV in Sweden)! Last year I did alot more networking during EDU and didn’t this year, partially because I was around teachers, not the policy room, so realized I need to step that up. Later, I was standing on a corner watching Austin police stop a woman who had stolen a car, and met a woman with Lyft bikes and scooters. She just became the new state coordinator, so we’ll link, like some other people I met.
- I got in my walk and over 10,000 steps for the fourth time this week. Doing so, I came across a man doing puppetry on hand-made puppets with a backdrop of rock music that he recorded. It was cool but it made me a little sad, because I’m aware that the struggle is very real regarding doing art to make money. And I worry he may not have a big enough audience or something that is really useful, which reminds me of me. But what do I know? He looked happy. I put some change in his box, and let him know I appreciated his efforts. I hope he finds outlets and rewards for his work, but didn’t catch his name, though.
- I hung out at the American Civil Liberties Union area, and got some free pins. I had been told that Tom Morello, of various rock groups notably Rage Against the Machine would be appearing there Saturday. Though not familiar with his music I know he’s a pretty progressive left-wing guy, so I hope to check him out. I picked up some buttons to put on my lanyard and a t-shirt.
- The comedy show (TheDaily Show standup) and movie (Us) I wanted to see were way too popular, so even with my badge getting in would have required long waits in line. Finally getting into the groove, I found Texas short films as part of the Film Festival. All were very good, and quite moving in some way. I then found the Film Fest opening party, which was kind of a bust for me because I did not know anyone. To not be bored I talked to other volunteers, who were all super nice because that’s the gig, and then went home way too late.
Adriene is Authentic, Awesome and So Austin
Last year I missed attending a free class with Yoga With Adriene, so I was fortunate to figure out she had a panel. In fact, it was at the last room I worked at on Thursday. As I was going in, she was right there next to me. I offered my hand to shake, and she responded in kind but also by placing her other hand on top of mine. A small gesture for sure, but telling. If you are one of the 4 million people who watch her YouTube videos, you know she is very down to earth, relatable, sometimes goofy, and yet grounded in her accessible yoga. Her newsletters are really more like love letters to her audience, but feel very personal. So what do you do when you meet a celebrity who is a real person? Well, you just fall in love with that person a bit more. (I’ve written about her before, so just type Yoga With Adriene into the search bar, and you’ll find more posts about her.)
Her panel, with her co-producer and CEOChris Sharpe, was titled “Giving to Grow and Receive.” You see, 90% of what she does she gives away free. They talked about their business model and how they strive to build connections and community, not just sell classes or t-shirts. Some of what does cost money supports putting free yoga into the lives of people who can’t afford expensive classes. Did I mention she has 4 million followers? I took long notes on their talk because it dawned on me: Adriene is successful now, but was in a similar place to me years ago, so I could learn alot. I’m not sure I could or should follow her trajectory because a) I’m not as pretty and b) biking is a different “product” than yoga and c) is what I have useful? She even talked about the “starving artist” syndrome, which I just blogged about the other day. (See Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins.)
There’s alot more to be said about her presentation but there’s not space to go into much. Her way of doing things has led to organic growth and now she has six employees, she travels, speaks, and teaches internationally, from Nicaragua to California to the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and chatting a bit after. She even offered to take a picture, and one of her entourage obliged with a number of shots, and she got a kick out of my blog name. Who knows? Maybe there could be some sort of partnership. Although nothing comes to mind. Regardless, her success is very inspiring, whether I try to emulate her path or not. I wonder if I can see myself like her, toiling year after year to try to make something great that reaches a lot of people. In my case, it’s to get people on their bikes safely. In the end, flexibility sure helps, and you can get that bendiness from, what else? Yoga.
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