“So, how was Big Omaha?!”
I’ve answered that question three and a half dozen different ways since returning from a conference that brought together 600 passionate people to talk innovation, startups, entrepreneurship and life. But the word I’ve used in all of my answers to that question? Transformative.
I can confidently say Big Omaha transformed me. And I will swagger out onto a limb and venture that the conference was transformative in one way or another for its attendees, organizers and speakers, too.
It sounds audacious, right? That this conference actually transformed me. But it did. Because it pushed a lot of my personal+professional boundaries. It connected me with heart-embiggening people. It challenged me to step into my skin. It made me think—lots—about my life-work.
Eenie, Meenie, Miney Moe — What Do I Do, Again?
Oy. When people ask me what I do, I often laugh and respond tartly: “I do awesome things.” “I’m a gater!”
Which doesn’t actually help people understand what I do.
At Big Omaha, I thought about dancing when people asked me what I do. I thought about fluidity. And so depending on the tone of our conversation, or what I knew about the other person, or who it was that introduced us, I chose from a variety of answers: I’m a copywriter. I’m a community builder. I’m working on a thesis in social entrepreneurship. I cofounded Reverb.
And it felt good to be flexible in my answers. Rather than shirking the question with a tart response, I answered genuinely. Instead of only talking about what I do that earns me money (copywriting & community management), I let the context inspire my response.
So all those people I met? They each have very different ideas about who I am and what I do. That’s kindoftotally awesome.
Owning “what I do”? Transformative.
Hey! People Think My Thesis is COOL!
WOWZERS. In Boulder, I catch flack about being in grad school (i.e., it’s a waste of time, waste of money, you should be out there shipping!).
At Big Omaha, someone asked, “Um, can I pay you to have a copy of your thesis when you’re done? I need that.” And they weren’t just being funny.
I now have someone who’s offered to pay to read my research (of course they’re getting a copy of my thesis priority-mailed to them when I’m done…I’m looking at you, Andy). Another amazing person offered to read drafts (thanks, Greg!). Someone else suggested (and then suggested several more times) that I publish (thank you, Jen!). I’m humbled.
Dust-covered masters’ theses on bookshelves across the country high-fived each other each time someone showed excitement about my work (I just know it).
Being reminded that my academic work is parallel to and as important as my non-academic work? Transformative.
About as Comfortable as a Cheap Wool Sweater on Bare Skin: My Comfort Zones
Know what I really found out? That I prefer one-on-one or small group connections. The happy hours and parties were so well-done and a blast, but I tended to shrink in those environments. No matter how many people describe me as bubbly, outgoing or uber-social—well, it doesn’t always stick. At Big Omaha I often chose to have an intense, super-connected conversation with one person versus a light conversation in a big group.
If this lands me in the “too serious” or “too intense” pile, that’s cool. I’ve discovered that the one-on-one connections are where I thrive. It’s an awesome discovery.
Acknowledging my areas of insecurity? Transformative.
No one from Zaarly asked for anything in return—they didn’t ask for a mention on Twitter, nor a blog post highlighting the start-up—nothin’. I connected with founder & CEO Bo Fishback after Big Omaha, and he simply said: “We couldn’t have ended up with a better person to have there with us.” The people behind Zaarly are the real deal.
Hey Zaarly — THANK YOU. <3