“Don’t be a wandering generality.”
When Seth Godin uttered that phrase at Copyblogger Authority Intensive, he looked through the crowd of 400 eager faces, found mine, and called me out.
No one else was involved. It was me and the smartest mind in the marketing world, one-on-one and he was telling me, just me, “stop being such a wuss.”
Well, that may not be exactly how it happened. But that is pretty much how it felt.
When someone says something that rattles your core, it’s hard to not take it personally. But I have no hard feelings for Seth Godin for calling me out on my shortcomings in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. It needed to be said.
See, I’m a person who likes to please everyone. I don’t take sides. I play it safe. I usually don’t commit to one thing because then, I can’t plan on doing everything.
I call this harmless indecisiveness. But Seth Godin and the rest of Authority Intensive taught me better.
This isn’t harmless indecisiveness. It is reckless self-doubt.
Authority Intensive was supposed to be content marketing conference. But it wasn’t.
It was a conviction conference.
Of course, we were there to learn how to create and grow a business, and that was delivered. The event provided great presentations on design, content, traffic, and conversions.
But that was the surface material.
The real theme of Authority conference was Authenticity, and the entire conference was set up to teach us: figure out who you are and run with it.
These three unsung heroes of the event may have said it best.
1. The Curtis Hotel
The conference was held at The Curtis in downtown Denver. The Curtis is a DoubleTree Hotel, and DoubleTree Hotels, like most hotel chains usually aren’t memorable (except of course for the free cookies).
But this DoubleTree hotel was different. It wasn’t the expressionless, prefab-hotel experience we expect from a chain. It didn’t fit it, and it didn’t want to. This hotel dared to be different.
With themed floors like Big Hair, Fun and Games, and Laugh Out Loud, and rooms adorned with quirky pop culture nostalgia, eccentric art, and unusual knickknacks, The Curtis is in a league of its own.
As content creators and marketers, we need to dare to be bold like the Curtis Hotel. We need to have the courage to try something different, stand by it, and be unafraid of what others will think.
I’m sure there were people that thought the hotel was over the top. I heard more than one person mentioned how creepy it was when the elevator stopped and a child’s voice announced the name of the floor.
Yes, it creeped me out too. But I won’t forget it. And that is what is really important.
Standing out is scary because it means that people are going to notice you. And when people notice you, they talk about you. And when people talk about you, they aren’t always going to be favorable.
Eventually someone is going to call you wrong or strange, or in the case of the Curtis, creepy. But that’s okay.
Godin said it best. Even “smart people are not going to like what you do when you do something important.”
And being different is important. Being yourself is important. And taking chances is important.
So take it from The Curtis Hotel, be bold and don’t be afraid to be unique, stand out, and take a chance.
2. Brian Clark’s Introductions
Don’t get me wrong. I loved all of the wonderful takeaways and moments that the presenters brought to the conference. (I would have written a post about that if my colleague and friend Kerry Jones didn’t beat me to it and create this amazing list.)
But I also really admired the way that Copyblogger Founder/CEO Brian Clark introduced all of the speakers.
I noticed right away as Brian introduced Seth Godin (who was the first speaker of the event), that the lineup of speakers was not just a random list of the best in the biz. These speakers were selected because they told a story. They told Brian Clark’s story.
Brian didn’t rattle off a list of accolades before bringing the speakers on stage. Instead he told real, authentic stories about how each speaker helped shape his career, inspired him, or pushed him to explore new ideas.
In the agenda welcome letter Brian said, “When it comes down to it, it’s the relationships that I’ve developed over the last 8 years that have made the difference in my professional life…”
As entrepreneurs, we need to be connected like Brian Clark. We need to realize that authentic relationships need to be created, nurtured, and appreciated. We need to realize that our connections create our story. That story is important, it helps shape who are, and it needs to be told.
Relationships and storytelling — those are core elements of being human, and we need more of that in marketing.
So put yourself out there. Build relationships, tell your story, and create real, human connections.
3. The Liquid Courage Session aka The Drunk Panel
It wasn’t the actual Liquid Courage Session that touched me. It was the idea of the Liquid Courage Session.
It seems like the smart people at Copyblogger knew that we are in the business of introverts. Writers, designers, developers — we tend to be a group of people content to sit quietly on the sidelines.
Knowing that the attendees might be a group not interested in speaking in front of hundreds of people, they put together a Q and A panel where audience members could have a drink then ask a question.
Copyblogger was helping attendees creep out of their comfort zone and speak when we might be shy. (Sure, booze is not the answer, but it helps!)
But the best part was that most of these self proclaimed (yes, multiple people described themselves with this word to me) “introverts” were already mingling, chatting, and connecting without any type of liquid courage.
The good vibes of the conference — whether it was the uber-friendly Copyblogger staff or the amazing food buffets or the lively, vibrant venue — rubbed off on the crowd. And everyone was friendly and confident even in the absence of alcohol.
— Chris Thompson (@domusvita) May 9, 2014
Authority Intensive helped bring us together and be ourselves, and that is a huge conference takeaway.
As creatives, we need to be unafraid like the Liquid Courage Session. We need to be confident in who we are, what we know, and what we can, and will achieve.
Most of us suffer from the imposer syndrome. We feel inadequate. We feel too ordinary.
But as Darren Rowse pointed out, “there are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” And Seth Godin reminded attendees that person could be us. “Someone in this room is going to change everything.”
So am I mad at Seth Godin for calling me a “wandering generality”?
That phrase got me in the right place to embrace the real theme of Authority Intensive. It wasn’t all about actionable marketing takeaways. It was about shifting mindsets, taking chances, and being authentic.
So I’m grateful to Seth Godin, everyone at Copyblogger, the Authority speakers, and the Authority attendees for helping me see the biggest Authority Intenstive takeaway — figure out who you are and run with it.
Anyone else feel like Seth was talking directly to them? I know I couldn’t have been the only one.