This weekend was the 20SB (20-something bloggers) Summit in Chicago. It was amazing. I don't want to do a full recap because 1) I'm guessing a lot of you don't care that much and 2) it would be about 10,000 words long, but I do want to share -- and capture for myself -- the main ideas I'm taking away from all of the fantastic speakers.
So here they are, in no particular order. These are applicable to everyone, not just bloggers!
1. Action is everything. What you say only matters to the extent that it pushes people to act. Getting your thoughts re-tweeted 100 times means nothing if people aren't acting on it, and especially if you're not acting on it. Go after those things that really matter to you. When you want to make something happen, keep track of action items separate from all of your other notes. Always be moving forward in some small way, even when you feel like institutional politics are freezing you in.
2. Everyone starts small. Stop being afraid to go after a goal just because you can't do it overnight with no mistakes. Every big website or blog I heard about this weekend started by someone just putting something out there. It might have looked really crappy at first. But the important thing was that it got put out there, for better or for worse, so it could start to become something. You don't have to be an expert or even the best at what you do -- what you do will work for some people, and those people will find you.
3. You don't have to do everything yourself. There are different kinds of people out there with different strengths. Leverage the power of collaboration and community. If you want a professional site but don't know enough html to do it or don't have the time, pay someone else to design it. If you don't have the money, find some other benefit you can offer in exchange. Brainstorm big, or work with people who will help you brainstorm big. Trust your readers. Rely on your readers. Ask for help when you need it. Give help wherever you can.
4. Don't do things halfway. If you're going to take a risk, take it. You can't stay in your comfortable status quo and make a big change at the same time. If you're going to launch a new site, build up 3 months of content before you start publicizing it (except to get feedback from your trusted circle), so you can find your rhythm and make sure you're passionate enough to really commit to it. If you want to do something, tell your community you're going to do it. They will hold you accountable.
5. Be true to yourself always. If you hate doing something, don't do it. If your job is making you sick, quit. But every big change doesn't have to mean quitting your job. If you hate being self-employed, that's OK. Do what feels right for you. Be authentic. Don't try to become a mommy blogger or fashion blogger just because that's what's popular right now. Do things because you love them -- that's it. And don't try to lie to your readers, because they will call you out on it.
6. Carve out your space. Figure out what your boundaries are, whether that's what you share on your blog or what you do with your time. Take some time to unplug, recharge, and take care of yourself. You can't figure out what you love and what you want to do if you're constantly just reacting -- to comments, to Twitter, to your page stats. Make sure you have time for thinking, for reflecting, for decompressing, for brainstorming.
7. It's OK to be called crazy. When you find that idea that everyone says won't work, then either it won't work or it will become huge, because that means you're doing something new. Your family and close friends want to protect you, so their natural reaction is to keep you from taking giant leaps of faith. Trust the people who say, "I can see this is what you're truly passionate about." Passion is enough to keep you moving forward if you know how to feed it.
I came away from this weekend with both practical tips and huge amounts of inspiration to go after the ideas I've been sitting on forever. Plus -- and I know this is shocking -- I actually made friends! Some of whom actually live near me! For some reason, knowing that almost nobody there knew each other offline pre-conference gave me the confidence to introduce myself to everyone I sat down next to. That and I'd bought 250 business cards for my blog and I was determined to give out as many as I could. It made me feel like I might actually be OK at "networking" despite my huge fear of talking to people I don't know.
Two moments were hugely gratifying to me as a blogger:
- One of the first people I met recognized my username (my nametag had my first name and Twitter handle), had read my blog, and remembered what it was about!
- I had given out my card to someone I was sitting by and was talking about some things I've written about, and two other people sitting near me asked for my card so they could check out my blog also. Amazing!
---If you want to see more wisdom from the summit, just search the hashtag #20sbsummit on Twitter.
These lessons are a mish-mash of ideas from the following conference speakers:
- Scott Belsky (@scottbelsky of @Behance) - Keynote
- Jenny Blake (@jenny_blake) - Keynote
- Tim Jahn (@timjahn)
- The Jenn/Katie/Molly panel (@jenniferalaine, @happykatie, @smartprettyawk)
- Amy Creyer (@ChiStreetStyle)
- Ben Bator (@benbator of @tfln)
- Nate St. Pierre (@NateStPierre of @ItStartsWithUs)
- Jen Friel (@jenfriel)