Alt Summit 2015 Reflections & Recap

Alt SummitGiven that this was my second Alt Summit, I felt a little calmer and more prepared for the actual event. The overwhelm didn’t hit until I got home and immediately plunged myself back in the day to day of work and life. Next time, I will definitely be wiser about scheduling a couple days of decompression, planning, and follow up. I definitely left in a flurry of ideas and excitement. But now the real work starts.

I didn’t feel any earth-shifting revelations like I did last year, but I did come away with a solid list of very actionable observations. Each one of them could be an entire essay, but these are my abridged takeaways from Alt Summit Winter 2015.

  • The people I’ve watched from afar, who I’ve admired most, who I was able to chat with at Alt all have one thing in common. They work really, really, really hard. They do not come home from their day job and watch several episodes of Parenthood while dreaming about the day that they will get paid to do what they love on their own terms. They came home from their day jobs back when they still had them, and worked. They don’t hustle in a pushy, superficial, get-everyone-to-like-them, PR kind of way. They are in it for the long haul. They do it when they don’t feel like it. Sometimes it might feel like a slog, but they do it anyway. They faithfully plod. And it shows.
  • Play. Practice. Experiment. Show your progress and your process. You only get better by doing. People only find out about your work if you share it.
  • The most successful artists, writers, designers, photographers, and creative workers pushed through massive amounts of fear and resistance. After all, they’re people too, and paving one’s own way is terrifying for most people. Get comfortable with fear. Press into discomfort. If you’re scared, you’re probably doing something right.
  • Don’t be embarrassed about not knowing all the answers. The most compelling people ask questions. They’re humble, and they know that they still have lots to learn from those around them. They welcome feedback.
  • Most of us wait far too long to claim what we do. We wait too long to say that we’re artists or writers or photographers or designers. We second guess the work that we want to be doing, and hesitating to throw ourselves into it and claim what we do. This was one of the very many points Lisa Congdon made during her keynote that really stuck with me. Claim who you are. Don’t wait.
  • You may very well never feel like you’ve arrived, no matter how successful you are. This was another Lisa Congdon gem. Chasing the next level of success will feel empty when you reach it, unless you enjoy the actual work it took to get there.
  • Make for the sake of making. Work for the sake of doing the work. 
  • Transparency breeds trust. Willingly share what you know and what you’ve learned along the way. Some of the sessions I appreciated the most were incredibly transparent and open. There’s nothing to be gained from being secretive and suspicious of others who are working on similar things. There’s enough room for all of us here.
  • When things are hard, or when there’s just too much work to do, remember: You chose this. You chose your side hustle. You chose your work. You chose the way you’re spending your time. If you don’t like it, you’re the only one who can change it. And it’s totally fine if you do!

So here’s to the hard workers, not the superficial hustlers. Here’s to the brave, not the fearless. Here’s to the transparent, the empathetic, the encouraging, not the secretive competitors. Here’s to those who work for the sake of working, not for the potential glory.