This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.
Yesterday was hump day for SXSW. I woke up and my brain hurt. In fact, my brain and I felt like we got jumped by a gang of trekkies who beat us with socks filled with calculators and old Android phones.
This phenomenon is not unusual at SXSW. It’s like having a hangover while being roommates with Ray Kurzweil. But you gotta power through. The morning run cleared some of the fog, and -- freshly caffeinated -- off I went.
The team down here is divided into 5 sectors or topic areas. We’re covering…
Startups and technology
Food and entertainment
City planning and walkability
...which means I spend a lot of my day in sessions related to these topics. It’s been a mixed bag of diversity and inclusion, workplace design, talent recruitment (you need to check out the work of WayUp if you recruit talent, by the way) and so on. More on that later.
What got to me yesterday was how psychologically important trips like these can be for the people who attend, and the organizations or communities they represent. In the right moment and with the right people, there is almost a magic leveling-up that happens where a person reaches some kind of psychic equilibrium.
What I mean by that is SXSW can explode mental barriers that tell me “Jay, that’s not possible,” or “Jay, we’re not capable of that for these 12 very good reasons.” Suddenly, whatever skills and talents I have or can recruit from others become exactly the ones needed to solve a problem.
SXSW changes the internal conversation for me. Often it does so when I end up in a smallish room -- as I did yesterday -- for a session with Valerie Jarrett, Belinda Johnson, Marne Levine, and Evan Ryan. Collectively, these women lead companies with market capitalizations of over $130 billion and/or worked in the West Wing of the White House. That’s a lot of horsepower, and they are there to share it with… me. In that short window of time, we’re just people running organizations and trying to solve problems. The playing field is level.
It changes one’s perspective to have that experience. Things become possible. Roadblocks wash away. Excuses vanish.
That is why I come back here every year, and why I am so honored to share this experience with our team. It’s my hope that each of us have one or two of those moments this week so we can return to Mansfield confident, creative and ready to work with our fellow citizens to make real what we now know is possible.
Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.