James Todd hosts the best dinner parties. He likes to say he sees the treasure in people and then brings people together who will treasure each other.
At these parties, we talk about things like our childhood traumas and how they’ve led to breakthroughs as adults, what moral of the story we would share if we were to give a talk to a 1,000 person audience, and our biggest takeaways from the best books we’ve read over the past year.
We get past the cruft and have meaningful conversations around a table of artfully arranged cheese plates and beautifully prepared multi-course meals.
It was on the way home from one of these dinner parties at the tail end of the penultimate World Domination Summit in 2019 that I realized I had let my ego get the best of me.
“I’m just here to support Chris [Guillebeau],” I told myself. “I’ll go to the talks, but they’re not for me. I’m past all of this stuff.”
“I don’t know more than 20 people here this year even though in years past it seemed like I knew hundreds. I guess there’s not anyone interesting here anymore,” I comforted myself.
I didn’t recognize my own lies until I was in the midst of processing my takeaways from conversations with and main stage talks from fascinating people… I realized I had come into the weekend expecting I would learn very little. That I wouldn’t meet anyone new worth knowing.
My ego was protecting me from leaving my comfort zone. It was posing the question, “Will I learn something from these talks?” and “Will I meet someone fascinating?”
“Of course not,” my ego whispered in my ear.
“You’re an executive at a growing software company,” it continued in its self-important tone, with its chest puffed out. “This event isn’t created for people like me. I’ve grown beyond this. I’m just here for the nostalgia,” it lied to me.
After all, if I can’t learn anything and I won’t meet anyone, there’s no risk of being vulnerable. I can’t be disappointed or rejected if I don’t care to begin with! I won’t feel sad about the event coming to an end next year if I already know I’ve outgrown it.
In reality the inner me is just a kid running around, fascinated by the world. I don’t need a story about how important I am to enjoy the world. The questions that inner kid would ask are the more open versions:
- What can I learn today?
- What wonderful human can I meet today?
The little kid inside knows I’ll always have something new to learn; that every person is fascinating and valuable in their own way — an end in and of themselves as Mark Manson puts it in Everything is F***ed.
The hopeful, optimistic version of me encouraged me to show up, engage with every talk and connect with each person at that dinner party. In the process, so much of my life at home and at work came into sharper focus.
Next time I’ll know better. I’ll know that I’m never done learning and growing. I’ll show up with an open heart and an open mind.
I’ll fully feel the sadness of an event I love coming to a close after a wonderful 10 year run in 2020.
Because it’s always meant something to me. I’ve always learned from the speakers there. I’ve always made the most meaningful connections there. And I’ll miss it when it’s gone.