I’m no stranger to business conferences and music festivals, but walking into my first SXSW sent shivers down my spine. There were countless sessions and expo displays that caught my eye, from AI to bots to social impact and fashion. Almost every brand activation had some sort of AI or VR, including National Geographic’s robot, Genius, which would draw Tweets and Instagram pictures in chalk. Over a brief five days, I was reinvigorated by the display of marketing, technology, and community. And it started with Senator Cory Booker’s keynote.
The Power of Community
“I am one of these people that really believes that we are all here today as a physical manifestation of a larger conspiracy of love…We are a nation that was not founded because we all look alike, spoke the same language, or prayed alike. And in fact, we know, we’ve had ugly divisions in our country, fearsome conflicts, but there has been a spirit that has still found a way to reach beyond that and to manifest a glorious triumphant love.” – Senator Cory Booker during the SXSW Interactive Opening Keynote
When Senator Booker took the stage, he told a story about two friends with profoundly different backgrounds–Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. After his inaugural address, Lincoln saw Douglass and asked him how his speech went. Douglass said, “Mr. President, it was a sacred effort.” Booker noted that this anecdote shows our forefathers did not just tolerate one another; they believed in the power of unity and that by working together, we could be the greatest nation in the world.
The senator emphasized that it’s not enough to just respect one another and coexist. We have to make an “unusual and extraordinary commitment to each other,” and we do this through love. If we see injustices, we must take it upon ourselves to say and do something because we depend on one another. We must love, trust, and protect one another; as Abraham Lincoln said, we must have “malice toward none and charity for all.”
SXSW is about building and uniting a community that has the power to generate the love Senator Booker asked of us. We can create augmented realities that showcase a more interdependent society. We can use the power of social media to bring together the disconnected. We can use chatbots to harness conversations across the world. Together, we can create the impossible.
Numerous #ladybosses shared their stories during SXSW. Among them, Claire Graves, who talked about the Webby Awards and how to crack the internet; and Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., who introduced In3, a community space dedicated to inclusion, innovation, and incubation. These and other SXSW women were incredibly inspiring.
As ladybosses, we hold a unique sensitivity to the love that Senator Booker spoke about. It’s our duty to lean on one another and push beyond our limits. The future is unknown and likely going to be a little nutty, but if we’re in it together, especially as awesome ladybosses, we will be the ones to make it incredible.
Bringing it Back Home
Even if we can’t all attend SXSW, we can make an effort to constantly be curious, be active learners, and engage in our communities. Here are some tips to help bring that inspired sense of community into our daily lives:
- Give yourself time to be creative, spontaneous, and unplug. We learn so much better when we fully focus on a task, so give yourself time at least once a month to expand your mind. Do something new and unexpected. That can be a walk down a road you’ve never been on, a trip to the museum, or a spur-of-the-moment girls’ weekend. Just be spontaneous and enjoy life! You’ll uncover new interests and abilities that might surprise you.
- Make a point to connect with somebody you don’t know at least twice a month. You don’t have to attend conferences to build your network. Make an effort to connect with someone in another department at your company that you’re interested in, or get to know a second connection on LinkedIn better. Meeting new people opens your mind to other perspectives, and you never know when you may need that person’s help.
- Build your brand by following up and connecting on social. When you spend time meeting new people, you should also take the time to send follow-up notes to those new connections. Connect on LinkedIn, follow him or her on Twitter, and send an email to continue the relationship. Every person you meet and every connection you make is another way to build your personal brand and create a name for yourself.
- Take 10 minutes every day to stay relevant. There is so much great content available that it’s a shame not to take a few minutes to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the world. Listen to the “Today Show” or do a quick scan of LinkedIn and Twitter for interesting news and articles. Whether it’s scanning social or seeking out cool livestreams from conferences, it’s easy to stay connected. You just have to make the effort.
Whether you’re building your career or looking for ways to enhance your professional knowledge, it’s essential that you continue to learn and find your community. The world is smaller than you think, so get out there. Be curious. Stay connected. Stay relevant. Be creative. And above all, get excited about the future. It’s going to be amazing!
Follow me on Twitter @rkbraunstein