I didn’t fit in, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to tell my story.
I was up in wine country in Northern California for a TED style conference. It was a lecture series with the Doers of the world, a insiders club for the interesting and passionate. And it wasn’t cheap to get there.
But this is 2016, we pay for experiences. We’re sick of the home-additions, Gucci bags, or fancy cars. It’s all about experiencing, partly so we can share the experience digitally to our network.
And this event promised to be an intimate setting for us to feel something special through passionate talks, eating quality farm-to-table meals, and spending our evenings drinking wine from the very field we slept by.
Heading up the coast from San Fransisco, I had that summer-camp feeling all over again. The “I hope I make friends” thing where you don’t quite know what to expect.
Whenever we put ourselves in uncomfortable new situations, we will always surface some type of fear or another. That’s the discomfort from leaving our safety of the “known.” And we’re greeted with anew fear we can say “hello” to.
For me, this past week, the thing that surfaced was the fear of not fitting in.
With so many credible people here, it was easy to feel like an imposter.
With about a 100 people at the conference, we all spend most of our time greeting each other and giving each person the pitch about who you are, what you do, and what your story is.
You’d think I’d have this down by now, but every time I told my bit, my story, I felt it didn’t connect, and I wasn’t sure why.
“I’m David, I’m a photographer from the Midwest…”
“I’m David, I’m traveling, kinda living in my car, spending time on the west coast..”
“I have a tech startup that’s called Death to The stock photo “
“death to what??”
“Death to the stock photo.. We sell.. Stock photos..”
It’s like there was a secret passcode to making friends with my new acquaintances and I wasn’t really speaking it correctly.
It’s much harder to tell your story at length and in person. Give me Instagram where I can update you with my photos! Or my blog, where I can pick and choose what I say.
I tried to take it as an opportunity to learn. I’d try a new story with each person I greeted. I’d A, B, and C test how I tell people my background. See which one lights people up.
The importance of having this down is obvious. It’s stories that help us connect. After all, every one of our relationships is based on a story we have about that person, and the first meeting is a crucial step to building this story.
Our stories can be a gift to others. I hope that’s what I do with my blog. I give you a story to have as a reference point for your own life. A story to help you see you’re not alone in feeling this way. A story as a data point that says;
“At least I’m not that guy”
“Maybe one day I could be that guy”
“I feel the same way!”
And that’s what makes these experiences so powerful. I met people with all types of interesting stories. So many gifts. The most interesting stories I’ve heard in a long time. The speakers were amazingly vulnerable with how they shared with us, it broke us open, and we all joined in the sharing. We literally we’re paying to hear stories of those, who spent time practicing how to tell their stories..
And during the conference I heard the story of a cook, who, through poetry, shared the story of his upbringing in a ghetto, and witnessing the murder of his cousin on the sidewalk by his home.
A dancer who’s body image issues propelled her to help teen girls work on themselves through Yoga and mindfulness.
The story of an artist, taking his home town of New Orleans and turning it into art. . And how the city rallied around him as he took what was shattered and made it beautiful.
Or the story of a young female designer who grew up in the country, not knowing her family was in a cult until she was an adult. Only to run away to Australia to escape.
It was the listening that made me get out of my own head and into the flow of things. It was the impressions I'll keep that made it worth the trip.
The stories we tell are what take us from being strangers and connect us together as humans.
I know I have one to tell, now I just have to improve...