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6 life lessons learned at #SxSW

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I set out to Austin for my very first #SxSW. Accompanied by three of my favorite geniuses and armed with an open mind, the necessary geeky stuff and a solid set of sneakers, I threw myself into this Texan adventure. And what an inspiring adventure it has been! Beside tons of smart insights, mind boggling innovations and clever thought processes, what I will remember most of all are the inspiring people I got to witness on and off stage. Now some of the Texan dust has settled, here are some of their life lessons that seem to have stuck with me:

  1. Embrace failure

In our results-oriented society, failure can be a difficult concept. We are hardwired with the desire to do well, win, be the best. But sometimes, you have to be willing and ready to fail, in order to come out on top. To trigger real change. Give yourself room to fail, and be smart about it: asses, learn and shift direction.

John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewiss: It’s ok to fail. The trick is to take the right risk, fail the right way.

Google’s Astro Teller: Failure drives progress. Fail often, hard and fast. It will give you the insights and mental push to get it right.

  1. Stay curious

Innovation was never found on the beaten track. An average kid asks 100 questions a day, whereas an average adult only asks 4. Why not embrace that kid in you, daring to question what you do and how you do it? Be curious about the world around you and its endless possibilities. Who knows what you might discover…

Producer & author Brian Grazer: Curiosity is a superpower. It’s a driving emotion that gives you courage to pursue those ideas you otherwise wouldn’t.

Nilofer Merchant: If we only look for one particular set of ideas, we miss everything else. If we’re curious enough to look further we can find an entire new solution for an old problem

  1. Find your place of authenticity, and stick with it

In a maturing online sphere, both consumers and brands are looking for authenticity. It’s all about creating meaningful connections. People don’t connect with organizations, they connect with people. So be human. Find your authentic voice and natural personality. It will help you break through the noise and create an emotional connection with the audience that matters to you.

Eva Chen: What makes you different? Find what excites you and let that enthusiasm shine.

Michelle Phan: People think they have to copy, but the beauty of the internet is that everyone can have their own niche market. If you’re being real – being yourself – people appreciate that.

  1. Remember that your project is only as good as the people involved

No matter how motivated and brilliant you might be, you’re just one person. Cherish what other people bring to the table. It’s how magic is created. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and bring value to your project. And be a team player, for heaven’s sake!

Spencer Griffin: Nobody is so good they can afford to be a dick.

Gary Vaynerchuk: I don’t give a fuck if you’re the best, learn to play with the other girls and boys or you’re out!

Decoded Fashion’s Liz Bacelar: It’s like baking a cake: focus on the right ingredients, the right people, and you can create beautiful results.

  1. Celebrate uniqueness

There are many ways to be good in the world. You’re the only one with your particular blend of goodness. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Celebrate your uniqueness and that of those around you.

Nilofer Merchant: how many of us have been told that we’re too wild or too weird to fit in? Each of us is standing in a place in the world only you are standing at. It’s in this place you create value. We have to celebrate that which each of us bring.

Princess Reema: If you stand still, you’re letting them push you down. If you keep walking, they have to follow you.

  1. Learn to let go!

When you engage online you can do amazing things. You can create, connect and collaborate. But you can’t control. And you shouldn’t want to. This may seem like a scary notion for a lot of organizations, but really: it’s an opportunity. To engage in an authentic conversation. To include those that matter most to your organization in your creative and conversational process. Empower your online community and possible ambassadors to tell your brand story with their own voice. It will be that much more powerful.

Nilofer Merchant: The Future is not created, it’s co-created.

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