And all I got from learning things the hard way was this lousy t-shirt.

If you’re not up to speed, I just got back from four wild ragtag days in Austin, Texas, where I was supposedly attending that one internet conference.

I have a conflict here. On the one hand, I have a vested interest in not boring the hell out of you. Which means I probably shouldn’t keep talking about SXSW.

On the other hand, you know I always tell you what’s on my mind … and what’s on tap at the moment is about a hundred ideas, thoughts, wonderings and insights. All of which (sorry!) have to do with the crazy four days I spent in Austin.

So here’s what I’m going to do. Quick verbal snapshots of some of the stuff that’s percolating in my brain right now, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

People are intimidated by my duck.

This was definitely news to me. I tend to think of us as being fairly approachable.

One of the things I learned on this trip, though, is that there are a number of people whose fear of meeting me actually outweighed (or nearly outweighed) their desire to meet me.

Nothing could be more surprising to me than hearing from one friend or another, “hey, I just ran into a huge fan of yours and said you were right over here — and then they freaked out and ran away“. Weird, right?

I get how awkward and potentially uncomfortable it is to march up and introduce yourself to a semi-stranger, especially one you madly admire.

I mean, I’m the one who spilled water all over Derek Sivers.

It’s just that … I’m really, really nice. My niceness is not even “oh, that’s my brand” or anything creepy like that. It’s really me. And my duck is even nicer.

No kidding. Everybody loves Selma.

So I had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around this. That there were people excited/terrified to meet me — people I was totally cool about meeting and talking to — who ran away.

I have no idea what I’m going to do differently now that I know this — but this was definitely the big surprise of the whole trip.

Fear: it lives in televisions.

In Austin I was mostly hanging out with my friends and colleagues who, like me, are fortunate enough to (knock on keyboard) not be affected much by the current state of the economy.

And at the same time, I had a number of conversations with other people about to launch a new business or break out on their own, people who are so capable, talented, and inspirational that their chance of success seems — if not inevitable — then at least a pretty safe bet.

But their anxiety about the economy is keeping them absolutely paralyzed.

There is an economic crisis. Obviously. But some of us are are soaking in this atmosphere of crisis, and the rest seem to be immune to its effects on our mood and well-being.

So I was puzzling over this, and then I was sitting in the Dallas airport and I felt myself also sinking into that awful, dark “everything sucks” depression. And then I noticed that there were television screens everywhere.

All you could see and all you could hear in all directions was doom doom doom.*

*Like the dodos in “Ice Age”. Doom on you, doom on you!

Oh.

I don’t have a television. So I’m not breathing daily infusions of hyped-up horribleness.

No wonder everyone’s scared. Of course they are.

Television* is a 24-hour fear generating machine.
*By “television” I’m referring specifically to the genre of “news infotainment”, yes?

I’m not saying stuff isn’t going seriously off-track in the world these days, because it is.

It’s just that it’s not always the economy. It’s just that fear is the greatest cause of stuck. It’s just that the people who could totally be doing amazing things and making money right now are just kind of treading water.

Kill Maim your television.

Next year in Greece.

I need to make a confession. I just spent four days at an internet conference and didn’t actually go to it.

Well, I was there. But I didn’t attend a single panel. Not one discussion, not one keynote.

Not just me. Naomi, too. That might have been my fault. Possibly.

At first it was just because I was having too much fun. And then it was because I was meeting people and making useful connections.

And by the end, it was kind of “well, I’ve come this far”. Like, attending an actual event would be over the top.

I talked to so many people who did a. pretty much the same thing, b. almost the same thing, or c. wished they’d done the same thing.

So I’m thinking … these completely fascinating conversations with like-minded thinkers, helper-mice and fellow goofball entrepreneurs were so valuable and so inspiring that I can’t wait to do it again.

Just maybe not at a convention.

What I really want to do is hang out more with Naomi and Pam and Chris and Nathan and Sonia and Colleen. So now I’m thinking Greece.

I hear you don’t need to wear a lanyard with a nametag to get in.

But if I were going back and I didn’t already have people to hang out with? I would plan plan plan. I’d figure out exactly what needed to happen to hook up with my people from Twitter. I’d be Karl, who made it really easy to say yes to having lunch with him. I’d be Sarah, who went out of her way to make me want to meet her.

Which reminds me: we need to talk about how to stalk people in style without being creepy.

How to stalk people in style without being creepy.

I actually have quite a rant on this, but I know Naomi will be covering that subject this week.

I will say this, though:

Imagine that you are me, and there are a hundred people who want to meet you.

Or, better, imagine that you are Chris Brogan and there are a thousand people who want to meet you.

Now imagine that you’ve received — for the purposes of this experiment — ten text messages. Nine of them go like this: “Hey, are you around? I’d really like to meet you. Where are you?”

The tenth one says “I’m at _____________ at the corner of X and Y from 2 to 4 today. Amazing people here. Would love it if you dropped by.”

Which one are you answering?

There you go … free business advice. :)

That’s where I’m at.

No brilliant conclusions or anything. I’m just sitting with all of this, and watching it sift through my sleep-deprived brain. Getting excited about where I might take these ideas, without having to take them anywhere just yet.

I can definitely say that I’m happy to be home. And even happier to be here. I missed you guys.