Or: why I’m not going to SXSW…

So apparently my decision-making methodology has changed completely over the course of a year without me noticing.

All of my criteria are different. The process. The approach. All different.


The decision at play: whether or not to go to SXSW.* I totally regretted not going in 2008, and then Selma and I went last year and had a blast.

* South by Southwest, the big interactive conference thingy in Austin where all the blog-ey people and pretty much all my friends and colleagues will be.

What I’ve used to base decisions on in the past.

“Is it good for my business?”

And yeah, going to SXSW last year was great for my business.

The connections I made (and the actual business that resulted from them) more than paid for the price of admission, the plane tickets and the cost of being there.

From a biggification standpoint, it was completely the right thing to do.

Except that I’ve kind of stopped making that my focus.

The question has now been replaced with this:

“Is it good for me?

Because not everything that is good for my business is good for me.

But (so far, at least) everything that is good for me does good things for my business.

On the other hand, good for me? Not enough of a reason all by itself.

There are lots of things that might be good for me. So how do I know what’s important?

Here’s what I base decisions on now:


This turned out to be my big word last year.

Also my biggest learning curve. And my ow everything hurts.

So we know considerably more now about how much time/space/energy I need to function in the world.

The question last year was “What do I have capacity for? Can I squeeze something else in there?” …

This year it has evolved: “How can I get better at respecting my capacity so that I’m not constantly pushing at the edges?”


Just because I can hold my breath for a long time doesn’t mean that’s what I want to be doing right now. Or every day.

I don’t want to be at capacity. I want space and spaciousness.

Want vs. Should.

The want part is easy.

Obviously I want to spend time with my friends.

Obviously I want to see people I never get to see.

The question is just whether or not this is how I want to see them.

And the should? Oh, there are so many.

Everyone’s going. Blah blah blah. How can you not? Blah blah blah. People will think blah blah blah. And they’ll start to say blah blah blah. And then you’re screwed because blah blah blah.

That’s the monsters talking. I can have a conversation with them. What I’ve learned in the meantime is that the shoulds are louder than the wants.

The life of an HSP (highly sensitive person).

Severe introvert alert!

Now combine that with extreme sensitivity to all sorts of things that don’t seem to bother most of the people I know. Can’t do crowds. Can’t do noise.

Oh, and I’m allergic to conference centers.

So obviously I could do what I did last year, and just not go to any of the actual events. Just hang out with the people I want to see. In increasingly smaller doses.

It’s just that even that was incredibly exhausting and overwhelming. And the recovery was hell.

Recovery time.

Calculating recovery time has become a big thing.

Even for stuff I really, really want to do.

Last year I needed about a week before I was able to come back to myself.

Worth it?

What is the real draw here?

Fun! Fun! Fun! Which is definitely a legitimate thing to care about.

Sharing a house last year with Pam and Naomi and Nathan was outrageously fun.

Just spending more time with Jeff would be reason enough to go again.

Except that it would be way more fun to fly to Arizona and visit him without all the craziness and the stress and the running around.

So what is fun for me?

Being with people I adore. Laughing. Coming up with crazy biggification ideas.

How am I going to get more of that?

The no-brainer solution.

This is Victoria’s thing. What would make this decision a no-brainer?

Well, if I went to SXSW, I’d need a week of scheduled Emergency Vacation afterwards. And I’d need to find a way to avoid all parties or really, groups of more than five or six people.

Or I could not go and have a week of scheduled NON-Emergency Vacation instead. Otherwise known as Strategic Pirate-ey Biggification Time!

And skip the recovery period because it will be its own recovery period.

And make plans to visit friends some other time.

The internal solution.

I’ve been taking Hiro‘s excellent Become Your Own Business Advisor course, and one of the things we’ve been learning to do is to work with symbols that represent what we’re working on.

And when I look at a symbol of SXSW and a symbol of me, I can’t get them to cozy up to each other.

Even when my brain has good arguments for why this would be a really good thing.

And even when I can get on board in every other way. My internal direction is still insisting that this is a big no.

So I’m not going.

I’m figuring out what kinds of things I might have gotten out of it.

If I can get some of them in other, better-for-me ways, yay. And if not, oh well.

And in the meantime, Selma and I are planning our Non-Emergency Vacation. We have useful criteria. And a lot more information than we used to about what we need to stay grounded.

We’re calling it JWNS (Just West No South) and we’ll be visiting beautiful places in Oregon.

Eating cheese. Scribbling madly in notebooks. Going to bed at nine.

And making new decisions. Based on things that are still so completely weird and foreign to me.

Like respecting my capacity. And not being impressed by shoulds.

And trusting that doing stuff that’s good for me is okay.

The Fluent Self