photo from event: you must try new thingsAfter the first event on the first day of the Inbound 2014 conference, I got stuck in the elevator at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Centre. Actually, twelve of us, tightly packed and some of us with coats (somehow, we thought it was a good idea to all cram in on the second floor), enjoyed each others’ close company in the confines of the tight—and getting tighter—elevator space.

The folks at Inbound were on the case, letting us know that the Boston Fire Department had been notified, but it was getting cozy fast. The tight quarters were getting increasingly airless. And the warmth of twelve anxious bodies were starting to multiply into actual heat. One person even started to make cannibalism jokes. Thankfully, no one made elevator pitches.

My colleague next to me took out her cell phone and started flicking through beach photos that she recently took. She then listened to a relaxation app, sharing her earbuds with her neighbour. In all, everyone kept it together and when Boston Fire showed up, about 30 minutes in, those elevator doors opened and a huge sigh of relief emanated from the hallway.

My little joke on Twitter at the time:

This would not be a particularly interesting story except for this: The twelve of us had the ability to open the doors the entire time. Like Dorothy being able to go back to Kansas whenever she would like, what we didn’t know until the firefighters arrived was that all one of us had to do was push one simple lever to the left and the doors would open. No axes, no ropes, and no chains were required. 

Seek Out Solutions Now

This experience made for a powerful lesson for the remainder of the conference. (Oh, Hubspot, the event organizer, also kindly gave us elevator folks VIP upgrades.) At nearly every keynote, workshop, and event at Inbound 2014, speakers spoke of their determination to solve problems by simplifying, by being honest, and by channeling your fear to create something better.

The power to change things is often right under your nose
(or maybe above it).
—Andrew Boardman

Guy Kawasaki talked about Steve Jobs’ ability to refine an object and create a product that everyone would love. Malcolm Gladwell spoke of the importance of courage, imagination, and urgency—these three factors are what transformed industries and created opportunity for millions. Dan Palotta of Advertising for Humanity noted that the self-doubt which can consumes us can also fuel our creativity. On the final day of the conference, Shiza Shahid, founder of the Malala Fund, reminded us that we should all look deep within and be stronger than our individual fears. 

Had any of us in the elevator tried to simply push one of the levers on the outer door, we would have all been sprung. The lesson for me is this: Try something and, by trying, you cannot fail.

On the plane ride back to our offices Winnipeg, Canada, I put together a learnings grid of lessons gleaned during my three days at Inbound 2014. I hope some of these will be useful to you as you take that elevator to your next story.

grid of written ideas

For screen readers, they are as follows:

  • Document your goals. Review them every day.
  • Write a little bit every day. Even if it sucks.
  • Use your fear to build your life.
  • Invest in change.
  • Create the all-encompassing guide to the conversation you want to own.
  • Write a book in six months.
  • Have quarterly objectives defined by themes.
  • Tell your own story.
  • Don’t forget your family.
  • Keep a 1-page plan. (I think this was my idea.)
  • Be an educator.
  • Be honest with audiences and educate.
  • Being terrified means you’re up to something great.
  • Dream where you want to be.
  • Quality is always first.