(last updated on April 29, 2014)
UPDATE: Article significantly expanded after reading comments.
I’ve never been to South-by-Southwest…I just heard about it it a couple of months ago while on the 9rules forums. No idea what to expect. But people are telling me I must go, so I’m thinking about it.
I’m not very big on crowds, so the idea of going to something like this is mildly terrifying and exciting at the same time. However, it would be great to meet the people in 9rules that I’ve been chatting with for the past few months. It’s been incredibly inspiring overall; I attribute a great deal of my lift in spirit to finding a bunch of independently-minded content creators. I never knew that this was what I was missing.
Meeting actual people might give me a huge boost of energy…so yeah, I’m thinking it could have unforseeable benefits.
On the other hand, it’ll probably cost be $1500 to go, with hotel, airfare, eats, and registration. It’s a deductable junket, which takes some of the sting off. I don’t really know anyone going, other than names that I can assign to websites, and I’m wondering if the crowd is, like, way younger than my 38 years. And when did that happen anyway, getting old? My colon still feels pretty spry! Must be all the vegetables I’ve been eating lately, making up for my 20s and early 30s.
As my Mom used to say, “We’ll see.” Let the convincing begin!
The Essential Conflict
- At home, I’ve been buying only the essentials. I’m learning how cooking cheaper foods so they taste good, and I’m not buying books or toys. I’m also eliminating entertainment-related services slowly (Battlestar Galactica is proving to be a difficult one to shake).
Business-related expenses I’ve been limited only generally to directly-expensible items and essential subscriptions/services.
Everything left over goes to paying down debt.
There is a class of business expense, however, that I’ve continued to indulge in. For example, I recently subscribed to Basecamp because I wanted a polished client extranet. I strictly didn’t need to pay for something like this, as I could have installed some open source solution. However, Basecamp is great user experience and I don’t have to worry about maintaining the server. I made a bet that the extra $12/month was worth not having to deal with all that crap. As an additional benefit, the clients I have shown it to have been very impressed; 37Signal’s excellence in software has reflected very well on my operation. I think it’s worth it. I have the sneaking suspicion that the $1500 bucks that it would cost me to attend SXSW is in the same category. While I really want to just pay off more debt with the money, this might be an example of being “penny-wise but pound-foolish”. Here’s my reasoning:
- Energy. The past year has been great personally because I’ve met a lot more people that have inspired me. In essence, I have started to find my community among people who are doing cool things, and this more than anything has contributed to my general feeling of progress. And from that has come increased productivity and opportunity; this feels like it’s starting to pay off this year in terms of actual work.
People. When I first wrote this, I thought I really didn’t know anyone who was going, as in personal friends. However, I realized that actually I should be going to make new friends. Even if I come away with one or two really good connections, that could be the basis of an empire. Finding people is really hard. Just within the 9rules network alone I’ll probably meet twenty. Heck, AOL used to spend an average of $100 to acquire a subscriber in 1997, and it’s way higher now with broadband. By that metric, $1500 is a deal.
Inspiration. I know from experience that whenever I travel, I get new ideas and see new opportunities. I have never been to any content-oriented shows like SXSW or even FlashForward. I’ve been to E3, but I think it’s probably a different experience. Seeing something new like this, seeing people doing awesome stuff, and just being in a new place will be one of those life experiences that I can probably draw on for years afterwards, and I’ll be a better person for it.
p>So I can think of SXSW as an investment into my future. There isn’t a hard number I can quantify in terms of ROI, but I think that it’s true that I need to go. My life is at a point now that I intuitively sense that this is the time to do it.
Or, I can pay down $1500 of debt and stick to my new year’s resolution. I suspect, though, that the contacts and experiences I have at SXSW would indirectly bring me more than $1500 of new business in the long run.