I am forever changed.
Yes, that’s how I’ll start. You see, last week I attended Toronto’s fastest-growing tech festival, Elevate. As someone who is just dipping her toes into technology and gathering her bearings with disruptive commerce and the economics of cryptocurrencies — this was quite a daunting scenario to put myself in.
But, I did.
Put myself in it, that is.
Going into it I was excited, just not in a conventional way. Chemically, being nervous and excited can really be chalked up to how you decide to take it. I was really nervous.
I used a mantra to change this. That mantra is coupled with an incredibly forced smile and ten minutes alone in front of a mirror: “I am excited. I am excited. I am excited.” I started to believe it.
The truth is, with anything that makes you nervous, there is an opportunity to add a skill to your list. I define a skill, not as something you are good at, but something you are able to do without nerves. Being comfortable.
As a planner, I began googling “how to be interesting” and “how to make a good impression within the first 10 seconds”. I didn’t end up using any of that information — not because it was bad advice.
I just found my style.
What really happened, is I forgot to trust myself. I enjoy speaking to people, and I highly value intellectual, thought-provoking conversations. It dawned on me, as I rode the train into Toronto that first day of the festival, that I wasn’t scared of being the least knowledgeable one there.
I was excited about that. In conversations that I don’t bring value too, I take away value. It’s really a win-win scenario. I definitely had the chance of engaging in these types of conversations. I got to speak with some truly inspirational people like Mayaan Ziv.
So, what was I scared of?
I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It’s not like if I walked towards someone too quickly or shook their hand too firmly a buzzer would sound and I’d have failed.
I was being irrational. It’s not that profound, I see that. What matters here, and why I’m adding it to this article, is because I was able to introspect and realize it before it was too late. *thank gosh for long commutes into the city*
Approaching people became something I was more fluid with as the days went by. I met some really interesting people who left me inspired and wanting to get home to work on my next project. This amazing feeling all stemmed from originally being uncomfortable.
I learned so much over those four days. I attended insanely valuable talks about industries I’m interested in. I heard this one talk in particular at the Money stage called “What Do Fintech Start-ups Know, That You Don’t”. My mind, was blown 🤯
This week was less about learning cool stuff, which happened anyway, and more about finding a way to have the most organic conversations possible with complete strangers.
After attending Elevate, my mindset has truly changed. I’m not going to end here and be all vague about it — I have concrete reasons. As a skeptic, I really am a “see it to believe it” or “feel it to believe it” kind of gal.
To the skeptics reading this, internalizing new ways of thinking is a reality.
I would often read self-help novels and wonder how anyone could change so fundamentally in how they govern their thoughts. Well, I did it, and this tech festival helped me do it.
I hold myself accountable. I give myself a mental kick whenever I worry or stress myself about trivial matters. Overthinking is the thief of joy and I truly have barred that portion of my mind.
Instead, I focus on why I should be happy. It’s kind of introspective but dialing down on the worries, unsurprisingly, frees up a lot of thinking room and time. The absence of all that unnecessary gunk already feels a lot nicer. Filling it up with gratitude and happiness is even better.
I’ve already been trying to improve as a human by being kinder, having humility and empathy. Elevate gave me a tangible situation in which I could focus on acting these values out.
- I shrugged off small things → like an awkward opening line.
- I rallied in the smaller victories to be happy → like getting a stranger to laugh
- I practiced being grateful → by being present and seizing the wealth of knowledge around me
All that from a tech festival? I’m a firm believer that we all experience multiple “turning points” in our life, moments where we shift our focus. Sometimes, the events that finally allow that change to happen can be quite obscure. For me, it was a tech festival.
I’ve had about a week now to dwell on what stuck and what didn’t. I knew that if I reverted to old habits, that I hadn’t really practiced those values the best I could have.
Nonetheless, I can say now, while being honest with myself, that I have internalized a skill I had never thought myself capable of having.
A lot of this was focusing on being open to new experiences. All of it was focusing on being okay with getting to excitement unconventionally.
- Be open to change, regardless of when and how it comes
- Rid yourself of unnecessarily worrying about trivial things
- Focus on the bigger picture → be 1% better everyday
- Just smile :)
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