Tag Archives: #sobcon2010

Solve the problem in front of you

SOBcon is a conference where 150 people who use social media to communicate and relate and learn, spend 3 days talking with each other about how to do those things better. It’s a combination of church and a cocktail party and an “ask the author” session and an episode of  “This Old [marketing] House”  and group therapy (“no one out there understands me” “I understand”).

Genius tableWe were in the first big discussion session of SOBcon last Friday. As I look at my notes, Jonathan Fields had talked about career success, about finding the intersection of a viable niche (my paraphrase: A group of people, constantly renewing, who are actively searching for something that works to alleviate the pain they are experiencing, and who have the resources for that pain release) and your passion (my paraphrase: the ability to solve a problem in a way that makes us come alive.)

Somehow, the panel discussion that followed turned into a panel talking about fear, about how to deal with fear, about dealing with failure.

And then our table started talking about what to do, both about fear and failure and about actually identifying niches and markets and audiences.  We were the genius table, the trouble table: Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough and Britt Raybould and Nancy Swanson and Steve Woodruff.

As I look at my notes from that conversation, I see a box with a phrase from Sheila: Solve the problem in front of you.

When she’s dealing with a thousand things, with lots of “what could happens” with fears and ambiguities and distractions, that’s where she starts.

And then in my notes, right below that box, I see a list of names.

The list of names is five guys that I know from church, from my work. I know questions that each of the five regularly think about, regularly ask of themselves and of others. I know the questions that a couple of the guys are asking right now, about their future, about their growth.

And I realize that part of finding your niche, finding your market, living out your passion is simply taking Sheila’s advice.

Solve the problem in front of you.

I don’t look at these guys or their questions as problems. But I do see that I have within my ability and resources and interest helping each of these five guys work on the answers to their questions. In fact, I find that idea quite energizing. And in the process we might work through some answers that may be helpful to other people as well.

As I think about SOBcon, as I think about figuring out passion and niches and social media and the other stuff that comes out of that conference, I can do all kinds of planning, dreaming, speculating, and worrying. Or, I can say to five guys, “Have you thought about this way of answering that question?”

So for the next couple days, among other things, I’ll be working on these questions and talking with these guys. They are, I suppose, a very small niche. But they meet the definition. And it’s not about the size of the market sometimes. It’s about helping people who want to understand.

You know what I mean?


Becky McCray changed my life

(Disclosure: Yesterday was Becky‘s birthday. So this is a birthday post. Except I got the date wrong. And I’m entering this post to try to win a free trip to SOBcon2010. Of course, I’m already going. And the flight won’t help. But still. The hotel would be nice. And notice, the post isn’t being judged, so I could write whatever tripe I wanted. But when talking about Becky, who wants to write tripe?)

Becky lives in Oklahoma.

I’ve driven through Oklahoma a few times. Some when I was little, before Becky was born. Some when Nancy and I were commuting between Austin and the north, while Becky was in middle school.

It is likely we never met face-to-face.

I actually met Becky online in 2006. I heard about a small business podcast she was doing, helped by Chris Brogan. I listened to an episode while Nancy and I were doing a garage sale. There was a comment line. I called and left an extended comment. Becky included it in the show and I became a regular contributor.

Becky pushed me to consider how I could have something to say outside my higher education and church circles. It led me to writing at smallbizsurvival.com.

But so far, our story is about online stuff. And, in order to enter this in the drawing, there has to be more. Somehow, because the theme of SOBcon2010 is “Where the virtual meets the concrete”, we have to consider some way in which the online, digital, virtual world actually connects to what I really do, how I really live. And because you can’t find the Great Big Small Business Show any more, unless there has been some actual change somewhere concrete, all of what I’ve been talking about is gone, too.

Becky McCray made me go to SOBcon 2008 (and 2009).

Nevermind how. She did. I would not have gone if it weren’t for Becky.

  • Which means that I wouldn’t have conversed face-to-face with Liz and Joanna and Amy and Robert and Cheryl and Chris and Thomas and Paul and Shashi and Amber and Glenda and Deb and others. Those conversations have changed how I write in every setting, have made me think carefully about how I talk about God, church, relationship, people.
  • And Nancy and I wouldn’t have spent a delightful April morning having coffee with Liz.
  • And I wouldn’t try so hard to write as clearly as I can at 300wordsaday. com, a blog which has found its way into classes I teach face-to-face and even into a session of a class Robert teaches in Houston. Some people in a church in Houston know a bit more about prayer because of Becky.
  • And Nancy and I would not have this desire to sit on a ranch in Oklahoma with Joe and Becky and eat barbecue and talk about cattle.
  • And I go to our car repair shop in Grabill and value the service I get in this small town shop and look for ways to tell those stories at smallbizsurvival and in conversations around church because my friend Becky cares so much about small towns and encourages storytelling.

Becky has done this by being the kind of friend who says, “why couldn’t you do that?” and “I don’t understand” and “what if you did this and this and this?” and “you have green stuff in your teeth.” (Though she also knows that the green stuff couldn’t be vegetables.) She’s also the kind of friend that laughs at you when you put sugar in carbonated water at a SOBcon table and it explodes, and then who runs to get paper towel to clean it up.

Happy birthday, Becky. See you in Chicago in April. Thanks for being my friend.

For more from Becky, here’s our 5 questions conversation.

And here’s a link to the Great Big Small Business Show archives.