Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Those Girls: What I Learned at Alt // Part 1 by Andie

Altitude Summit in San Francisco was a whirlwind for lack of a better word. Being thrown headfirst into a pile of extremely creative, smart and driven women (and a few men) can be daunting to anyone, but as a wholehearted introvert, I have to say that it was a tough one, until I had a bit of an epiphany.

alt summit pinterest party

We heard from some amazing speakers, including Mariam Naficy, the founder and CEO of Minted, who delivered the Opening Keynote on sustaining yourself while managing a creative business. Above everything else that she shared with us, I held to one specific quote. On conviction, for better or worse: "An entrepreneur does not care what other people think." This was the first seed that was planted in my mind during our San Francisco stay. Here was this brilliant woman, explaining to a room full of "networkers" about how to not care about networking. Seed successfully planted.

My next experience with the same thoughts were in the Closing Keynote. Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard (and an amazing speaker, by the way) spoke to the group in a variety of startup stories and lessons that he learned in the past. They were all brilliant, and rather than relay them badly to you, I will give you the final point that I took away from his hour-long speech: "Lead with your first principles." When it comes to the principles that Emily and I share, we put a number of things first, before business success and money:
• Our families
• Our business relationships
• Our friendship
Although we could probably have made more money, more connections and gotten more press by being hard and fast with our business rules and focusing more on product and consumption, I think that in the long run--we would lose so much. We are a very small company, and the more we work with larger companies, the more I value other small companies and sole proprietors. I do wonder what is lost in the shift toward bigger and better.

Finally, we ended up at the Pinterest afterparty: Alice in Pinterland. To be quite honest, this could not have been a better analogy for how I felt at the party. It was delightfully decorated, creative and savvy, with unexpected details like tiny tea cookies and inspirational neon signage. I have trouble chatting with people about myself when I first meet them, so I did a lot of listening at this party.

alt summit pinterest party
Emily & I with Ben Silbermann

We were able to meet Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest who is notoriously shy. We were both standing in the corner, nursing our liquid courage and I managed to ask him if he had ever taken the Myers Briggs test (if you haven't taken this, you need to get on it). I am an INFJ (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging) while he is an INTP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiver). Here was this guy--a painfully shy introvert--who created one of the most brilliant and successful social media and design sites in the world.

And then, it hit me. All seeds at once:
• Entrepreneurs do not care what other people think.
• Lead with your first principles.
• Being who you are leads to greatness.

alt summit pinterest party

This party was fabulous, but I have to admit that I absolutely felt like Alice. I was in a flashy, dream-like world where everyone seemed to know what was going on except for me. I am an introvert, and although it is important to leave that comfort zone at times to further experiences and learning, molding myself into a sociable networker is just not my bag. Abandoning how you work the best kills inspiration.

Don't get me wrong, it was a fabulous learning experience--but what I learned most is what we've been talking about this entire time in the Those Girls posts. I guess I just wasn't listening hard enough to myself! You follow your own creative path by following your own creative path. I am most creative in my little condo, overlooking Queen Anne with Bach on the record player. I write, create and work the best when I focus less on the fantastic things that others are doing around me. So thank you, Alt Summit. You were absolutely grand, but I might not be back for a while.

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