"Empty pockets never held anyone back only empty heads and empty hearts can do that -Norman Vincent Peale"
So rife with meaning generally but apropos to what's been on my mind lately. Like many of you, I spend a good deal of time networking and sharing what I know. Lately, at the end of every meeting, I am hearing this question, "Why are you helping me?" My answer is typically some or all of the following:
- Because I can.
- Because I care.
- Because I'm interested in the topic.
- Because I like helping.
- Because I like helping you.
- Because I like paying it forward.
- Because I'm learning something in the process.
- Because it's the right thing to do.
- Because it helps the community.
Unconferences like ProductCamp embody the essence of that Norman Vincent Peale quote. None of the participants pay to attend and the only thing that prevents someone from getting the most possible out of it is his or her own mind and heart regardless if you are a presenter or attendee. The success truly depends on how much you're willing to get out of your own way.
See, it's not only the mind that drives the success of an unconference. Actually, I'd say that the mind is a very small part of what makes unconferences worth the time. What makes them successful goes beyond the thought leadership. It's actually the sense of community, fraternity, generosity, humility, friendliness, etc., that helps it elevate itself beyond a glorified show and tell.
Unconferences are relationship and community incubators. They help us step outside our small circles and become acquainted with the broader community. They help us learn and grow by making us consider things in wholly new dimensions: inside out, upside down, reverse color, etc. They encourage our contribution to the greater good either through the sharing of our ideas or the acceptance of others' feedback. They encourage us to be better product managers, marketers, developers, leaders, architects, etc.
Some cynical ones may say that I'm waxing too romantic about ProductCamp. My answer is that, to borrow from Norman Vincent Peale, it's an empty heart that thinks so. And here's a great video from last year's ProductCamp Chicago to back me up.