As a father of three kids, I think a lot about legacy and what I will leave behind for my kids when I’m gone. Hopefully that is a long time from now, but that thinking helps guide me through my daily and longterm decisions. It is a big reason why my wife and I travel with our kids as much as possible. It is also why we both try to keep a healthy balance of work and personal life.
Legacy isn’t the only thing, but it is a big thing for me. It’s not necessarily that I want to be remembered forever or anything like that, but rather I want the impression I have on my kids to help guide them towards their own successes and achievements and help them through the tough times.
At times though I see something so profound, that it shakes up my idea of legacy and what it really means. This past weekend at XOXO festival and conference in Portland, Oregon was one of those moments. Until this point, my idea of what I would leave behind mostly centered around a healthy dose of experiences and relationships. Although I still think that’s immensely important, I realized it’s confined to what the world offers me and my consumption of it. In other words, I am not doing anything that’s bigger than myself.
Bigger than myself.
That thought kept rearing its beautiful head over the course of the weekend and ultimately brought me to tears as I listened to that second half of Sunday’s talks.
What am I doing that’s bigger than myself.
Yes the topics were big and vastly important. The speakers themselves taking on battles and achieving amazing things. What I realized though sitting there in the balcony staring down into a sea of attendees is that this conference, festival, unconference or anything else you want to call it is something bigger than all of us.
The thing Andy Baio and Andy McMillan — founders of XOXO — created was more than just an amazing line-up of speakers and attendees. It was a community, a tribe, a family. Almost everyone I spoke with and heard speak kept referring to the idea of inclusion and acceptance. Andy Baio himself called it a conference of introverts, but more than that, it was gathering of anyone who has ever felt excluded doing something they find interesting. Whether we were gay, straight, designers, developers, bloggers, musicians, tall, short, no hair, long hair — it didn’t matter. We were all there because we loved creating something and wanted to find others like us.
I can’t tell you how many times I teared up and had to go the roof top deck just to take some deep breaths and soak it all in. The people I met and listened to I don’t want to ever forget. I want this experience to take on bigger change in my life. I want to be inspired by it. I want all of this, but at the same time I am terrified it won’t as many times before. Inspiration is one thing. Doing is another, and unfortunately I’ve always had trouble with the latter.
This time I want to be different. Dan Benjamin on an episode of 5by5’s Quit where he interviews the Andys, said XOXO “change my life.” I completely agree, at least I think so. I feel it did, but I’m not sure how.
Sitting here reading through the Slack channel and Twitter feed, I can see others have been affected too. An overwhelming response has flooded the feeds with praise and sadness over it’s uncertain hiatus. That’s right, this life changing conference will not be here next year or possibly ever. I don’t blame the Andys, and in fact I think they should only be congratulated on the success and beauty of what they have crafted. The thing is it stings. It’s a much needed hug as you say goodbye. Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
The Andys have left behind something bigger than them. They have started a family. Who knows how many of us will keep in touch, but I can say I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life. As someone who has felt left out many times throughout my life, it was incredible to feel such warmth and inclusivity from complete strangers. I’m not sure what will happen to XOXO, and I’m also not sure how its power will change me in the long run. I do know now that I want to achieve something bigger than me. I want my kids to feel that power and warmth. I want to recreate what I experienced. I just don’t want to lose that feeling. That’s their legacy on me, and I hope someday I can do the same for my kids, my wife, my friends, and all those needing that connection whom I may never meet.
Thanks Andy and Andy.