I recently had an opportunity to speak at Úll. Úll is a conference held in Killarney, Ireland. According to the organizers, Úll is for people who build and love great products. Their presenters focus on great product stories, presented through an Apple-shaped lens. This year, I presented my story: All Roads Lead To Rome, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTKvxsIK0E8

It was a great honor to share the stage with some of the most interesting and talented people in my industry. While I didn’t socialize a lot, I did manage to make some fascinating — and hopefully, lasting — connections.

I also learned a few things about myself I’d like to share. Some of these may look and feel familiar to you. Perhaps after reading, you’ll realize you’re not alone in how you view yourself, your world and your place within it.

#1 People like me way more than I like me.

I’m either unwilling or unable to see my importance or significance in this world. I have a tendency toward self-deprecation and (passive) self-destruction.

If I had a magic wand, I’d cast a spell on every mirror I see. I’d make it so the reflection is more accurate and better aligned with how the rest of the world sees me versus how I see myself — apparently, they like me.

While I truly appreciated the compliments after my talk, they were/are difficult for me to process. I’m still not sure how to sort it all out. For now, I’ll blame the mirror and its unrelenting stream of inaccurate reflections.

#2 Every one needs a (best) friend.

Years ago, I turned away from people. It’s an interesting and confusing feeling I have about the notion of “having friends”: I want them, but I don’t.

A casual acquaintance accompanied me to Ireland. She and I shared a lot of time together while there. Prior to this, we only saw each other a few times a year, and never in a social setting. A trip like this one either creates a new friendship or destroys any chance of having one. My hope is the former, but you never know — perhaps she’ll never speak to me again.

One thing I noticed while spending time with her is how deeply she cares about her best friend; and in return, how much her best friend cares back. I wish I had the social skill set to “relationship” like that. But I don’t seem to possess such a skill set.

I limit my friend interactions because I’m afraid of hurting the people I care about. The truth is: I’m not easy to love. Have you ever tried to love a passively self-destructive individual? It’s a difficult and draining task to watch and interact with someone as their self-destruct clock counts down to zero.

#3 Telling a personal story to a room of 150+ strangers is both inspiring and intimidating.

We all have a story. Mine shares similarities with every one and no one, all at the same time. Guess what? So does yours.

Standing on a stage — without notes, without slides — is quite intimidating. All eyes are on you, and it’s your responsibility to keep the audience engaged and interested. In 10 minutes time, I told a short story, pulled from a single chapter of my life. I allowed people into my world. I connected with them on a level so intimate that it wore me out.

Together, we took a journey through my past. I opened a small window in which they saw the inner workings of a mind fueled by creativity, with just a touch of madness. When I concluded my talk, they were (hopefully) inspired and I was (definitely) exhausted.

#4 My body is trying to tell me something and I don’t exactly know how to (or perhaps want to) listen.

This trip tested my health in some interesting ways. It started with a perforated eardrum, which occurred while landing at the Dublin airport; and ended with a chipped/cracked tooth and a severe asthma attack. There were other things, but they are not appropriate to discuss in this post.

I suspect the stress of traveling, speaking and dealing with social interactions set forth a fury of negative responses inside my body. Also, if you remember from #1 above, I’m somewhat passively self-destructive, which doesn’t help… for example:

I should probably drag myself to see a doctor (or perhaps an entire team of doctors), but I’ll likely ride things out instead. I have my reasons, though; however, according to the folks closest to me, none of them are really valid. Pfft!

My body is staging a mutiny, and this captain is going down with the ship, despite the life rafts being hurled her way (refer to #2, above).

#5 The fear of flying — and most any other fear — is possible to overcome.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m no longer afraid to fly. Perhaps the end of the world is finally here? Or at the very least… a pig has managed to fly.

Having experienced my first transatlantic flight, and spending close to 18 hours in the air, I can confidently say, “I’m no longer afraid to fly.”

Even my traveling mates noticed I was less anxious about the flight back. Maybe that’s because my body was already in distress thanks to the asthma attack, which kicked off a panic attack*? Or maybe that’s because I’ve experienced flying multiple times in such a short period of time? Who knows!

The point is: fear is something you can overcome. Sure, it may take 40+ years, and it may be difficult to do, but it’s still possible…. however, I don’t recommend putting your body in distress as a way to accomplish this. No, seriously. Don’t do that. =]

*Side note to non-asthmatics: not being able to get enough Oxygen is a bit disconcerting and frightening. Having a panic attack during an asthma attack is even more so.

In Conclusion

Life isn’t easy. But it’s also not hard. It just is. Every thing we do allows us to experience the world and learn something new. If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s something positive. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a rock I must crawl back under.

Note: Being creative is a great way to reduce stress, and some of you requested I gather my post-conference drawings. So, I did; you can see them below.