This past weekend I was in a large warehouse in inner SE Portland with several hundred other people, listening to brilliant talks, seeing old friends, and making new friends. This was my second XOXO and it definitely lived up to my expectations after attending the first one in 2012.

The talks are what I really value in XOXO, so I must admit, I don’t attend a lot of the festival events, but listen attentively to each and every talk. One of the things I love about the speaker line up is that I am unfamiliar with so many of them. I learn about new creative endeavors and about people who are doing interesting things. I always walk away with a list of things I want to read, listen to, look at, and possibly buy after the weekend.

I didn’t take many notes this year, but I did write a few things down on the second day. These are the ideas I took away from the talks:

  • Do the work. I’ve written about this before, it has become a theme for me this year in many ways, but I heard it again from several people. Jonathon Mann who wrote songs even when violently ill. Rachel Binx who keeps going with freelance even though, some months, not much money comes in. Leigh Alexander, who started writing every day in the hopes it would lead to a job.
  • Success as a result of luck. Darius Kazemi and Jonathon Mann both touched on how many projects or songs they’ve created and how few have become “successful” in the sense that they got attention or led to something more. Joseph Fink touched on this theme as well in relation to the success of Welcome to Night Vale.
  • Successs as a result of privilege. Two speakers touched on this, both Darius Kazemi and Joseph Fink, and I am still unraveling this one. I understand where they are coming from, but if success is not just about luck and doing the work, but also about privilege, what does that mean for the segment of the population that isn’t privilged? Is success, however you are defining that, harder for them?
  • Leaving the old behind. This was just one speaker, but wow, if you watch one video from this year’s XOXO, I would watch Hank Green. His talk is funny, amazing, and hits at the heart of how we think about dreams and what we should be when we grow up. One quote from his talk really sums it all up well,

    You have no obligation to your former self.

Thank you Andy McMillan and Andy Baio for putting on such an amazing event. As a complete aside, I missed Chloe this weekend, it was the first time I would have expected to see her and I looked for her on Saturday before catching myself. I raised a glass of bourbon in her honor Sunday night after getting home from the conference and seeing Andy and Andy toast her. (Although eating ramen, Salt & Straw, or Blue Star may have been more appropriate.)