At the closing ceremony for XOXO2013, The Andys said something like:
“We don’t know if we’ll do this again. It’s only going to be worth it if each and every one of you, goes off and creates something and tells us about it. Please.”
I felt some guilt for a good while, because I didn’t ship my little something until a good while later. Not a “you’re-failing-your family” kind of guilt, but the kind of guilt where you felt privileged to something magical, and you feel like maybe you’re wasting it a bit.
Then, June arrives, XOXO2014’s announced, and I’m fortunate enough to win the lottery, and I’m terribly excited.
The retrospectives on XOXO2013 often discussed a theme: Impostor’s Syndrome and its persistent presence in independent work.
What I felt through XOXO2014 is a different theme: Legacy.
Most of us produce digital goods and services, which are wide-reaching but fade quickly. Websites disappear, apps get updated, social networks empty out, albums fall out of rotation, and companies fall apart - what is it that’ll last from all of this?
Whether it’s the legacy of the old steel mill that held XOXO2014; whether it’s Kevin Kelly’s legacy of discovery tools; whether it’s Gina Trapani building two companies out of a fear of death and a desire to make the most of her time; whether it’s Anita Sarkeesian’s brave and powerful work; whether it’s Mann’s Bubba aging; whether it’s Justin Hall's lookingclosely-documented life; whether it’s Paul Ford trying to closely document and examine the past - there was a theme about what remains when we’re done.
A century from now, will our projects matter?
Does it last if it matters?
Does it matter if it lasts?
XOXO2014 was beautiful. It was earnest. It was a beautiful spot, crafted by the Andys and an army of volunteers, and though the murals will be painted over and the property paved for a new building, this wonderful mass of people all shared a weekend there, and that will last.
Amit Gupta has a kick-ass poster in his office - it reads: “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”. I think that sums it up. It’s about being sincere and helpful and good to those around you, while trying to make something happen. What that something is, it’s up to you.
There are folks that I met at XOXO2013, folks who are personal heroes of mine.
Then in the following year, several felt inspired to make a change in their lives after XOXO2013, to try something new. Their former gigs, ones that I would’ve *died* to assume, it turns out that they were eager to leave.
XOXO has shown me that everyone is making it up as they go along; everyone is trying their damnedest; everyone is good at something; everyone is afraid that we’ll find out that they’re bad at something else. Those who have Made It are often confused or scared - and those who haven’t Made It are, too.
What absolutely kicks ass is meeting each other, enjoying some food carts in the sun, and learning how we all tackle this stuff, with our guards down and our eyes and ears open.
Maybe this is coming across as corny, but it was certainly more profound than something I can capture here.
XOXO truly feels like a beautiful, lasting thing - and I’m so grateful to have had another chance to savor it.