My Notes From Stocktoberfest 2016

It’s Monday and I’ve returned from my sojourn down the Southern California coast to attend the 5th annual Stocktoberfest conference at the Hotel Del Coronado.

In past years I’ve done a recap in which I described everything from the fabulous location, to the beautiful weather, the speakers and presentations, and even the after-hours shenanigans on the Del’s deck. But I’ve never written about the real reason I attend the event each year.

I go to Stocktoberfest to overcome resistance.

In his book, The War of Art, writer Steven Pressfield describes resistance as that which prevents you from achieving long-term growth, health, or integrity.

He adds;

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

You must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life intended when endowed with our own unique genius. 

Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us.

My particular form of resistance is social interaction. If I had to rank my list of preferred social interactions from least to most desirable it would look like this;

  • Actively networking at a conference.
  • Standing in the corner with acquaintances.
  • Sitting at the lobby bar with friends.
  • Reading a book in my hotel room.
  • Reading a book at home.

You see, I don’t do social well.

I don’t know how to elegantly exit from a conversation when needed, yet I worry that I’m imposing on other’s time that they would rather spend talking with someone else.

I’m not a winker, but at conferences I find myself inexplicably winking (and nodding) non-stop at attendees as I pass by them.

When I approach a group in mid-conversation I worry that I’m interrupting a multi-million dollar negotiation or a bawdy story that only the participants should know.

Before joining StockTwits I’d had only two jobs; running my business and trading my book, neither of which required conference attendance to be successful. Stocktoberfest was the first conference I ever attended and I walked in not knowing a soul.

But I walked away having battled my resistance for the first time and emerging victorious, if only for three days.

Five years later it’s not easier, but it’s better.

For one thing, I empathize with and understand the resistance that investors and entrepreneurs deal with. The best of them push past it with resolve, knowing there’s no guarantee of success, only the certainty of failure if they let resistance – either financial or personal – win.

And I can see the benefits accrued by attacking resistance.

The book and the hotel room’s pull is still there but lessened by the knowledge that now the acquaintances in the corner of the room are larger in number and the group of friends at the bar deeper.

I apparently even appear to have acquired social mastery.

“These events are so tough,” a first-time attendee said to me as we walked into the main room. “I can’t do it like you do. You’re so outgoing, you’re such a people person.”

Smiling I said, “you’ll do fine,” knowing that my secret was safe and that it wouldn’t be believed if I divulged it.

My social awkwardness can still hold me back. For example, I saw Morgan Housel and wanted to ask him a few questions, but he seemed busy and I didn’t want to impose.

And I know it makes me seem detached, aloof, or arrogant at times. So if we met and you came away with any of those thoughts, my sincerest apologies, but be secure in the knowledge that my intention was not to offend, and if anything, it’s a me problem, not a you problem.

I’ve got a whole year to work on it, so hopefully, you’ll give me a second chance when I see you at the next Stocktoberfest.

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