What I Learned From The Gifts I Received At SobCon08

Collage of Gifts From SobCon08

Unpacking from the weekend I noticed a wonderful mash-up of gifts I’d received while I was away. Here’s some of them:

  • Advice on eating pizza from Robert Hruzek (in front of everyone, plus a picture posted on Flickr, thanks so much Bob!)
  • Time, a warm welcome and an introduction to a different side of America from Brad Shorr
  • The correct pronunciation of Arkansas (and thank you Michelle for not laughing - too much - at mine)
  • Tablet, from Amy Palko, for me to give to some people at the event. I gave it to folks on Twitter which meant their responses (and Amy’s name) was part of the livestream from the event, helping her (I hope) to feel part of it, even though she couldn’t be there
  • An introduction to Oovoo from Rick Mahn. Now when I say introduction I don’t just mean “here’s a link”, I mean he took the time to run it and show me how it works, giving me the confidence to take the next step
  • A hug from Liz Strauss, one of my blogging heroines
  • One of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen from Karen Putz, aka Deaf Mom (the motto on her business card is “life is too short to pout all the time”, and boy does she live up to that)
  • Lessons in how to play pool from Joe Haukes, and lessons in how to be patient and encouraging to a team member however hopeless they are (and I was seriously hopeless)
  • A lesson in confidence from Stephen Hopson. Stephen has never met me or connected with me through blogs, emails or comments before but he was in Chicago early, as I was, and he wanted to be sociable. He is hearing impaired which means he didn’t just need to phone me out of the blue, but he had to do it through a relay service, where the conversation is mediated through a 3rd party. I’m glad he did because we had a great conversation, over lunch, and the whole weekend.
  • A small piece of rock from Jon Swanson’s back yard, and a conversation about rootlessness. Meaning more to me than I can hope to convey here.
  • The hand of friendship from Karen Hanrahan, aka Mother Earth.
  • A copy of Phil Gerbyshak’s Make It Great book, which I’m looking forward to reading and then applying the lessons in writing, in business and in life
  • A copy of Christine Kane’s CD. Her music on Friday night really rocked the boat
  • A lesson in the culture of the US from J Erik Potter who helped me understand a lot of things better
  • A story from Terry Starbucker, reminding me of something I’d been pretending I didn’t want
  • Tips and suggestions from readers here and people I know on Twitter about places to go and things to do when I was in Chicago. This made me feel a lot more confident about being there. Thank you.

And what did I learn from this mashup of gifts?

People like to give.

The gifts they chose to give teach us something about them, and about ourselves: what we notice, appreciate and value.

And last but not least, as Karen Hanrahan said: People are cool. Way, way cool.

What have you learned from the gifts you’ve received recently?

Thanks to everyone who was at SobCon08 for smiles, hugs, friendship, companionship over a meal, business tips, travel advice, blogging suggestions and more.

Cliff Atkinson , Shashi Bellamkonda , JJ Betts, Chris Brown, Chris Brogan, Anita Bruzzese, Dave Bullock, Mark Carter, Brian Clark, Tom Clifford, Clay Collins, Valerie Combs , Chris Cree, Lisa Cree, Thomas Croghan, Donna Cutting, David Dalka , Kevin Dixie, Tim Draayer, Andrew Dubber, Easton Ellsworth, Kevin Ferrasci O’Malley, Chantelle Flannery, Sarah Filipiak, Mary-Lynn Foster, Annie Galvin Teich, Brian Gardner, Chris Garrett, Jon Gatrell, Phil Gerbyshak, Jared Goralnick, Karen Hanrahan, Joseph Hauckes, Vicky Hennegan,
Scot Herric, John Hong, Stephen Hopson, Robert Hruzek, Timothy Johnson, Sara , Pete Jones, Todd Jordan,
Bob Kakoliris, Christine Kane, Adam Kayce, Kristen King, Scott Kolbe, Jen Knoedl, Thomas Knoll, Stephen Koernig, Bryan Kress, George Krueger, Amy L, Tammy Lenski, James G. Lindberg, Eli Litscher, Rick Mahn,
Sim Margolis , Michael Martine, Becky McCray, Maria Meadows, Cory Miller, Ann Michael, Dawud Miracle,
Debra Moorhead, Matthew Murphy, Paul O’Flaherty, Tim Padar Jesse Petersen, Melissa Pierce , Wendy Piersall,
Sandra Ponce de Leon , J. Erik Potter , Karen Putz ,  Susan R Quandt, Levy Rivers, Barbara Rozgonyi , Jeff Sable
Sheila Scarborough, Mary Schmidt , Derek Semmler, Maria Sharon,  David Sherbow, Steve Sherlock, Brad Shorr, Louise Silberman , Sonia Simone-Rossney, Julien Smith, Stephen Smith, Michael Snell, Derrick Sorles,
Terry Starbucker, Liz Strauss, Jon Swanson, Ruth M Sylte, Michelle Vandepas , Lorelle VanFossen, Colleen Wainwright, Denise Wakeman, James D. Walton, Randy Windsor

Thanks too to all those bloggers who were there in spirit if not in person: people I talked about, people other participants told me about including Amy Palko, Emma Bird, Karen Swim, Robyn McMaster, Yvonne Russell Cat Wentworth, Karen Wallace and (time and again) Rosa Say

Thanks also to those of you who were encouraging and cheering me on through my blog and through conversations on Twitter. Your contributions helped me to have a great time.

This post is a contribution to this month’s What I Learned From (WILF) challenge, run by Robert Hruzek at Middle Zone Musings. This month’s theme is What I Learned From Mashing It Up. I’m not sure this meets his criteria, though I have covered a lot of the listed topics (food, technology, friends, recreation, heroes, time, space).

It’s also a mash up of my last SobCon post and WILF entry, which I think deserves credit, if not a bonus point….

Picture mash up includes following pics (starting top left and snaking round): Make it Great; stone from Jon’s back yard; Stephen Hopson & Karen Putz; Liz Strauss and me; Joe teaching me how to play pool; how not to eat pizza; Brad in Geneva; tablet; reflections from Cloud Gate


  1. Hi! Good to see you. I’m going to be out and about all day but I’ll catch up with your comments later.


    • May 9, 2008

    It was great to meet you at SOBCon and I hope we get to meet again sometime soon :)

    • May 9, 2008

    What a wonderful roundup Joanna - great memories for those who attended and an inspirational glimpse for those of us who were there in spirit, but couldn’t attend personally.

    • May 9, 2008

    Joanna, you made SOBCon brighter by being there! This is a great entry, and in fact gave me a bit of inspiration as well. I’ve been mulling over how to tell about the things learned, people met, and goals set/accomplished, without much luck.

    And you’re welcome on the pizza-eating lesson. Hey, I’m here for ya! ;-)

    • May 9, 2008

    Hi Joanna, I’ll never forget having the opportunity to meet you. You have a big heart. LOL, I forgot about the pizza eating incident. A little thing that revealed fundamental differences between the U.S. and Europe!

    • May 9, 2008

    Enjoyed meeting you, Joanna. Thanks for setting up the SOBCon flickr group. Your images are a gift that showed me Chicago through someone else’s lens.

    Being part of a group that loves photography rekindled my interest in images as art. That’s something I need to make more time for. Good to know you and your blog!

    • May 9, 2008

    What a great way to “Mash It Up,” Joanna. Loved the image you put together. I think you are cool, too! Someday we well meet.

    • May 9, 2008

    Joanna, just last night, I was telling the kids about you at the dinner table. “She came all the way from Scotland?” they were amazed. I described the photos that you shared yesterday and now the hubby and kids have Scotland on their place to visit someday.

    You have a special place in my heart!

    • May 9, 2008

    OK - this one made me cry and giggle all in the same post, well done — sweet, funny ( I was there for the pizza eating lesson!),insightful and what a great idea to combine it into a mash up post!! I feel too that I have met and will cultivate new friendships from this conference. Blogging has proven that over and over.

    • May 9, 2008

    Hey Joanna! Glad you were able to find so much value on your trip to Chicago. I know I’m sure glad we got a chance to meet you face to face. :)

    • May 9, 2008

    Joanna, it was such a pleasure to meet you! In reading this post I once again thought about “you get what you give”. You received all of these wonderful gifts because of your own giving to all of us during this fantastic weekend. Now I’m getting goosebumps! :-)

    All the best,

    • May 9, 2008

    It was great to finally meet you in person, after all the time we’ve spent on the phone — I can’t believe we didn’t get a chance to hang out more! I tried sneaking into a couple of group conversations you were a part of, but to no avail.

    Next time we’re on the same continent, we have to talk more.

    • May 9, 2008

    Thanks for allowing me to assist you with the correct listing of your UK phone number. It’s a gift to be able to have information and skills to help others — something that you demonstrate on your blog every day! Thank you!

    • May 9, 2008

    Don’t you eat pizza with a knife & fork? I know I do!
    Seriously though, thank you so much Joanna, for the way you included me in SOBCon even though I couldn’t be there in person. Oh, and I’m glad the tablet was such a success! But then, who can resist tablet?

    • May 9, 2008

    People do love to give.

    One of the biggest joys I had was getting a sales seminar from our waiter Jose Saturday night. He was incredible. As was the conversation - thanks Denise.

    • May 9, 2008

    My wife, Kate, notes that I was to say hello to you, living in the UK, from Yvonne Russell, living in Australia, while I was in Chicago in the United States. Three continents, but personal communication. It reminds me of how small the planet is when there are people who you can connect with everywhere.

    It was a great pleasure meeting you in Chicago; you have great perspective and I hope your readers can feel that in your writing.

    • May 9, 2008

    Hey Joanna,
    Like the way you put so much into what other people did and said when YOU contributed so much to everyone having a great time.
    Loved meeting (and playing pool with) you. We have to do it again next year. :-)

    • May 9, 2008

    There were so many great memories, and of great people. That so many shared so much to anyone who walked up is inspiring in itself. Especially with the hectic “immediate” world we live in.

    From Amy’s tablet, to talk of the social web, and tech toys & tools, the conversations were rich with spontaneity and excitement. It seemed that everyone was able to pick up conversations from Twitter, blogs, or other social networks and bring them forward in the live conversation as if they never stopped. Now we’re doing the same as we transition back to our online tools.

    These are great examples of all the personalities that made up SOBCon08 for me too. The sharing of ideas, the suggestions, the feedback all made the event one that no one wanted to end.

    The conference had to end as they all do, but the friendships forged and solidified at the conference remain and grow each day. I thank every single person from SOBCon for that, and look forward to bumping into everyone on my journey through the blogosphere.

    To echo Stephen Hopson’s words, there isn’t one person there that I wouldn’t want to connect with, talk with, trade ideas and inspiration with. That made the conference worth everything to me.


    • May 9, 2008

    Hi Joanna - it was great getting to know you better. Thank you so much for making the trip. You will always occupy a warm spot in my heart. The golden thread throughout the weekend was how open, genuine, and giving everyone was. Thanks again.

    • May 9, 2008

    To be able to start a conversation in the middle was a delight, Joanna. And holy spaces aren’t because of the geography but because of what happens.

  2. Paul, likewise, and thanks for organising a great opening night party.

    Yvonne, well I wanted to try and make you all feel included, and also to know that you were very much there in spirit (read Scott’s comment for confirmation…)

    Robert, likewise, it was such a pleasure to meet you after sharing so many words together after the last year. I think that pic of you, me and Brad says a lot about how much we all enjoyed the chance to meet up together. Looking forward to seeing where you go with your own reflections…

    Brad, that’s such a nice thing for you to say. I loved meeting you and having enough time to chat 1-1, esp in your own home town. I was telling my dad all about it earlier, even things like the war memorial and the differences in style and wording. Interesting story about the mississippi from him… I’ll email you about it

    Barbara, likewise. That flickr group has been a revelation to me - going to have to blog about it. So many people have said they don’t take good pics.. but posted them anywhere to join in and be inspired by and share their images with others. A great example of some positive benefits flowing from groups (and social media)

    Robyn, so we will. I was thinking about you too - I was near some woodlands, and pictured in my mind’s eye walking with your grandchildren and showing them the hissing racoons! Isn’t it wonderful how our worlds can be so far apart, so different, and yet so close together all at the same time?

    Okay… end of part 1. What wonderful comments!


  3. Karen, that’s a lovely story. Isn’t this a wonderful way to expand our sense and understanding of the world? You too are very special to me, if you’re ever in this part of the world you must come visit.

    Karen (mother earth) - I’m glad it made you laugh and cry. Remembering all these little / big things made me feel the same way. It was a lovely way to look back on a phenomenal weekend and like you say, to realise how many new friendships we’ve started…

    Chris, it was great to meet you and your wife too. And of course, thanks for dishing out the klondike bars…

    Aw Terry, thank you. Getting to know you was a pleasure beyond words (though maybe not a song…) You were a huge part of what made sobcon the event that it was.

    Adam, it was good to see you too, and yes, next time we need more time to talk! I did talk to a lot of people *about* you, hope that counts in part!

    Ruth Marie, those pesky numbers seem to be beyond me, so thanks for helping me out. It was good meeting you and continuing the conversation on twitter.

    Amy, I’m glad you felt included. I certainly felt you were there. And thanks for giving me the final shot of confidence before I joined the group - it helped me to relax and go with the flow. You’re a star.

    Dawud, that sounds fascinating… can’t wait to hear more. Another item on my list was ‘hugs from Dawud’ but the post was threatening to get out of hand! So thanks here in the comment box :-)

    Scott, that’s a great observation and one of the main reasons I enjoy blogging so much “It reminds me of how small the planet is when there are people who you can connect with everywhere” Thanks too for the feedback on what I do here :-)

    Joe thank you. You were a most patient teacher :-)

    Rick, thanks for your comments and learning points. Captures a lot of my reflections too. This point struck me in particular: “It seemed that everyone was able to pick up conversations from Twitter, blogs, or other social networks and bring them forward in the live conversation as if they never stopped ” This meant we could dispense with the chit chat of most social events and get straight to the interesting stuff. Also that we knew were talking to people with shared interests, values and beliefs. Made for a powerful sense of connection with so many people. And yes, I’m glad they’re continuing after the event too! (Got my webcam yesterday, still to try it out but we’ll be talking by oovoo soon!)

    J Erik, I like that expression - the golden thread - there was something that connected us, wove through and around us, even though we were such a diverse (and brilliant!) group of people. It was great to meet you at last, and thanks for teaching me more about the culture of the US

    Jon, there was something amazing in our conversation right enough. I think you gave me a small stone and took off a huge pile of rocks. I’ll e-mail sometime soon once I know where I’m going with it…


    • May 10, 2008

    Joanna, sounds like you had a whale of a time in Chicago. And what a first time in the US, yes? Lovely memories. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

    • May 10, 2008

    Joanna, Wow! Your reminiscences of SOBcon convey yenergy and warmth. I have so enjoyed learning what took place. It almost feels like I was there. :-) Thank you so much for graciously sharing with us. What a wonderful experience. And your hair looks fabulous!

  4. Cat, yes, first time in US and I liked it much more than I was expecting. Most excellent company probably made a difference though, and made me feel very safe.

    Karen, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, I wanted to give people a flavour of it without overdosing on an event you weren’t at. Thanks for comment on my hair! You’re such a wonderful reader. It was kind outstandingly red (the older I get the redder it gets), but it’s helping me to be confident and audacious - and recognised!


    • May 10, 2008


    Well, I’ll never forget that you helped me get started with the SOBCon08 simply by agreeing to meet with me for lunch before the conference started. It was interesting to meet up with you at that store when both of us didn’t know what we each looked like. I wrote a short snippet of how that happened over at my blog the other day. :)

    • May 10, 2008

    I’m glad the correct pronunciation of ARKANSAS is a valuable lesson learned…:) but of course the very least of all the information we both got from the weekend. I came because you inspired me on twitter! (@joannayoung - follow her!) and was so happy I followed my heart and came at the last minute. Thanks

  5. Stephen it was a good way to start the conference wasn’t it? I felt better for having met at least one person, though like you I was still very nervous at going out to meet the group.

    Michelle, of course :-) But I thought the reference would make you smile. I’m glad I inspired you to come - you exuded happiness throughout the weekend, and I really enjoyed getting to know you. Can’t wait to run our mini-project next week!


    • May 11, 2008

    Hi Joanna - I’m so glad you had a brilliant time. If it makes you feel better, I didn’t used to say Arkansas properly either.

    Now I have to look for that FlickR photo - I want to know about the pizza eating thing.

    • May 11, 2008

    Joanna, this is really weird. When I read this post the other day, I was thinking, what the heck is a “tablet”? Later in the day, I picked up your book of Scottish slang, and the very first entry I came to was … “tablet”!

    • May 11, 2008

    Joanna, I hear you on the hugs. I love to hug. I’m a bit more reserved with it since being married - in honor of my wife. Yet I still like to meet people with a warm embrace. Much better than a handshake.

    • May 11, 2008

    Hugs rule Joanna, so thanks for sharing yours with me! Looking forward to continuing our conversation in the blogosphere. Hope you enjoy the book. So great to meet you!

  6. Cath, thank you, and yes that does make me feel better. I learned it’s a good idea to *ask* people where they’re from so you get to hear their pronunciation before offering yours… On the pizza thing - start eating from the point in the middle, not the outer edge. Don’t ask me why.

    Brad, I’m glad that dictionary came in handy! I think some people on Twitter wondered just what Amy and I were pushing at the conference…

    Dawud, yes, much better than a handshake. It was one of the things that made this conference stand out for me. Lots of warm embraces.

    Phil, it was great to get to know you too. I feel so much more part of JJL as a result. I’m looking forward to starting the book


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