This is the final part of our 4-part series on the challenges we’re posing for ourselves in 2015. Join us by challenging yourself to the same things. (See Challenge 1, 2 and 3)

The first conference I ever spoke at was Microconf Vegas in 2013.

I went on right after lunch on Day 2.

So I essentially starved for two days…

…because who could keep food down knowing some 300 startup founders were sitting – in long rows in a long conference room – waiting to stare blankly at you for approximately 7 seconds before realizing that, nope, they don’t give a damn about copywriting and that they really ought to get back to their programming, emailing, keeping their businesses charging toward The Hockey Stick, etc.?

Before my talk, I was standing backstage with Rob Walling. I must’ve looked crazy-nervous ‘cos he gave me this arched-eyebrow look and said, “Um, are you gonna be okay?”

That’s the last thing I remember.

Not ‘cos I passed out or anything.

Just ‘cos I was really, really, shockingly, nauseatingly scared of that stage. And of those people.

And That’s Precisely Why I Had to Do It

I didn’t know at the time what speaking at Microconf would do for me and my biz. I didn’t go into it expecting to get anything out of it. Some street cred, I guess. Obviously a ton of nausea. But nothing more.

Nearly 2 years later, take a look at what I got out of it:

If you look through that – and you should – you’ll see that speaking at Microconf was, like the Jelly of the Month Club, the gift that keeps on giving. Except for real. Not just in Cousin Eddie’s eyes.

I owe so much of what Copy Hackers is today to that single Microconf talk. I’m not saying Microconf is the only thing that’s helped us; rather, would we be where we are today without it?

(Putting down on paper how much I owe to the people who’ve given me a shot just further reinforces my need to stop believing my own BS – I am a necessary but small part of the Copy Hackers equation.)

Each and every conference I’ve spoken at has produced an incredible number of contacts, opportunities, content to market and general goodwill. My Twitter followers go up when I speak at a conference. I hear lots of nice things after the conference. I get to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. It’s an honor to be invited, an honor to be allowed to teach, an honor to meet all the people I do.

But Speaking Scares Me Sooo Much,
I Told Lance Not to Let Me Say “Yes” to Another Conference

This past September, I spoke at CTA Conf in Vancouver on a Friday and at Business of Software in Boston the next Tuesday. As someone who’s neither what you’d call a “good flyer” nor the type of bouncy-cheerleader-thing that does a backflip out of bed at 4am, this was a challenging period in my life. It was all the more challenging, methinks, for the poor soul that’s stuck with me for life: Mr. Lance Jones.

After Business of Software ended, I was sure I’d never speak at a conference again.

Sure, I love the high that comes from being on stage and in the 2 or 3 hours that follow a talk. Deep down in there, I actually really like speaking and teaching.

But here’s all the bad stuff that came with conference season for me:

  • I found 10 grey hairs the morning of my BoS talk – ten
  • Because I use a ton of data in my talks – people will look at the screen when there are numbers on it, and that buys you time – I spent the entire summer running split-tests with Jen Havice just to collect data for my talks
  • Thanks to the Summer of Gluing My Eyes to the Monitor, I looked tired enough for about 5 months that everyone – everyone – commented on it
  • I eat almost nothing in the days before and days after a talk
  • If I wake up in the middle of the night, my brain jumps straight to how much I need to do to prepare for the talk

Then there’s the good stuff that comes with it. Everything in the mindmap above. And stuff that’s come out of more recent speaking engagements, including meeting some of the people I’ve been dying to meet, including the entire Unbounce team, Joel from Buffer, Des from Intercom, Chris from Wider Funnel, Peep from Conversion XL and very nearly Chris Savage from Wistia (I was skerred of him).

So what do I do? Let the grey hairs get to me? Cry about puffy eyes? (That’ll only make them puffier.) Give up on doing something that’s clearly good for my business just because it might make me uncomfortable?

The Only Way to Do Something Remarkable
Is to Make Yourself Uncomfortable – Or That’s My Hypothesis

I said on Wednesday, with the launch of Snap, that I was willing to make myself uncomfortable to see Snap succeed.

I think the truth is that, in 2015, I’m going to make myself really, really, shockingly, nauseatingly uncomfortable because there’s no other way to grow.

My fourth and final challenge of the year was almost called “Just Say Yes.” Because saying yes has brought me so much.

But an increasing number of opportunities come your way the more you put yourself out there. (Surprise, surprise.) My friend Jason at Techzing calls this a Luck Surface Area – my luck surface area increases the more I say yes. BUT! But, at the same time, there’s a lot more to say yes to, and I won’t kid myself that I’m some sort of Robo-Girl. I know the idea is that startups pull crazy-long hours, but I already do pull crazy-long hours, and there’s actually no more to give.

So I can’t say yes to everything.

But I can and should say yes to the things that scare me.

I KNOW that’s a cliche.

I don’t care if it’s written on the side of the Lululemon reusable bag.

You should do things that scare you.

I’m going to speak at conferences. And I’m going to put myself out there like I haven’t before. If it’s terrifying, it’s going on my list.

(Ack! That’s so scary! Stop committing to this, Joanna! Why are you saying these things?!!)

This year, I’ll be speaking at Microconf, Bacon Biz, Mozcon, CTA Conf and a few others. You should join me there.

Once Again, Here Are My 4 Challenges for You and Me in 2015

1. Loosen the reins. Stop taking yourself more seriously than anyone else takes you.

2. Build something that solves a problem for people you know. This is the low-hanging fruit in the world of creating solutions – from courses to SaaS. Don’t just solve a problem; solve a problem for your network so you can actually see their problems solved.

3. Stop building things that don’t solve problems for people you know. Unless you really love pissing away a ton of money getting your name out there only to piss away even more money trying to sell a solution without a problem. Even if you feel you’ve invested too much to stop now, stop now!–before you spend more of the energy you’ll need to build a fab problem-solver for your circles.

4. Make yourself really, really, shockingly, nauseatingly uncomfortable. Your business will thank you for it.

You’ve gotta do at least one of them.

Which will it be?