WordCamp Atlanta 2014 is over for this year and I have to say it was a gigantic success. You won’t find another tech conference with such a wide range of people of all ages, sexes and levels of experience who are willing and eager to connect and contribute to each other.
Since the whole organization is non-profit and so many volunteers help to put it on, we ask everyone, except for the speakers to purchase a ticket. We don’t want to exclude anyone from the conference because of price, so we keep the ticket price at $40 for the two day event.
The $40.00 includes a t-shirt and two days of presentations, lunch, beverages, snacks, happy hour appetizers and free parking. Seems like a deal to me!
Despite it being clearly stated that volunteers must purchase a ticket, there are always a few who sign up to help without a ticket. When we contact them to let them know that everyone needs a ticket, they usually pony up and buy one. This year, there was one young woman who got offended saying she never heard of such a thing as people “paying to work” and she wrote back, “Never mind, it isn’t in my budget this year”.
When I received her email the week before Camp, I was busy with a million details, but my thoughts kept returning to her. Although I didn’t know her well, I remembered her from our Meetups and I didn’t want to exclude her or anyone, if they didn’t have the money to pay.
I found a minute to email to tell her if she was having a budget issue we would love for her to come at no cost.
She wrote back and reported that the price was reasonable, she did have the funds and she wasn’t asking for a handout. She went on to say that she had been to our WordPress Meetups a couple of times and thanked me for the help I gave here on more than one occasion, but she found that it was hard to network in the South when you weren’t “connected”.
The irony of this is that our Meetup Group is full of new folks every month. None of us were in any way connected before we came to Meetup. We got to know each other by jumping in and helping out in various ways. But this young woman was obsessed with She went on to say, “I’ve never been asked to pay to work. That is definitely a new one”. She ended the email with “I just don’t think your group is for me.”
I couldn’t leave it alone so I wrote her back and told her that I noticed that she had essentially turned down what she said she wanted. And I gave her one more chance to get a free ticket to come. I got a final reply where she said, “No. But I have appreciated the help you’ve given me on more than one occasion”.
Sunday morning, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal about saying no and setting healthy boundaries. This was a strange coincidence I had been thinking about this young woman saying no to my offer, not once but three times.
By all means we can’t and shouldn’t say yes to everything that comes our way. I believe we must carefully choose how we spend the capital of our time. But saying no to something that you want is just shooting yourself in the foot.
In improv theater, when someone refuses an offer it is called blocking. Improv actors are trained not to block since it tends to stop the action; they will go with every cockamamie suggestion even if it is not where they wanted to go just to keep in motion.
In reality, we have to say no to some things. In his book, Impro, Keith Johnstone said, “There are two kinds of people in this world, those who prefer to say yes and those who prefer to say no. Those who say yes are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say no are rewarded by the safety they attain.” He went on to say there are far more no sayers than yes sayers.
I never set out to chair a WordCamp. In 2011, the folks at WordPress asked me and WordPress developer Russell Fair to chair the Atlanta WordCamp in 2011. Both of us are super busy with our businesses and it was very tempting to say no to this huge volunteer commitment. We knew that WordCamps were great events and we both liked to go to them. We discussed it and we knew we could do it, so we put our reservations about it on the shelf and went with a yes. Out of that agreement, great things have happened. Russell and I have both developed closer relationships with the people in our Meetup groups who help with the production of WordCamp, as well as people in the WordPress community from all over the world.
Had I said, “No, I’m just too busy”, I wouldn’t have found myself walking around few years ago, with Matt Mullenweg’s American Express Card in my pocket. And this year, wouldn’t have gotten to hang out with the guys that made the Backup Buddy, my go-to method for migrating WordPress sites.
This is why I couldn’t leave well enough alone when my young naysayer was shooting herself in the foot. I wanted her to say yes, because who knew what could have come from it for her. Are you a yessayer or naysayer? What offers are you blocking?