EASFAA 2008 Conference photos

I’ll play devil’s advocate on CC Chapman’s excellent post recently asking where the advanced conferences are.

There aren’t any. And I mean that in all seriousness. The more advanced you become in any field, the less general information is going to help you, because you’ve learned it. The more advanced you become in any field, the more the challenges you face are yours alone or shared among a very small minority of practitioners.

That’s when you need fewer conferences and more teachers or mentors who can challenge you and your specific needs and weaknesses.

I liken it to the martial arts. Teaching white belts is easy. You teach the basics en masse, and everyone more or less starts at the same place. As people progress, many drop out, and those who remain have individual weaknesses manifest themselves. Some people become afraid of hitting the ground. Some people don’t do well with throws or joint locks or kicks. By the time you’re teaching black belts, you’ve got a roomful of people who are all very good at the basics, but have individual areas of focus they need to improve. Only a master teacher (like mine, for example, Sensei Mark Davis) is going to be able to help the students over their individual obstacles, and the reality is that both in the social media and martial arts worlds, there are very few legitimate master teachers.

Skipping from conference to conference can give you added perspective, as CC mentioned, but the risk there is the equivalent of earning 12 green belts but never getting a black belt in any one thing. When you train in the martial arts, you have to give your area of study a lot of focus and effort to get to black belt and beyond.

There’s an expression in Japanese, shu-ha-ri, which roughly translated means preserve the form, vary the form, transcend the form, and it describes our journey as students, both in social media and martial arts. Conferences give us the basics, the form, but then we have to take that knowledge on the road, test it out for ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and find qualified teachers and mentors to help guide us through our weaknesses. We take our knowledge and apply it to real world situations until we understand it thoroughly. In the end, we transcend conferences entirely and learn to explore and grow on our own, and then it’s us on the stages sharing what we learned with the beginners just putting on their marketing white belts for the first time.

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