Burn Both Ends: The Sheer Audacity

As you surely know by now from my constant squawking for the past several months, the inaugural Burn Both Ends conference was held last week on May 4th.

 Thanks to Ruie & Grace for our beautiful installation pieces including these signs and this wall! Photo Credit: Sarah Der

Thanks to Ruie & Grace for our beautiful installation pieces including these signs and this wall!
Photo Credit: Sarah Der

It has taken me a good week to decompress, reflect and feel like I have anything coherent to say about the day.

This conference was born out of a years’ worth of marketing workshops created by myself and Campfire & Co. for small businesses in Richmond and Hampton Roads called The Fireside Sessions. A year and a half ago they were just a long-shot idea based on a need we saw for our clients to be able to do more efficient marketing internally. Fast forward to today and we have provided twelve of these workshops including two that were customized for corporate and government clients. As we continued to host workshops, we identified another need for tactical information on how young businesses can continue to grow and flourish. Again, we started taking some long shots on ways to meet that need.

Ideas are funny things. Equal parts impossible yet attainable. “We should plan a conference!” “I should start my own business!” “I should hire an employee!” “I should offer my services to bigger clients!” Success seems as likely as failure, and in the small business world - 50/50 odds aren’t that bad. The thing that small business owners and employees understand is that the risk itself can be worth the fail. Success is a pleasant, occasional surprise. Risks (not their outcomes) are where the lessons are learned, muscles are toned and character is sculpted. It is where you become the thing you want to be.

 I think this is what "pulling it off" looks like?  Photo Credit: Sarah Der

I think this is what "pulling it off" looks like? 
Photo Credit: Sarah Der

Anyways, you get the point. Planning this conference was HARD. It took months of work, hours and hours of our time, creativity we thought had dried up, energy we were sure had been leached out of us forever, so so SO many emails - all for ONE DAY. And then the day itself? Well, here are a few emails we got from participants:

Last week’s conference was simply terrific!  It was relaxed, informative, funny, and productive. The workshops were thoughtful, and all the presenters were well-prepared.  I came away excited with new ideas about my own business, and I met new people.

Everyone was so genuine, something that is always missing from other business conferences I have attended. Your initiative and hard work was clearly evident in the success of the conference.  

Congrats on an incredible event. You should be so thrilled with the impact you had on everyone and the connections made in the room.

What a treasure you all created . . . I’d love to work with you and be part of your awesomeness.

That definitely sounds like success. But what if that hadn’t been the feedback? What if people never mentioned it again, or left grumbling about how boring it had been? What if people hadn’t shown up or worse - got up and left? Was the risk worth the fail?

THE RISK IS WORTH THE SAME REGARDLESS OF ITS OUTCOME.

I’ll say it a different way:

SUCCESS OR FAILURE DOES NOT CHANGE THE VALUE OF THE RISK.

Maybe this is an easy thing to say when it seems like success was reached. Perhaps had we failed at this, I would not be telling you the risk was worth it. But those who attended the conference will remember our very first keynote of the morning - Jim Coe, founder of The Yeomen. His entire talk was about having to close his business. Failure, right? Here’s what he had to say about it:

“I hadn’t reached my ideal outcome, yet I was changed by The Yeomen . . . once again, the experience had transformed me. It had also confirmed something I’ve felt most of my adult life: I’m a builder. As hard as it was to watch something I loved deeply die, it had led me to a role I could finally be comfortable in. I am an entrepreneur. I’m built to wake up to a problem and see its potential. I enjoy walking into chaos and bringing order. I find joy in the difficult work aligning a team around a mission.”

Whether the conference was a glowing success or miserable failure, we did those things. We built something. We saw a problem and the potential answer. We walked into chaos. We aligned a team around a mission. The outcome simply didn’t matter once those things had been done.

Jim closed with this:

“I’m committed to reframing how we view ‘failure.’ Remember, it’s all transformation. If you feel it breaking apart, find hope in the potential around the bend, and be gentle with yourself.”

 Jim cracked open his sweet soul to tell us all about closing his business and re-framing failure. Photo Credit: Sarah Der

Jim cracked open his sweet soul to tell us all about closing his business and re-framing failure.
Photo Credit: Sarah Der

There is so, so much potential around the bend, friends. Thank you to those who took this journey of transformation with us. I wish you success, but more than that, I wish you the straight up audacity of the risk.

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More risk is sure to come, so to stay updated on whatever craziness we do next, you can sign up for updates and see photos from the event on the Burn Both Ends website

 We're as shocked as you are. Photo Credit: Badass Booth

We're as shocked as you are. Photo Credit: Badass Booth

Rachel Burns