3 Keys to Success I Discovered at SXSW

On the Red Carpet at SXSW

On the Red Carpet at SXSW

Do you want to leave a legacy?

Are you afraid you’ll never amount to much?

Have you spent more time on books and Reddit than creating?

Ya, me too.  So the question is what can you do about it?

Well…I’ll do my best to save you some time and money by giving you the lowdown on my trip to SXSW.

SXSW was an incredible experience.  It may very well have changed my life more than anything else.  Even more than losing 70 lbs.

Now for those of you who are not familiar with SXSW in stands for South by Southwest.  SXSW is an interactive, film, and music conference/festival.  I attended for the interactive and film portion.

There is a ton of stuff to see, learn, and experience at SXSW.  And after attending over 20 hour long sessions I started to notice a few themes emerge.  Everyone speaking was very different, but all of them showed the ability to create, get started, and stand out.

A quick note before we get started.  I define success as someone able to live the life they want on their terms.  Too often we only judge people’s success quantitatively: how much money, how many cars, and how big of a house they have.  This is a topic for another post, but I just wanted to be clear that success is something you can only define for yourself and no one else.

So, without further adieu.  He are the 3 themes for success I found at SXSW:

1.  Be a Creator

Make things and share them with the world!

Every successful person at SXSW is creating something and finding ways to share it with the world.

The interactive folks are making products, tools, experiences and more.  The filmmakers are making films, music videos, and shorts.  And even though I didn’t attend, I’m sure the musicians are creating new tunes and other unique audio experiences.  What they all have in common is they are creating something and hustling their asses off to let people know about it.

Why is this important?

Creating things challenges us, it challenges other, it helps us learn who we are, and allows us to share a common experience.  It allows us to experiment, learn from one another, and make mistakes.  Reflecting upon it, the times I’ve had the most fun were those created by myself, someone else, or a collaboration of many.

Are you afraid someone won’t like your work?  GOOD!  If everyone likes what you do you’re not very interesting.

Raise the stakes and create.  Create mistakes, art, and stories.  Create whatever the hell you want and get it into the world ASAP!

2.  Start Immediately

Just do it!

The successful people I met at SXSW all share a similar story of wanting to do something and heading in that direction IMMEDIATELY.

Some of them started reading books and found mentors to help them along the way.

A lot thought about it for a LOOONNNNGGGG time and regretted not acting on it sooner.

Even more started a ton of stuff and kept doing the things that worked.

The smartest ones validated their ideas and made sure it was a worthwhile pursuit before investing a ton of time and resources.

Hindsight is always 20/20, I know, but everything we do has a start.  It’s the first thing we do with anything.

When you start things you stop thinking about them and that makes you feel different.  Not always better, but different than before you started.

Feelings follow action.  You don’t feel great and then go for a run.  You go for a run and then feel great.  If you feel sad and depressed get up and start something, you’ll feel way better.

If your mind is going around and around on something, start doing it and see if it is worth your time.  Do you feel better after doing it?  If so, then keep doing it!

With exercise I always felt horrible physically, but a huge sense of pride emotionally, so I continued working out.  8 months later I’m physically and mentally stronger because I got started.

What if perfectionism is weighing you down?  Ya, it held me down for a long time too.  At least until I learned the secret of doing something as horribly as possible.  Seriously, do your best at being your worst.  You’ll start to realize even trying to be your worst is alright.  It may even send you in a new and exciting direction.

Seriously.  Whatever you want to do, do the worst version of it.  It feels great!  And once your hands are in motion they tend to stay in motion.

3.  Be You

Every successful person I met at SXSW was UNIQUE!  They have all carved their own place in the world by being themselves.  The ones that had a lot of energy were bouncing off the walls and the boring ones were, well, boring.  But even the boring ones could be incredibly interesting because they stood out by being different.  By being themselves.

If you’re trying to be like everyone else you’ve already lost.  You become a commodity.  Another kernel of corn at the bottom of the bag.  Instead:


It sounds super lame I know, but it’s so much easier to be yourself than someone you’re not.  Lying and keeping all your stories straight is tough.  being yourself and telling the truth is easier because there’s nothing to remember.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

– Mark Twain

If you’re not being yourself people can tell immediately.  There are few people in the world that I’ve met who can’t tell when you’re full of shit  if you give them enough time.  So, be yourself all the time and you’ll be amazed at what it can bring you in life and in business.

As an added bonus, being yourself repels the types of people you don’t want anything to do with.

Stand out.  Have a voice.  Be yourself!

What is the last thing you’ve created?

Have you started it?

When was the last time  you were truly yourself with others?

Please share in the comments below!


  • This is great, Daniel. I like how you define success. Reminds me of Bob Dylan’s definition: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

    • whypinto

      Love it! Best quote I’ve read in awhile. It’s already been added to my quote page…Thanks for sharing.

  • Daniel!

    Awesome post dude!

    This blog post was absolutely spot on. The last thing I created was this dating eBook. Set up the lead capture page, sales page, and even the merchant account.

    Literally everything is in place, the only thing I didn’t do was drive traffic? Pretty weird how you can set up the entire sales funnel and then just flop out on it…and you know why that was?

    (keep reading, my answer becomes relative to your post)


    I started and completed everything, but in the end something just didn’t “feel” right.

    And now that I’ve read your blog post, it’s definitely that being yourself factor.

    The last time I was true to myself and to others you ask?

    Quite possibly right now as I’m writing this comment haha

    Thanks for writing this post and sharing your experiences from SXSW…not only because you’re a sweet writer, but also because I’ve always wondered what SXSW meant and you’ve filled that void lol

    Cheers dude

    – Chris


    I’ll shoot you a tweet to connect about the guest post!

    • whypinto

      Glad to hear it helped. The crazy part is I need this advice as well.

      Just had a great conversation with my roommate yesterday and he told me I sound like a salesman all the time. It’s likely a combination of my job and all the marketing/sales I’ve been studying the last few months, but it made me stop and think: “Who the f*ck am I.”

      Now it’s something I’m focused on in real life and my writing: HAVING A VOICE!