I wrote this back in November when I got back to Korea, but haven't thought to post it until now.
A lot has changed since I last attended the 21 convention in 2009. For one, I'm no longer interested in becoming a professional pickup artist. But for another, it's as if the convention has evolved itself right alongside my own interests.
The convention is sold as "a panorama event for life on Earth as a man" which seems like a broad, bold claim. However, in attending this past October, 2014 I learned that there actually is quite a lot to that tagline.
The presentations this year were across the spectrum of topics. In 2007 it was pickup or shut up. in 2008 and 2009 things broadened slightly by adding a bit about exercise and diet. 2014 included talks on: dating, proper exercise, managing fear, proper diet, lifestyle, philosophy, social anxiety, the sexual marketplace, attracting a mentor, proper rational thinking, fatherhood, and even social security. My list may not even be entirely comprehensive, and yet it's easy to see that things have changed since my last visit in '09. not just that, but my experience of the convention was also entirely different.
This year I took a little time to actually talk with the speakers and attendees, rather than just watch the presentations. Every one of the speakers was personable and willing to answer questions, and many among them were such accomplished social artists that they made me feel like my questions were not just important, but that i was the center of their world and attention when we talked (ahem, Damien Diecke and Steve Mayeda).
Damien's talk was about dating and understanding how to quantify your effort in such a way as to not miss out on all of the genuine progress you're making. I recently began an exclusive relationship with my girlfriend and so I listened out of casual interest. Afterward, I asked Damien what advice he would give to somebody who is not looking to meet new girls but wants to improve things with the one he already has chosen. Damien, leaning forward and listening to me as I spoke like nothing else mattered (or ever could), responded that in addition to systematizing meeting women, he likes also to systematize within a relationship. Put simply, he schedules out specific small events or things that will make his girlfriend feel appreciated and sexy. For me this was pure gold - I'm always the guy who can't seem to show he cares enough - and Damien explained that his girlfriends know the timing is artificial and they don't care. I asked a female friend about it in front of her boyfriend what she thought about it and she turened to him and said she would LOVE if he would do something like that for her. I'll take that as evidence enough to try.
When I listened to Steve Mayeda's speech, something in it struck a chord in my heart. it brought to the forefront of my mind a very personal issue that I wasn't willing to share in front of the rest of the convention, and so I approached him after his speech and asked if maybe, just maybe it would be possible to speak with him privately for a moment regarding my issue. Steve did not hesitate for a second and only asked me to wait until he had an opportunity. He didn't forget. A short time later he asked me to sit down with him in a private area outside the convention hall and explain. Steve listened to my story and heard my problem and related part of his own story and challenges. He talked about where he is now and how he got there and his knowledge that he is still working to improve. Steve knew intuitively that I didn't need advice (or at least, I'll credit him with knowing), but rather somebody to just listen and help me be heard. I know I thanked him, but it bears saying again that I'm grateful for the time he gave to me.
In addition to these, I also had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with speaker and philosopher Greg Swann. Greg and I had been communicating over e-mail for several months and he had the good grace and kindness to meet me for dinner one night before the convention. We talked like new friends and old friends at once, and as the convention proceded, Greg and i had a great deal more conversations and interactions that culminated in what was, for me, a very difficult goodbye.
These are my personal stories of time with the speakers, and I'd be willing to bet that nearly every one of them has some similar story to share about some other attendee to whom they gave their attention, advice, and time without reservation. This was the first time I saw the full value of being there for the live event and it was, unequivocally, life changing. That I focused so narrowly on these few interactions gives no credit to the value of the other presentations - the shortest way I can say it is there was not a single presentation that aws not worth listening to and from which I didn't take something valueable. At the risk of running even longer than I already have, I also want to give a short thank you to Anthony for putting on the event, and to the volunteers who I had the good fortune to meet and spend the majority of my social time with - J, K, B, and A, you guys were a second convention in and of itself.
It was a blast and I hope I can make it back next year.