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Real Skills Conference

Planted 02020-04-24

The people you actually need to see are each other—the rest of this day is on you and up to you.

The Real Skills Conference by Seth Godin’s-Akimbo Workshops gives an incredible opportunity to connect with like minded people. It was an experience unlike anything I have ever experienced, being around people who are there because they want to be there and eager to move things forward.

I never fully realized what Seth meant when he talks about people who are there because they care—because I had never experienced it.

Shoutout to those I connected with and were seen:

Jonathan Baillie Strong
Helps businesses define their podcasting strategy.

Verónica Ivo Buruyides
@veroivo Marketing & Graphic Design

Jonathon London
Helps business define their sales process.



Keith Roach
Brand Marketing Consultant


Brandi Bernoskie
Web Development and Strategist


Hector Ramos
Lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University

Welcome to The Real Skills Virtual Conference

Over 1,700 people connected to a virtual conference. Nearly 2,000 people showed up with generosity and kindness and the intention to participate.

To be face-to-face with so many people was exhilarating.

I feel the need to say the obvious. This event is not for everyone. In one aspect it was a preview to the longer Akimbo courses—where you have more time to connect. And as one person commented towards the end of the workshop:

I think this was very limited value. I have done other workshops in Akimbo and found that this only really works over a long period of time – weeks or months not 2 hours”

Other people were saddened by the lack of “practical teachings” you would normally get from conferences. But that was the point of the conference, just as Seth said towards the end, “there is no special sauce.” We don’t need to wait for practical advice or permission to do work that matters. We need to find the others who are willing to move forward with what we have to offer. For me, the Real Skills conference was a rare opportunity to engage with others who care in nonstop sharing and listening. Because those opportunities to engage with others and go deep are scarcely found and now it’s up to us to create them. We need to pick ourselves and see the change we seek to make because we can change it, we can influence it, and we can build things other people can use.


How to get the most out of being here? Contribute. We’re here to talk about real skills. The things we learn about by talking with each other.

Help people connect.

The world is upside down. Everyone is disconnected. There is a lot of fear. Akimbo has been working towards helping people learn, not to educate but to help people connect and get to where they’re trying to go. What is being asked of you today is to trust the process.

Imagine 50 years ago someone had invented LinkedIn and the internet. Let’s say you found it and you could search exactly what you were looking for in the perfect boss, the perfect employee, the perfect friend. What attributes would you seek out from somebody who you could work with, who you could produce with, who you could live with for a long time to come? Would attributes would you look for? Someone honest? Insightful?

Now here’s the question: If you could find someone with all of those attributes, would that be enough?

How many of those things you thought of are gifts—things we’re born with? And how many of them are attitudes or skills?

It turns out that nearly every one of them is an attitude or a skill. If you’re a little honest, you can be more honest. If you’re a little creative, you can be more creative. That means good news: the things that you picked are all skills—because attitudes can be learned. And once we acknowledge that an attitude can be learned we can put effort into it and turn it into something we can contribute to the world. We’ve been living in a culture rewarding easy-to-measure “hard skills” that we can measure with an SAT score, WPM, etc. etc. Everybody needs to have that. What separates the people who do work that matters are the choices we make about what some people call “soft skills”—but let’s call them what they really are—real skills. We’re not here to teach you these real skills because you already know them. What we’ll help you do instead is understand that they are skills and if you choose to you can adopt the posture of possibility and you can level up and make a difference with them.

The people you actually need to see are each other—the rest of this day is on you and up to you. If you lean into it you can make magic happen.

We are split into smaller groups by birth month, December had around 160 people and supposedly February was the best.

The December coaches, Avraham and Stephen, get everyone ready to be with people who are ready to level up. We can all develop real skills and turn on lights for other people. Connection is the first step—content comes after. They ask us one thing we’re grateful for today and we all respond in chat. They start to fly by, life, friends, pizza, health, internet, sunshine, daughters, flowers, on and on.

Stephen tells us it’s going to be a fast-paced workshop (I didn’t quite believe him then and reading this now I realized I’m used to hearing promises and not having them delivered. Seth Godin’s Akimbo workshops seem to do exactly as he tells his readers to do—make big promises and keep them) He explains how we’re going to be split into smaller groups of four to five people to have deep meaningful conversations. And he asks us that once we get into the break out groups that we make sure to be open, vulnerable, ask lots of questions and we actively listen. But remember it’s going to be quick—five minutes total, each person has around one minute to talk.

Next, Stephen tells us a tip for connecting better. We rename ourselves and append the best way to contact us to our names.

BREAKOUT 01 — Name, where are you from, and what inspired you to be here today?

Here I meet my first group: Verónica from Panama City, Jonathan from New York, and Sylvie from Belgium. This was a good ice breaker and the first opportunity to connect.

We reconvene into the main group. Stephen dings the bell, signaling the start of the first chapter out of four.

Chapter 1: Commitment is step one

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Why do you think developing real skills is overlooked and undervalued? We break out into the same groups from before.

Notes from break out group
Because we take real skills for granted and we’re not completely conscious of them.
Because we’re results-driven and focused on results. The narrative is that if you can’t measure it it’s not viewed as important.
Because we can’t measure it and see it right away we don’t invest in them. But it’s the investment in real skills that brings growth.
Because we focus on metrics and being able to present them to clients and bosses as the tangible value of the work done we pull away focus from the real skills that can’t be measured.

End call. Back to the main group.

Real skills are learnable. We can develop them over time. What are some of the real skills that you want to work on?

Enter the break out group
It hits us how the break out groups of five minutes leave us yearning for more. I never imagined that five minutes of talking with strangers who care could so easily leave me seeking more. It’s not like in school when you’re forced to work together and you spend every second dreading the next. Instead, everyone is thinking about how they can best contribute to the group.

We talk about developing creativity, leadership, empathy, learning more, team building, storytelling, mindfulness, connection.

End Call. Back to the main group.

It’s your choice to be on the path and to stay on it. Make a commitment to yourself for one skill to work on. Committing puts us on the hook. It might be something hard, something that makes you uncomfortable. Avraham invites a few people to come off of mute and share the real skill they want to develop. Jonathan chooses to show up and talks about being mindful.

*Bell dings*

Chapter 2: Propel Forward

We just made a commitment into the future. Now let’s look into the past. To have a moment to reflect on who we are and what’s important to us. What’s a recent moment when you were excited or proud of something that you accomplished? Why did you feel that at that moment?

Enter the break out group
Here I meet Oscar, Keith, and Gabrielle. We get personal, open up, and be vulnerable. Keith drops a good line, “Responsibility is a good motivator.”

End call. Back to the main group.

The moments that we’re proud are often moments of growth.

What would you need to change to have more frequent moments of celebration and growth?

Notes from break out
Be proactive about seeking out our growth.
Be less afraid. Fear is paralyzing.
Be action-oriented.

End call. Back to the main group.

Just show up. Stephen comments on another coach’s shirt that says “Create every day.” He has another one that says “Teach everything you know.” We have to push past our perceived glass ceiling. Stephen has everyone punch out the glass ceiling for 30 seconds—literally, everyone punches upwards, breaking that glass ceiling.

*Bell dings*

Chapter 3: Fear is a compass

Fears and doubts make it harder to have moments of growth and celebration, have the courage and grit to keep going. The voice inside you is the lizard brain that talks you out of doing something.

What is your lizard brain saying to you? How is it holding you back?

Here I meet Brandi, Kate, and Verónica again.

Notes from break out group
You can’t communicate that. You’re not creative. Impostor syndrome.
“That’s a big lizard.”
No one will understand what you’re saying.
No one will like you if you tell them no.
If you know it, everyone else knows it too.

End Call. Back to the main group.

Fear can give us direction. When you feel fear and want to step back, we have a choice to listen to it. Dance with fear. Look fear in the eyes and don’t let it get in your way. Not today.

Theres no such thing as fearless. But we have a choice to either be gripped by fear or dance with fear.

What’s the hard part when you think about dancing with fears?

Notes from the break out group
The sinking feeling in your stomach. Getting stuck.
Fight until the end.
Reframe it. Theres something here for us. Whats the lesson here.
Do it. Fear will fade.

End call. Back to the main group.

If we aren’t feeling fear or not hearing the lizard brain, are we growing? If we aren’t in that position how does growth happen? If you want to grow, discomfort is the path. Seek discomfort.

*Bell dings*

Chapter 4: Pick Yourself

We get to choose the story we tell ourselves. The story we tell ourselves about our fear, who we are, and how we want to grow.

Even if things don’t go as planned, we can take it as a lesson. Reflect on who we are, who we seek to become, and the change we seek to make.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmoon

We don’t have to wait for an invitation, we don’t have to wait for someone to choose us. We can pick ourselves.

Why do you deserve to pick yourself?

Sit for a minute and think about that.

Notes from break out group
Everyone gets one life and instead of treating ourselves with respect, we often entrust our happiness to others.
We don’t need anyone’s permission to go out and do what we desire. We have the resources and the means but it’s not acknowledged or taught. Pick yourself and put things on your terms.

End call. Back to the main group for a team photo & thank you’s before quickly heading back to the first call with Seth and the other coaches.

In chat I see Miguel Martinez, “I feel stronger today because I shared.”

This workshop provided a space for nonstop sharing and listening. A space to engage with each other and go deep. The real leaders are the people who care enough to lead.

”Thank you to all of you for your input and choice to show up. Thank you for the opportunity to connect.”

Note from Seth

When you’re in the middle of a slog, it feels like that’s all there is and there’s never going be another side. But then out of the blue, somebody shows up and makes something a little bit better. And if enough people make something a little bit better it starts to compound.

It doesn’t take authority to make something better, it never comes from where you expect—from the top, from the people who are supposedly responsible. It always, always comes from someone who cares. Someone who has chosen to see possibility as opposed to just despair.

We are each ripples in a really, really large pond. And if we want to we can be buffered by what other people are doing or we can instead chose to step up and share our ideas and teach other people what we know. The contagion of knowledge, of posture, of culture, that’s what makes us human. We know we can’t possibly teach enough people alone, but together we can. Establish a standard for possibility, a standard to show up for the long term. Because the long term is the only term we’ve got.

Do something we would miss if you didn’t do it. Show up for someone who’s not expecting you to make things better and make things better. Make big promises and keep them. Because it’s the ability to connect—the ability that we all have to spread the word and make things better—that we have to bet on.


One final question: what is one thing you can see now that you can’t unsee?

The power of connection. There are things we are called to do that the world will miss if we don’t do them. Take the opportunity to connect. Day by day. Lean into your experiences.

It’s hard to describe the benefits gained. That’s the point. Don’t wait for more practical advice or permission to do work that matters. Find the others.

When you find your conversations becoming quiet, ask each other “And what else?”