step up (or step out of the room)

“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

I’ve heard this plenty of times over the course of my career – but it finally connected for me just last week.

I had the privilege of attending Brian Kurtz’s Titans Master Class in Scottsdale, AZ. The presentations, discussions, and ideas generated (and freely given away) were flat-out mind-blowing.

Here’s something interesting you might not know about me – I’ve been a member of the Master Class for almost two years, but every time I walked in the room, I was overwhelmed with Imposter Syndrome.

Here’s this room filled with brilliant business people and marketing experts with strategies that put mine to shame.

And I’d lurk – sharing ideas where I could but mostly staying silent and taking a metric shit ton of notes, hoping someday I’d have something to contribute.

This one was different – my friend Marcella Allison walked up to me as I was at the back of the room, fixing myself a cup of coffee. I was dragging a bit after spending my whole weekend at a super high-energy, 3-day marketing event called LaunchCon.

For me, LaunchCon means some really long days – especially since I’m part of the team that puts it on. I can’t complain though… the people are awesome and it comes with some pretty cool perks, like:

It’s a little blurry, but that’s me up on stage in front of almost 1,000 people – I’m on the far right, holding an iPad and staring off into space like a BOSS.

After that, I’d been approached by a bunch of people complimenting me and telling me I was amazing… and it made me supremely uncomfortable. 

I love being on stage, but I’m pretty weird about accepting compliments with grace. Who knew?

So then I’m in this room of geniuses fixing some coffee like all of this is totally normal, and though I tried to hide the OMG HOW ON EARTH DID I EVER GET INVITED TO THIS GROUP?! radiating off my person, Marcella saw right through my bullshit. (Classic Marcella – one of the many reasons she’s awesome and you should check out her work.)

I didn’t say a single word – she just gave me a huge hug and whispered in my ear to soak it all in, and take all the comments and compliments with love and gratitude.

I must have had a confused expression on my face, because she told me I could expect a lot of compliments and questions after my stage time LaunchCon, where I’d been critiquing marketing and sales copy. She held me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and firmly told me that I’d earned a spot in the room.

And that’s when it finally clicked… instead of seeing it like “oh this is a group of people I could never compare to”, I SHOULD be looking at is “this is a group that’s going to inspire me to push harder and go farther than I ever thought I could possibly do”.

I finally realized that I wasn’t there to be the smartest, most brilliant. That there were no brownie points for “most shares”. All I had to do was help where I could, give a damn about the people I met – and use their success as motivation to push hard for my own.

And let me tell you – when your options are step up or step out to make room for someone who WILL step up… you might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.



If you’re an aspiring freelancer who’s working up the courage to leave the day job… good news! I’m sharing all the things I WISH I’d known before making the leap so that hopefully your journey goes a little more smoothly than mine.

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