Non Sequitur Fridays

Life Lessons from Comic-Con

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistian's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Elise Ramsay is community manager at Wistia. Her last Non Sequitur was about painting a street piano.

I just got back from Comic-Con International in San Diego, and I learned a lot. I learned that 3 margaritas are enough, that stormtroopers are surprisingly adequate dancers, and that I have a terrible weakness for baby cosplay.

Besides those things, I also learned a few important lessons we can all apply to life and work every now and then:

1. Great things happen when people feel like they belong.

One of the most striking things about Comic-Con was that everyone was pleasant, happy, and patient. Even with around 150,000 attendees clogging every pathway, crosswalk, and room in downtown San Diego, I didn't witness shouting or shoving.

Why is it that, for the most part, this classically stressful environment results in friendly folks en mass? Because they belong.

It's no wonder Maslow placed belonging before personal achievement on the hierarchy of needs, only after survival and safety: belonging to a group is incredibly powerful. It affirms your sense of self and augments your identity by being part of something greater.

For many, Comic-Con is the one time of year when they can walk around as their true selves and celebrate interests that, perhaps even because they're often kept private, are critical to their identity. Many different fandoms and communities converge on Comic-Con, yet they all have a shared appreciation for fandom itself. In many ways, they have a shared story.

As a result, Master Chief asks kidlet Iron Men for selfies, and Darth lets Pikachu cut in line. No matter their mask or fandom, they all belong.

2. No matter how many people know your name, you're still human.

I didn't manage to buy Channing Tatum a beer, but I did interview and come fairly close to some other well-known folks. Surprise, surprise: they are humans. They look awkward when waiting in line for the red carpet, sweaty and uncomfortable when it's too hot, and tired after a red eye from Scotland.

I spotted a well known TV star, stumbling-up-the-escalator-drunk, having a loud fight with her boyfriend in a crowded hotel lobby. It was an ugly moment, but an oddly comforting one.

Celebrities of any sort are not made of different stuff than us plebes. Often, they're not even motivated by different things. Their circumstances and context are different from ours, but they are not different.

Your Klout score or keynote history doesn't make you more or less human, and it shouldn't hold you back from talking to people with greater "success." More often than not, you'll find that everyone is delighted to be treated just like another person.

3. If you walk like you know where you're going, you'll go far.

Yep, this boils down to "fake it 'til you make it." But it's so true! I got into so many places I shouldn't have had access to, simply because I held my head up and walked in like I was supposed to be there.

Assuming you're not allowed to do something is the best way to ensure it never happens. Want something? Approach it with respect and confidence, and you might be surprised.

There's certainly a karma caveat here: use these powers of confidence and swagger for good, and they will continue to be fruitful. Abuse them, and people will notice.

4. You can make anything out of LEGOs.

Those tiny, inter-connective pieces of plastic can build amazing things.


I've extracted two lessons from this:

First, throw out your definition of "childish." Objects of nostalgia and activities that exercise our imagination aren't necessarily immature or childlike. It's so important to stretch your mind and put your whole heart into something, just like you might have done as a kid. Make something and see how it feels afterward.

Second, incredible things are almost always made from many smaller things, each doing their part. If you look closely at most big projects, you can see all the people and steps that made it possible. They're all individually important.

5. People are a lot more daring when masked.

Masks aren't always a bad thing! Sometimes, it's just what someone needs to have the courage to do something they really want to try. Be it grabbing the face of a girl who asks for a selfie, making their first video, or going for trapeze lessons, as long as it's not hurting anyone, some goals seem less scary with some sort of protection.

If you find yourself butting heads with someone or unable to understand why they feel uncomfortable, think about what kind of buffer could help them feel more at ease. Likely, they don't want their performance to reflect badly on their actual self, so what can you put in place to relieve this pressure? Maybe they need to co-author something, or shake it up with a bit of humor. It's not always a physical face mask, is what I'm saying.

Working with someone who wants to get on camera, but is feeling stiff? Put them in a cockroach costume! Not that we'd know anything about that...

6. Behind every glamorous shot or premiere is a dumpster.

Literally. Red carpets are not that glamorous, you guys.

Have you been to any conventions like this? What was your experience like? Related question: have you ever danced with a stormtrooper?

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