Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lessons from IFBM

It's been over a week. Its in the past and it has been accomplished. I quite felt like Jesus Christ last week when the IFBM was finally over and I landed squat in the middle of loudly talking people inside an egg (An egg shaped lounger by the pool). I looked up to the setting sun over Bangalore and silently told myself "It is finished".

For better or worse, the project that I took up with a few others had been done, completed and seen through to the final goodbyes.

IFBM meant many things to me personally and rabidly to me as a blogger. Personally it was a challenge and I had fast-track lessons in multi tasking, project management, people skills and selling. There were other lessons too, but those are not as significant as these ones. The meet could not have come at a more busy time in my life. I had just launched the studio and with it came the ginormous anxiety of scheduling, planning, managing and conducting classes. K told me in not so uncertain terms that I was making a huge mistake. That I was taking on a project that would yield me nothing (monetarily) and yet suck out every ounce of my time and energy.

He was not wrong. But I was sure of what I was doing. I knew his warnings meant "don't come whining to me" and I didn't, almost entirely. The minute I would utter IFBM, he would give me the eye roll and I would stfu.

Amma had her operation at the end of June, and her prep and recovery took a lot out of me as well. She stayed independent and I got a lot of help from my MIL, but the anxiety and the post operative care were squarely on me and that drained me more than I wanted to admit. Sage could not have chosen a worse time to take his epilepsy up a few notches and while I know the poor bugger had no say in the matter, it came like a cluster and stayed there with days and nights of no sleep and added anxiety.

Personally I wanted to push myself and see where it would take out of me. I have seen a surge of energy and enthusiasm in me when the going gets tough and I was relying purely on adrenalin to see me through what intelligence, hard work and planning couldn't supply. I have never been this driven to prove a point, or make something work. I have always been the person to do a recce and abandon a project if it seemed too much work. The last year and a half have made me mentally stronger if nothing else. And I was determined to listen to everyone who mattered and had an opinion, but only follow my heart and do what I felt was right.

I've always shied away from sales. And IFBM pushed the envelope for me. From talking about the concept and articulating it to the people who formed the team, getting bloggers to participate and most importantly get brands and sponsors on board. I had a few moments of feeling like an insecure housewife with no exposure to the corporate world, I felt I would be called out for being silly and worse still - stupid. But that didn't stop me. Talking to potential participants, vendors, partners, brands and team mates, no issues - Bring it on.

I had a few very uncomfortable conversations (more on that later, in another post) all through the run up and even post IFBM. I had conversations that had me clutching at my heart while I had them, but I had them. I didn't let my personal threshold for comfort come between what needed to be done. I discovered that if I am sincere and honest, I can speak my mind and not care about the repercussions.

As a blogger, IFBM was important to me for the sole reason that I had this vision to create a platform that would not be dwarfed by any single or a collective of individual bloggers. Having been a blogger for over 7 years now, I still see myself as an outsider to food blogging for several reasons. I don't have an agenda for my blog. After all these years, that still rings true. Design, photographs, stats and PR clout still don't bother me. The blog is something I love writing, but it will never have a frenzied agenda. It has led me to several things, the most life changing being my studio, but it will never take over my life. I acknowledge the many beautiful and successful blogs, the ones that have been monetized and those that have crossed over to being other successful things like writers and consultants.

So when we conceptualised IFBM, I wanted it to be a platform for bloggers of all kinds to come and make their own, small, big, old, new, regular and not so, famous and the unknown. The platform has now been created and it was heartening to see the bonding amongst bloggers from across the country. They met as old friends. I met several people I have known and admired through their blogs. Some felt like long lost friends and with some I know I will definitely keep in touch.

Several times during the course of this event, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Doing something with a set of like minded people who display enthusiasm and energy is one thing. Circumventing fragile egos and self appointed experts who only want the spotlight is something else. Twice I considered pulling out. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had. For one, I believe I am not a quitter, for the second, this was a dream I had nurtured for so long and that alone made me want to honour it and not give up.

Becoming a solutions seeker was another important lesson learnt. Not allowing any situation or person to bog me down. And never ever talking down to myself.

At times when there was complete lack of clarity, I just listened to my heart. Some very important decisions were made as a leap of faith and they totally reiterated that taking those leaps were the best things to do. Aloft the hotel was chosen by one such leap and I am a richer person to have partnered with them. They made me realise what passion, focus and humility to accept any kind of work would result in. They humbled me with the trust and belief they put in the event I represented and made me aim for much more especially at times when there wasn't much support coming through from any other source.

The sessions turned out to be value giving and I was happy for that. As a trainer and as a person with a very low threshold for failure and high personal standards, I know that the content needs to be worked on for the next time. While there were a few things which went awry, most of the event went very well and as per schedule. The ecstasy on the faces of the participants was testimony to how much they enjoyed it.

In the end, all those fears were put to rest and we pulled off a spectacular event. The press coverage has been kind and I have had to turn off the notifications on FB to stay sane after a couple of days!

I have a mile long list of things that need fixing. I didn't bask in the afterglow for very long because there was just so much physical and mental debris to clear out. After holding myself in high energy and alertness over 4 days, I had a sudden overwhelming wave of fatigue hit me. In one stroke, my body felt like lead and I advanced my ticket to return home. I could not have trudged through another day without burying my face in the fur of my puppy. As I boarded the flight back home, after an argument with the airline for excess baggage (20 kilos!) and stone cold idlis, I realised, for better or worse, I had done it. I had stayed the course and managed to put the result of something much larger than myself before me. It was finished…. I was free to go back home and play with my puppy and sleep and eat like a normal human.

I came back home with a raging fever that lasted 1 full day. I realised how much physical and mental bandwidth this event had taken out of me. But I was very pleased, that it didn't scare me, that it didn't get the better of me and the results were there for everyone to see.

If there is one very important lesson I learnt from IFBM, it was never ever to lower my standards for anything or anyone. To always stay focused on what is important. There will be many things that come as irritants, acknowledge them, but don't allow them to hijack what you set out to achieve.

In another time and day, I could have never done this. I was grateful for the support of R. For the voice of reason and non stop ear to my rants, we formed a formidable pair and it was nice to see that passion in another person. I drew from her strenght as I hope she was able to draw from me. Valuable lessons learnt, but importantly meaningful relationships strengthened.