“You always feel like you are in the wrong place at Davos,
like there is some better meeting going on somewhere
in one of the hotels that you really ought to be at.
Like the real Davos is happening in secret somewhere.”
– Steve Case, founder of AOL
It’s World Economic Forum time again, which means it’s time for the above quote from Steve Case, which I love oh so much. I’ve seen the quote mentioned a lot this year (although it’s from last year, if not earlier) in criticisms of the Davos event, but even without having ever been to Davos, I’ve never really felt like that was the point. Case isn’t complaining about the WEF event. Case is talking about the absurdity of human nature.
I’ve written about this before, in the context of telling you there really is no secret awesome party that you’re missing. I mean, there may be something you’re not invited to or don’t know about that’s all A-list and aspirational in your head, but really, it’s probably just the same as the party you’re at. Same social behaviors, same insecurities, same level of joy and fun and not.
The other thing Case’s quote tells us, though, isn’t just that this feeling never goes away – we are all in junior high forever – but that this feeling may actually get more intense the more successful, the more near the epicenter of supposed cool, we are.
It’s like how you can halve something infinitely, but it will never really be gone. Success is like that in one direction — how sure is anyone of where the top of the mountain is? And insecurity is like that in the other — none of us ever get to be free from all shreds of it all the time.
Currently, I’m in the place I’m often in, in the month before Gallifrey One, a Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles. I’m excited, and I’m full of dread. The Whedonistas launch is rad, and I’ll get to see some friends I only get to see out there, and I have some business to attend to in LA proper (and some non-business, in the form of ElecTRONica, because I am a big screaming nerd).
But I’m also worried I won’t be cool because I’m probably not cosplaying much if at all this year (although Christian’s been informed he can bribe me into my Captain Jack duds with a pin he’s threatening to make up that’s both snarky and zen on the subject of our dear, departed Ianto Jones), am not really doing panels this go ’round, and will be away from the hotel during the event far more than I usually am (it’s not just about In-and-Out Burger anymore!). I’m also worried that — well, I could enumerate it further, but why, when it’s actually so simple? I’m worried I won’t be invited to sit at the cool kids table.
Which gets us back to Steve Case and his comments about Davos. At an event teaming with celebrities, world leaders, and the best of the best in business all in easy arms reach, Steve Case worries about not being cool enough to mingle with the people he’s already mingling with. In regard to a con that’s largely about not creating hierarchy between guests and fans, in a fandom that is known for very significant levels of fan/creator overlap (guess how many current DW writers wrote for DW fanzines in the ’80s) and genuine friendships developing over these supposed lines of demarcation and reverence, I am, apparently, worried about the con not being exactly what it is? I’m worried about me not doing what I’ve always gone there and experienced? I’m worried about not networking with people I want to chat and network with precisely because I’m chatting and networking with those people? What? Time for me to stop being Steve Case.
Because seriously, being Steve Case — normally a pretty good, if slightly weird, aspirational blueprint. Not the guy I would choose as a role model, but I get it certainly. But Steve Case re: Davos? Maybe not so much, although I’m certainly feeling his pain on this one.
Look, the cool party generally isn’t that interesting (or at least not any more interesting than where you are instead). It’s probably happening right where you are, and that’s not just feel good rhetoric. But even if I’m wrong, whatever you do, don’t use the fact that you are having an experience to suddenly become fearful that, that somehow means you’re not having that experience. Because that? Doesn’t make a lot of sense. It also tends to lead to highly tortured sentences.
Meanwhile, I? Cannot wait to get to L.A. It’s snowing here. Again.