Lift Up Others, Learn, Grow

It was a day full of inspiration, one of those that just sticks with you. What seemed like small moments throughout the day keep coming back to me, much deeper and larger in application in real life.

The Helena Women's Leadership Network had their annual conference on Friday, October 7th. There were just over 100 women in a large room with a small stage and podium up front. To one side of the stage was a comfortably arranged sitting area, complete with a soft, plush leather couch and a side table. The sitting area was set up for speakers for each session to relax and support each other before standing in front of that incredible audience. That's just one of the many small details that made the day special.

My presentation on body language was scheduled in the first part of the day. I sat on the couch feeling more than a little giddy and very nervous. I was taking a big risk in my plan for my presentation, using props that could be fantastic at best, embarrassing at worst. It doesn't matter how many times I present to an audience, no matter how many times I sing for a crowd, my nerves exacerbate my essential tremors and I find my hands shaking. If I'm feeling that anxious, despite my years of experience, I realized as I sat next to the other women getting ready to take the stage, that they may be feeling even more of that rush of adrenaline. So I calmed myself, taking deep breaths, and focused my energy on providing comforting, peaceful energy for the women around me.

It's amazing how that focused energy and goal to help others changes things.

There were intentional themes for the event, the organizers selected the additional speakers based on their complementary themes with the keynote, Bonnie Milletto, and her messages of inspiration, service to others, and trust and belief in ourselves.

As much as I saw, heard, and embraced those themes across all presentations, there was another, more subtle one that I noticed and felt deeply. It was vulnerability.

Every woman who took the stage, no matter how practiced, how experienced, how successful, every one of us mentioned being nervous. Each woman had her own way of sharing that theme, one said that she hadn't eaten that morning, "which is why I didn't throw up." How's that for vulnerable?

Why is this important? Why is vulnerability such an essential part of who we are, no matter where we are in life? Because it demonstrates our humanity. Vulnerability is not about weakness. Vulnerability is about choosing to step out of our comfort zone and put ourselves into a place of unpredictability, it's about taking risks. Brené Brown has made a successful career of studying this concept and helping millions of people understand the value of vulnerability. She has made this part of our vocabulary in the professional world, and people are finally figuring out that demonstrating our humanity is actually a good thing.

Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to meet in person and online some absolutely incredible people. I saw Rickie Lee Jones in a small venue, sat right up front and interacted with her. One of my heroes, Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself, published my writing as a guest on her blog twice in the past few years. And I spent time on the phone with Karthik Rajan, one of the LinkedIn writers I've admired (and, let's face it, put on a pedestal) for years. Here's the message I want to share with people: We are all flawed. We are all beautifully flawed human beings. No one is superior to another. Every one of us has something to learn from each person with whom we have the opportunity to interact. Every one of us has the ability, the responsibility to lead others by example in considerate, compassionate behavior.

Here's your challenge: Talk to people. Trust yourself, believe you have something to offer to every single person you meet. Never underestimate your value and your ability to serve others. Your words and actions are powerful, choose to use them with consideration, kindness, and compassion.

Thanks to the women who participated in the event, the day was full of inspiration and each participant brought the necessary energy to make it happen. A special thanks the board of the Women's Leadership Network for making this outstanding event happen.