Summit of Greatness 2019

Summit of Greatness 2019

Last weekend, I made my way to Columbus, Ohio for The Summit of Greatness hosted by Lewis Howes. This was my third time in attendance (had to miss last year due to The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa).

And it was my best time.

Not because any of the other speakers weren’t impactful or powerful (they absolutely were) or that I didn’t make beautiful connections (without a doubt I did). It’s because I could truly enjoy the experience by myself. No one has ever held me back but I did hold myself back when I attended with others.

Even when I had a couple of pangs of loneliness, they quickly went away because I knew it would be just a matter of time before I would strike up a conversation with a stranger who would soon become a friend.

The Summit started with a welcome party at the Columbus Commons. I got to reunite with old friends and meet a few new ones. One of the more notable parts was a tent devoted to crafting instant poems based on the word of intention for the weekend.

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Ready for Day 1!

A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.

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The first speaker was renowned singer Leann Rimes. Apparently, it was her first speaking engagement and her vulnerability was palpable. She spoke about the isolation of fame and her growth. She sang a beautiful song and led us all in a chant:

I am human.

I am holy.

Grace renews me.

It’s love that guides me.

The vibration and the spirit in the theater left many in tears including me.

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The next speaker was Ed Mylett. His idea of hell: meeting the person you could have become at the end of your life. This concept is not a new one to me but his phrasing was exceptional. He called it “chasing his twin.” He was unapologetic about his faith but at the same time inclusive of everyone and exuded humility. He seemed to be the perfect person to seek advice from for my future students at the nonprofit I work for. I took a chance and sent him a message. I was right! He sent me a voice message with wonderful recommendations and I will be eternally grateful for the time he took to send it.

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Kyle Cease was up next. He had a few messages that resonated with me but his emphasis of staying in the now was particularly impactful for me. Learning to embrace it is a non-negotiable for me as Hubby and I navigate life post health scares.

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Jesse Itzler, former rapper, serial entrepreneur and endurance athlete delivered an impassioned speech urging us to inject more adventure into our lives. He compared life to a bus that never stops and does not go in reverse. At 51, he completely rejects the notion of being “too old” and is smart about the risks he takes.

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Day 1 was great but I needed to take a minute to power down afterwards before heading to North Market for the Friday social. I loved on old friends I only get to see at Summit and was inspired by new ones. There was even a mural by Ruben Rojas painted representing our community.

Day 2 proved to be massively inspirational and incredibly fun! Marisa Peer’s message of “I am enough” and teaching us not to criticize ourselves was powerful. Our thoughts listen and execute the stories we tell about ourselves.

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The R&B group Final Draft performed for us. They were amazing and had great command of the stage. Dr. Alaa Murabit was incredibly impressive. She is a UN Commissioner, a doctor changing the world with her peacekeeping efforts. She graduated high school at 15, medical school at 21 and is only 29!I loved how she stressed that we should listen to all leaders of all ages. Heed the wisdom of those that came before us. Figure out what went wrong before, what was missing and execute from there. She said that a leader is not someone with a lot of followers. It’s someone who creates other leaders.

Stephan speaks offered us sage advice about relationships. I agreed we should be telling each other what we want and need specifically and the power of a written letter. Also, we are not responsible for anyone else’s healing. It was wonderful to see Lewis honor his team, volunteers and highlight Pencils of Promise and the hundreds of schools built all over the world.

In-Q closed out the conference with his soul stirring poetry. There was also a special video from Sean Stephenson. He recently passed and his message to love our bodies, love ourselves was the perfect note to end on. The closing party was a blast and the return of DJ Irie did not disappoint. I danced until I ached. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a couple of hours of sleep, I was at the airport, reeling from the weekend. On my layover in Philly, I ran into Elec Simon who was just as gracious and personable as he seemed on stage.

It’s all over until 2020.

So what now?

I found that when I was the most engaged, it was with people who travel, seek adventure, take action and are creative. In addition to hitting my fitness and writing/teaching goals, I want to create my own (mostly) solo adventures.

That part of myself has been slightly repressed over the years due to letting myself become distracted with work, relationships and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness. Realizing it was painful but it is a box I don’t have to stay in.

I can tell myself a new story.

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Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.

Chances

Chances

I finally feel like I have turned a corner. I took a chance and proposed bringing a creative writing workshop to my job. I am proud to say it was accepted and in a few months, I will be teaching. It made my rejection from the residency I applied for much more palatable. I truly believe what’s for me is for me.

This year will also be my third time at The Summit of Greatness in Columbus, Ohio. I couldn’t go last year due to being selected for The Storyteller Project at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Although I have zero regrets about my choice to go to Alabama, I did miss my Greatness community. Everytime I go, a couple of things happen: I come back home with renewed energy to finish a project and I look forward to how we all change and grow the next year.

It’s a relief that I come away with being propelled into action. I never wanted to be someone who loves standing, jumping around, dancing and listening to successful people and then come home to do nothing but listen to podcasts and drown myself only in self-help books and other conferences. I see how easy it would be to get caught up in that world without creating your own but it wouldn’t be worth it for me.

But I am not interested in focusing on what I don’t want.

I want to focus on the fun and love I will undoubtedly experience and how it will drive me to keep taking chances until we all meet again.

A Handwritten Note

A Handwritten Note

When I was at the Summit of Greatness in September, psychotherapist Esther Perel gave advice to a man seeking to repair a romantic relationship: Send her a handwritten note.

Outside of the obvious things anyone should be doing to win someone back, maintain a friendship or romantic relationship, that was one of the best pieces of advice I had ever heard. I was sure I was not the only one because the whole theater was buzzing right after she said it.

It also caused me to think about two things: The last time I received a hand-written note and the last time I sent one. I write extra notes on greeting cards to my mother and father  (my husband and I do not exchange gifts/cards..we plan experiences with each other for our birthdays/holidays). Outside of those occasions, everything is typed or texted.

And since then, a co-worker and a good friend from my writing group have given me cards with handwritten notes on it. Even opening them immediately lit me up inside. It also conjured up memories of a small poem my husband wrote me when we were first married and my participation for a short time in moreloveletters.com which encourages people to leave anonymous uplifting letters tucked away in public spaces. The content almost never matters. For me, it is the time taken.

Because it’s the one thing we can’t get back.

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

I picked “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert back up again. I have a horrible habit, especially with non-fiction, personal development books of reading a quarter of the way or halfway through, sitting it down and diving into another one. It got worse after coming back from Summit of Greatness 2017 with a whole new stack to add to my dysfunction.

Lately,  I have been reading a few pages every morning of Big Magic and there have been several moments where I have been slapping an invisible Elizabeth Gilbert hi-five in my bedroom.

Here are a couple of the gems that caused me to act a fool:

  1. On keeping a day job: “I held on to those sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay their bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.”

That passage was screaming at me earlier this week. It was the exact confirmation I needed that I had made the right choice to leave where I was to provide more for our family. The insight was impactful because I realized I was putting undue pressure on my creativity and to be frank, I am not there yet. I will get there but it will take time. I will work on my craft and my discipline in the meantime.

2. On Permission: “It doesn’t matter in the least. Let people have their opinions. More than that–let people be  in love with their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you  require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business. Lastly, remember what W.C. Fields had to say on this point: “It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.”

When I decided to leave my career at Social Services a few years back, I did not encounter a lot of negativity but I did have some hesitation about proclaiming my choice to pursue writing when I shouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation at all. It was between me and my God, me and my husband and me and my creativity.

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Outside of writing, dancing and a couple of other commitments this weekend, I will devote my time to work on this dysfunction and blissfully get lost in the joy of reading “Big Magic.”

Day 3 of #bloglikecrazy is in the books!

Reflections on SOG 2017

Reflections on SOG 2017

It’s been one week since I completed the Water-Workout-Write 21-Day Challenge. I made new commitments, too: working out 5 days a week, drinking 100 oz. of water each day, writing two essays and sending one pitch to a publication weekly and blogging two days a week. For now, I picked Tuesdays and Thursdays. My intention was to start on Monday. I knew I would be back from attending The Summit of Greatness in Columbus, Ohio and well-rested. I did workout yesterday but my old habit of not drinking enough water reared its ugly head. I am back on it today and will most likely finish my intake in a couple of hours. I may work out later but if I don’t, I will complete my other four Wednesday-Saturday.

Today was unexpected. My brother called and asked me to lunch before he headed back out of town. Seeing as I didn’t know he arrived yesterday, it was a pleasant surprise. And not the first. I was so happy to see him. Not just because he’s my brother but because he is a friend and a good sounding board. After last week at Summit, there was much to reflect on and discuss.

One of which was the decision to go this year. I went last year and the experience was life-changing. There were hundreds of us, cheerleading each other, not knowing what was to come and having these instantaneous deep conversations with people who just happened to be standing next to you in line. The connections forged made me want to come back. I was excited but there were goals I knew I had set for myself that I did not reach, like finishing the book I was working on at the time. But of course, that is no reason not to recognize the strides I did make like taking Life in 10 Minutes with Valley Haggard, Pens Up Fears Down with Sadeqa Johnson, pitching my book at the James River Writer’s Conference, applying for my first fellowship, starting this site, expanding my social media presence, gaining a wonderful group of friends who also write (my tribe!) and finally getting around to printing up my business cards.

 

So, there was no real reason not to go. And I am so grateful that I did. This time my husband came with me. And that was one of the best gifts. Getting to see it through his eyes. Even though the magic of experiencing it for the first time was no longer there for me, watching him crane his neck around at the Southern Theater and hesitantly open up to a fellow attendee about his business goals made me realize how much time away from your “everyday” is needed. The Summit of Greatness is a jolt to the system, a soul-stirring reminder of what we could be if we are only willing to let go of what we thought we are or supposed to be.

We started off by registering last Wednesday the 13th and then attending a dinner which was mostly a casual reunion of last year’s attendees and enjoying the treat of meeting some new faces. And that is when I knew we were off to a good start. My heart was so warm and full at the sight of these people who I hadn’t even seen in nearly a year, except for online of course. It’s weird seeing people leap off of a screen and into your arms for a big old bear hug but it’s a good weird!

The next day was official Day 1. A highlight for me was poet Najwa Zebian and her loving embrace of her sensitivity and vulnerability. She exuded a quiet power. Tears were rolling down my cheeks during the Q&A portion of her time. Esther Perel was whip smart and funny! Her observations of the evolution of relationships like how we are looking to one person to fulfill all our needs compared to the past when it was a whole village was a major Aha moment for me.

Chris Lee’s emphasis on the power of giving moved me. When you’re depressed, give! When you’re happy, give! When you are lonely, give! His visualization exercise asking us what and where we want to be in 10 years was particularly memorable for me because he asked us to start it by saying that age out loud which was jarring for me. Then the tears came again.

Day 2 was quite a finale. My parents also came to Summit and the four of us sat on the first floor as compared to the balcony on Day 1 and the impact was powerful. The close proximity of the thumping drums and the cries of excitement made me want to jump to my feet immediately. As for speakers, Chris Guillebeau made another case about the power of the introvert. His energy was quieter but not boring in any way. He was promoting his new book “Side Hustle” and showed tangible evidence of people who started a side hustle, not a part-time job and grew it into a real business. He was practical and his approach made me want to listen deeply. I cannot wait to read his book! Mel Robbins came and brought the house down with her quick wit and insights and presented her 5-Second Rule. She delved into the science behind counting down…5, 4, 3, 2, 1..Go! When you wait too long to take action, we tend to stay still. She showed us how 5 seconds can change everything. Another read on my mile-high list from this weekend.

Tim Storey simply took us to church. There was a lot of call and response which made him entertaining but there was a message in his rhyme and swagger. He spoke about impartation, incubation and maturation phases in your life and shared about his work with people in addiction recovery. Brendon Burchard, the number one online marketer, was the closing keynote speaker. His emphasis was on the habits of high performers. I loved how he talked about bringing the joy every day. He took a moment to ask us all to think of three words that exemplify who we want to be, set and name an alarm with those three words for 10:00 am. We even had a dance break moment and I found myself admiring the interactive nature of his speech.

To cap off the conference, there was a dance party at Express Live with DJ Irie. The crowd was live and the music had us dancing for hours on end. Lewis, his Mom, Tim Storey, and even DJ Irie himself crowd surfed. The dancers that were teaching as a part of morning workouts last year came back and danced their collective faces off on stage.

As if this hasn’t been long enough, there is so much I am missing including the performers that danced and sang so beautifully for us, Lewis giving away his book as a surprise, Nick Onken’s art piece connecting all of us from all over this country and 20 others and hugs at every turn.

I am thankful. I am grateful.

Day 20

Day 20

Almost there!

It included a lot of walking, work and trying to stave off coughing fits. I even went shopping, trying on a few things that made me feel pretty. I am not one for shopping. Any one of my friends, family or husband can attest to that. I like fashion but I just like to buy what I need and hightail it out of there. It is completely different shopping for books. I enjoy settling in and burying my face in several books before deciding which ones get to take the trip home with me.

This evening it’s just been cooking. I am trying something new, a quinoa and sweet potato chili from Whole Foods along with vegan mac and cheese and green beans. Later, I am going to outline post-challenge goals. My birthday is November 16th and I return from the Summit of Greatness on September 16th. I am thinking my writing and wellness goals will have something to do with those 60 days. Off to eat dinner but excited to share more of my takeaways and the next leg of my journey tomorrow.

Stay tuned for Day 21!!!

Day 16

Day 16

Day 16 of my 21-Day Water-Workout-Write 21-Day Challenge

I am still at rest, hoping my breathing goes back to normal so I can resume my life. There are many times I love lying around the house, reading, catching up on new shows and movies, talking on the phone and chilling with hubby. But I have had my fill. That is probably because it’s not my choice. I feel grounded.

However, I can be grateful for the time that I do have to rest up because next week I will be on the road to go to the Summit of Greatness in Columbus, OH hosted by Lewis Howes. It’s strange how fast a year goes by. I went to the 1st annual event last year. I am looking forward to being energized by the sheer amount of goal-driven people from all over the planet converging together in one theater to listen to titans of industry in motivational speaking, sports, psychology and coaching. I wonder what take-aways I will come home with this year. Last year, I learned how vital it is to move forward, even if it’s limping forward from Fabio Viviani and courtesy of Stacy London, the thing that you think that you are trying to hide is the thing people notice the most.

I am also writing a guest blog post. I pitched an idea that was accepted and I am sending off my piece this weekend! I love the idea of contributing to another blogger and building each other’s platforms up. Even though I feel sidelined, I am still attacking my goals.

And not a soul can take that away from me.

Stay tuned for Day 17!