I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few conferences in the past 3 years, and *whew* it takes a lot of energy and stamina. I just attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women 2018, and I wanted to share what went on there and take some time to reflect on my past experiences.
Previous Conference Experiences
If the conference is well-planned, you can feel the excitement and energy in the room. You also leave the conference motivated, ready to make moves in your life. What happens to me after conferences, though, is I’m pumped and have so much adrenaline and ready to make changes. Then life gets in the way and I go, “Ahhh… I can make changes later”, and it never happens! I lose momentum.
In this podcast discussion post, Annie and I talked about taking new ideas and incorporating it into our lives. That’s my main goal for this conference: be excited, stay excited, and then do something about it.
Prepping for the Conference
On the flight to Boston, I jotted down some intentions and strategies for the conference.
- Have 3 great conversations with 3 different people. Great would be feeling like I connected with a person on a deeper level than “What do you do?”
- Get better at short and meaningful talk. Be bold and ask someone about themselves first, don’t forget to talk about myself, and end graciously.
- Narrow down the issues that I would like to dedicate energy to now. This can spin off into a long conversation, so the short version is: I love sharing things that I experience and consume and learn about, and I love helping others. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start this blog. I also have a lot of interests, such as supporting and promoting Asians and Asian-Americans; helping the formerly incarcerated; supporting women; being a better US citizen; supporting local businesses; and more. If I were to attack all of the issues I am interested in at once, I’d be spreading myself out too thin and wouldn’t be able to make an impact anywhere. So this intention is to figure out where I want to put my energy towards first.
Highlights from the Conference
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
I haven’t read the book or watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love. It has been on my to-do list for several years now, so don’t expect that to be done any time soon. She wasn’t a loud speaker, but the way she commanded the room and told her stories… wow. Elizabeth made every story serve a purpose, and each story was lighthearted yet poignant.
- On passion and curiosity: “Take passion out of your vocabulary. If you have one, you’ll know. Passion demands full commitment and there are times when you don’t have time and energy for that. Curiosity is a friend that’s very quiet… and much more manageable.” Elizabeth says that it is okay if you don’t have a passion. A great alternative is that you’re curious and willing to satisfy your curiosity.
- On perfection: “Perfection is fear in disguise.”
- On pro-half-assing things: ‘Done is better than good. Follow the path of half-ass. Aim for great, and then be okay with saying, “Good enough.”‘
- A kind of self-care advice for women: “Dial it in. If you dial it back to 7 from 10, no one will notice. Your 70% is still going to be better than anybody else’s work. No one will care.” I really like this one because it is true. I’ve dialed it in at work and nobody has noticed, and I feel happier.
- On learning life lessons: “Most of us will only learn lessons once we are broken. Just because I can do everything doesn’t mean I can do everything well. Learn before you crash.” There was an extension of that: just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should. As humans, we shouldn’t be only learning lessons by crashing and burning ourselves. There are many others who are willing to give their lessons learned – learn from them.
- On being relaxed: “The most important revolution is to be able to relax in the middle of a tornado. Every martial artist knows this: the most relaxed person in the room holds all the power because that person has access to all the things they need. Imagine the hardest thing you are going through right now. Is it still going to be there tomorrow? If it is, then will be better [to face it] if you are relaxed and approach the situation?”
- At the end of the day: “It’s gonna be alright.”
Breakout Session #1 – “Super-Connectors: Build a Network of Relationships, Not Just Contacts (POE)”
This was a panel of women who talked about a better and more meaningful way to approach networking. A lot of it are things you probably heard before, but they are worth repeating:
- Reach out with no agenda. Reach out during someone’s good times and bad times. Give 10 times before you take. One panelist was a sports journalist and relayed a story where she called someone she recently met just to say good job, good game. The other person was shocked that there was no agenda. She continued to congratulate him on his successes, and condolences on his losses. Working on the relationship was good because when she was looking for a new job, he secretly gave her recommendations without her finding out.
- Focus on the who, not the do. There is more to people besides their job title. Be genuine about meeting a new person. Be warm, which one panelist defined as kindness plus sincerity plus curiosity.
- Talk on airplanes. Networking increases the chances of serendipity. It could lead to your new best friend or husband – both happened to the same panelist!
Although the tips were things I’ve heard many times before, it was good reinforcement and reminder that I am in the long game of life. I love talking to people, and I am a curious person. Networking doesn’t have to be a grimy thing.
Write a Letter to My Future Self
There are lots of women-owned businesses and stations at the conference. This station from Liberty Mutual asked attendees to write a letter to their future selves. I love documenting changes, so I figured why not?
Breakout Session #2 – “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better”
The second breakout session I attended was held by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. The original speaker had a family emergency, so Dr. Marshall stepped in. He was already at the conference promoting his new book that he co-authored, How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job. Dr. Marshall is also an executive coach, so we basically got a free coaching session.
We did an exercise on peer coaching and discussed why it could be so effective. It went something like this:
Person 1: Hi, my name is (blank).
Person 2: I am (blank).
Person 1: Something I’m working on is (blank).
Person 2: Oh! Maybe you can try (this).
Person 1: Thank you! What are you working on?
Person 2: I am (blank).
Person 1: One thing to keep in mind is (that).
Person 2: Thank you!
Some of the takeaways we learned from this short exercise:
- We don’t have to be better than others to help them.
- Thank people if they give you feedback. You have nothing to lose but a lot to gain.
Another tool he spoke about is just asking someone, “How can I be a better (blank) to you?” That could be daughter, father, boyfriend, wife, friend… anything. He shared a story about this that made me cry in the session because I realized what a bad daughter I am to my parents, so I plan on asking them this question when I see them in December.
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has lived a long life, and from his experience, he says there are three lessons he’s learned:
- Be happy now.
- If you have a dream, go for it.
- Friend and family are everything.
This was the best conference yet, mainly because of the current life stage I am in. Being on the road while working full-time has changed me in terms of what I want to do and what my purpose in life is.
I didn’t stay at the conference the entire day because from my past experiences, I get drained mid-afternoon and then I feel overwhelmed with all these ideas and it de-motivates me. I left at a point when I still felt good and excited about what I have consumed so far, and made a roadmap of what I wanted to do after the conference.
A look back to my intentions:
- Have 3 great conversations with 3 different people. I did not nail this one, but I put myself out there more this year than previous one’s, so I feel good about that. This is what Elizabeth was talking about – aim for greatness, and then settle for okay.
- Get better at short and meaningful talk. I feel like I’ve achieved this. I am a naturally curious person. When I meet people, my brain starts going off like, “Who are you? What do you do and why do you do it? What are you doing here? What do you enjoy?” In the past, I’ve inundated strangers with questions, but now I am better at figuring out the 1-2 questions that I really want to know and creating conversation around that.
- Narrow down the issues that I would like to dedicate energy to now. Yes, I have! For this period of my life, I want to:
- Grow this blog with Annie.
- Be a better advocate, especially for women and formerly incarcerated people.
- Build relationships with people, including my family.
Attending the conference helped me figure out a few things in my life, and I feel confident in the decisions I made. As I move forward, I will definitely be sharing my experiences. What are some things you want to work on? Let me know in the comments below!