40 Days and Lessons Learned

I’ve just finished 40 days on the road, delivering talks for people who have been kind enough to invite me to share the ideas of the #socialera. Corporate events, and HR conferences and such have had me zig-zagging all over the place.

That has meant flying into #Sandy, and not knowing which city I would need to drive to, so I could fly to the next event. It has meant coming home for 30+ hours only to turn around and board another flight. It has meant a bedroom floor with stuff all over it as I dump from one trip and prepare for the next. I am both exhilarated and tired by the experience. As I reflect on it, the thing that strikes me is how much I learned and grew. And before I take these experiences for granted, I want to share what I learned from these recent trips in case it might help you in whatever you are working on …

  1. Let the Audience Change You. So much content today can be consumed in an asynchronous fashion. Meaning the sender and receiver need not be in the same space or having the shared experience. So, when we are in the same room, it’s an opportunity to connect, not just deliver. And by connect, I mean be engaged with one another. To create some experience that can’t just be piped in via video. Designing a presentation without an audience is like writing a love letter & addressing it ‘to whom it may concern” and showing up to deliver the same talk you’ve already delivered is like acting like every person you are dating is the same person. The joy of in-person work is to be there, fully present, to this venue, this community, and this conversation – which means creating anew and adapting as needed. This can come out in many ways, such as connecting my idea to a prior speaker’s point, or to make fun of an experience we all just shared. I’ve reduced (and in many cases eliminated) slides so I can focus on the moment. And, what I’ve learned is that letting myself be open meant each moment was fresh. You may not be a professional speaker, but you can allow every interaction to be a fresh open moment if you are fully present to it.
  2. Be comfortable. My ability to be present is directly tied to how much my feet hurt while standing there. Women do crazy things for the sake of a look, and I used to think it was an “either/or” situation – that either could look stylish or be comfortable and now I’ve discovered that if I look hard enough I can satisfy both requirements. These boots are really similar to a pair Santa bought me last year. (Which reminds me, they really need to get to the shoeshine place, cause I’ve worn them so much in the last few months.) I used to worry about being “too stylish” for a crowd or too casual or too “whatever” and now my big thing insight is this: to be comfortable in what I wear and be comfortable with myself. If you are comfortable, everyone is. I recommend starting with your feet.
  3. Celebrate Humanness. In reflection on the 40 days, I realize it’s not the “big stuff” that I remember – not the thousands of people in an audience, or the opportunities to present at Fortune or speaking at the NYSE. The moments I remember are “little things” – that happened along the way:  The way a hotel clerk got me some hot-lemon-honey water to help my sore and overworked throat even though it was 2 in the morning when I arrived and everything was closed up for the night. The vulnerable conversation that a CEO felt they could have with me to find a way forward out of a mess. The French fry lunch at Brasserie. Scotch drinks with friends, some new and some old. The 7 am meeting walk in Central Park. Or, seeing the final presidential debate with some new friends in Brooklyn. The walk along the river in Boston. Dinner with friends in each city, post-events. The stuff I remember from this long journey isn’t the awesomeness of the big, but the specifics of the small. Not what I ate (although I did manage to eat well) or even what was said (as insightful as it was) but the moment of meeting and connecting. I used to not spend as much time pre-planning the connections and meetings and yet I’m coming to realize it’s what I remember the most because it’s what matters most. All of the humanness is the stuff any of us remember. And it’s a lesson to me to prioritize this up in my life. In this day of living so much of life facing a computer, being with one another and dialoguing is going to grow in importance.

I’m now home, looking forward to reconnecting with the family and spending some time first catching up and then writing more. I hope wherever you are this Thanksgiving weekend, you are doing something that brings you GREAT joy and that you are at a place in your life for which you can give thanks. I am super thankful for this Yes & Know community. Gobble, Gobble.


(p.s. Thanks to CeCe Telesco who created the photo montage for this post.)


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