Thoughts from #MisfitCon — a week later

MisfitCon BillboardLast year, I left #MisfitCon with pages of detailed notes. This year, one of the most striking things about my notes is how scant they are. For many speakers, I just wrote down one or two thoughts. For some speakers, I didn’t write down anything at all.

Towards the end of Saturday, I was pondering why I wasn’t taking more notes and to be honest I think it’s because this year’s #MisfitCon was more about my heart than my brain.

One of the hardest parts about being a bit of an introvert is that I have a hard time creating connections with people I don’t know. I will often go in to social settings and sit in a corner and people watch vs. interact. One of the best parts about being a returnee to this year’s MisfitCon is that there were already so many people that I met last year or (even if I didn’t talk to them at all last year) interacted with on Facebook over the course of this past year and I felt immediately among friends.

I ate at Hotel Donaldson four nights in a row — each night with a different group of people. (A couple of those dinners I invited myself to, and I hope people didn’t mind.)

It’s interesting that I’ve come away from two conferences this year — the nonprofit technology conference a few months ago and now MisfitCon — where the interactions that I had with people had so much more of an impact than what happened “on stage”.

My big takeaways from this year’s MisfitCon are really similar to last year’s … with a few twists.

  • I am important and unique. No one else can tell my story or add what I can creatively to the world. If I don’t do it, no one else will.
  • Be bold. Take risks.
  • Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission.
  • Being uncomfortable is okay. Making other people uncomfortable is okay.

Farewell, Fargo

MisfitCon BillboardIn a few hours, I will be leaving Fargo after an amazing #misfitcon weekend.

If you’re wondering, “why Fargo?”, go read this.

On Friday morning Jonathan Fields spoke about making sure all of our buckets were full. While my vitality bucket is a little low and will need replenishing over the next couple of weeks, my connection bucket is full and overflowing.

I feel as if I have been recharged and that I’m now ready to take on the next 360 or so days until next year’s MisfitCon.

It hasn’t been announced whether next year’s conference will be here in Fargo or some other awesomely quirky location, but I love the time I’ve spent in this town this year and last year.

If only the winters weren’t so cold and snowy …

Gotta do more … gotta be more

I woke up this morning with a couple scenes from Dead Poet’s Society running through my head.

This is how I feel after an amazing two days hanging with the misfits. gotta do more. gotta be more.

This year’s conference was so amazing. (And, we still have the film festival and I’m sure what will be more amazing conversations and chats with folks today!)

I had probably 3 or 4 people last night — mostly new folks to the whole misfitcon experience — asking me if this year’s conference was better or worse than last year’s. Where would I rank it? To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. There were many things *different* about this year’s conference — the number of attendees, some of the locations, some of the speakers, etc. — but it wasn’t better or worse than last years. It was just different.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Melissa and AJ gave me to come share my story and share my journey. The presentation is still a work in progress and a bit rough around the edges. If you came up and talked to me in the past couple of days about my presentation, thank you. It meant a lot to me. If you take anything away from my presentation, my hope is that you will be able to apply some of the things I do in your own life to be more awesome … to be more world-changing than most of you already are.

It was great to hear from some of the same presenters from last year and hear how their journeys have grown and changed just in the past 12 months. It was in true misfit-style that they were willing to share that even though some of them may have had more growth in their ventures than any other year, that they were still struggling with what was next and where things were headed.

I know, especially if last year was any indication, that most of the real insights from #misfitcon will come in the quiet moments in the days and weeks to come. I do already have a couple of things running through my head:

a) Creativity is an essential part of life. Whether that creativity is part of what earns you a paycheck (hopefully it is) or something else, finding those moments to be creative is crucial.

b) Only you are uniquely you. Don’t hide that from the world.

Being inspired by Dan Hallberg

For the past year or so as I’ve worked hard to write more and to write better, one person that frequently comes to mind is Dan Hallberg.

Dan was an amazing young man I knew at Northland College. We became friends because we were often in the same literature or writing courses, which given the size of Northland College were always really small.

20 years ago today, Dan and three other Northland students were killed in a car crash on the way home from a Grateful Dead concert.

In my opinion, Dan was one of the best writers attending Northland College in the early 90s. He had a skill and a talent that I wished I had at the time.

A few days after Dan died, when classes had resumed, one of our professors read a piece that Dan had written the week before he died and had turned in for the latest assignment. I don’t remember the words, but I remember how it made me feel. It made me inspired and also so very sad that the person that had written it was gone.

The picture on this post was taken by Dan Nordstrom, another friend from Northland College, and is a group of trees that were planted in memory of the four students that died. They serve as a living memory to their lives.

I hope those that knew and loved Dan, Elise, Brad & Scott are available to find comfort today.

Today I Will Not Sit in the Chair

“Sit in the Chair” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot this past year — and it’s a phrase that I’ve tried to apply to certain parts of my life. It’s similar to “fake it ’til you make it”. There are certain tasks that require you to “Sit in the Chair” and sometimes that means staring at a blank word document for a really long time waiting for the inspiration to come. Sometimes it means doing that “one thing” that you really don’t want to do in order to move your goals forward. Sometimes it means working on that one beast of a project just to get out to the other side.

But, today, I am literally not going to “Sit in the Chair” … instead, I’m going to get up on stage in front of several hundred people and tell a very personal story about my life.

For years, I told everyone around me that I was okay with being the “behind the scenes girl”, and that I didn’t want the spotlight. The truth was, I didn’t think that I was worthy of the spotlight and so me hiding behind a different identity made it all okay.

I’ve also at times shied away from telling my story due to familial pressure. Keeping secrets is still a strong pull 20+ years later.

I was also told that being vocal about my personal story — whether it related to my life growing up or my struggles with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome — was going to be career suicide. No one wants to know those types of things about an employee, so it’s best if you just sit quietly.

Today, I’m breaking that apart. This room full of people will be filled with past, present and possibly future business colleagues. They are going to hear about my struggles and how I made it through some of the darkest times anyone should ever have to overcome.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.

I also wouldn’t be here today and ready to tell this story without the support of “community” and there are a couple of people I need to thank in this post.

First, AJ & Melissa Leon and the community of misfits. The idea and structure for the presentation I’m about to give today was literally “born” at MisfitCon last year. The understanding that I have a unique story to tell and that I need to be fearless about telling it was inspired by you and the group of people you put on stage.

Second, Jon Acuff and his community of Starters, Dreamers & Hustlers. Today is one huge examples of “punching fear in the face”, and I’m not sure I would have made it to this point without the community that you built and the words that you used to inspire.

And, my team at work. When I first floated the idea of pitching a “very personal” story to present, I received full support and have continued to receive a huge amount of support along the way. I appreciate that so much.

And, finally, to all the people in my community, especially folks on Facebook who have been super supportive — especially as I agonized over each and every slide and got a bit obsessive.

Today, I will not Sit in the Chair. And, while my stomach is in knots as I write this I know that this is exactly where I need to be.

Lena Dunham, female comedians should take more responsibility — not less

Some background on what I’m about to say later in this blog post:

  1. Lena Dunham is a multi-faceted woman in Hollywood. She’s a comedian, actress, director, creator, writer and many other things.
  2. Lena created and stars in a popular show on HBO called Girls 
  3. I have never watched Girls 
  4. In the show Girls, Lena Dunham’s character gets naked a lot
  5. Lena has received a heavy amount of criticism due to the fact that her character gets naked a lot — a fair amount of this criticism is leveled at Lena because of her body shape (she’s not a size 0 model)
  6. Lena hosted Saturday Night Live this past Saturday where she got naked
  7. Lena received a lot of Twitter-hate and Twitter-rage about getting naked on SNL
  8. Lena sent a very inappropriate tweet on Sunday night about child / familial molestation and her nakedness
  9. Lena deleted the tweet and apologized
  10. Part of her apology stated “Not if they were a fifty year old man. But by my lights women can have a lot of joke flexibility. Ya gotta get by in this world”

Whew! That’s a lot of background bullet points.

Here’s the thing. Rape jokes should never be okay. Whether you’re a 50-year-old man or a 20-something female comedian.

As bad as rape jokes are, jokes about molestation are even worse and have no place in our culture.

And, a 20-something female comedian — especially one who champions women’s rights as strongly as Lena does in other instances — should be even more aware about the impact of those words.

Lena blamed her tweet on Sunday on being sleepy. And, while I don’t consider that a valid excuse for this type of joke, I do hope she learns something from the backlash about how inappropriate it was.

Update on my 2014 goals

It’s been two months since I put together my list of goals for 2014, and I thought it would be worthwhile to check in and see where I’m at. I plan on doing this again in a couple of months.

Goals for 2014: 

  • Write 500,000 words (this includes this blog, sueannereed.com, my posts on engageyourcause.com and other writing)
    • January was a pretty good month towards my writing goals. I wrote 13k words in January. In February, things kind of went the wrong direction and I only wrote 3,800 words. Part of it was being sick, and part of it was a focus on getting things ready for the Nonprofit Technology Conference. I’m planning on getting back on track in March. I’m going to have to have some really great months over the summer to make up for the slower months I’ve had already. 
  • Launch the Nashville 501 Tech Club meetup and hold at least 6 meetups in 2014
    • No progress on this yet
  • Get more involved in the Nashville nonprofit community
    • No progress on this yet
  • Have at least one speaking engagement that is about my life and not about nonprofits or online marketing
    • On March 13th, this is becoming a reality when I give my Ignite presentation at the 2014 nonprofit technology conference about my life. 
  • Guest blog on at least 2 industry blogs
    • No progress on this yet.
  • Workout at least 3 times a week
    • Other than the weeks I’ve been sick, this has been going well. I actually went 4 times last week, which was a huge accomplishment. 
  • Redesign sueannereed.com and rebrand it as NonprofitsFTW.com
    • No progress on this yet
  • Send at least one personal snail mail note or card per week
    • Of all the things that I’ve had zero progress on, this is the one I feel the worst about. I had a plan, and I just haven’t followed through on it. 
  • Be more productive during work hours and free up
    • I haven’t done as well on this as I would like. Part of it has been due to illness, and I’ve also been so mentally focused on the presentations I’ve been working on. This is another one that I hope to refocus on once I get back from Washington DC this month. 
  • Eat out less
    • I’ve done a really horrible job at this. I consider “eating out” and “ordering in” the same thing, and I continue to do this way too much. When I get back from Washington DC, I really want to set a concrete goal of making this one a reality. 
  • Go on at least one trip that isn’t for a conference or similarly related activity
    • No progress on this yet
  • Deal with the dental issues I’ve been putting off
    • No progress on this yet
  • Read from the Bible at least once a week
    • No progress on this yet
  • Attend church at least 75% of the Sundays during 2014
    • Other than the weeks that I’ve been sick or out of town, this has gone well. I’ve also tried to attend as many of the worship & prayer services my church has been having lately.
  • Find more ways to be involved within the Clarksville community
    • No progress on this yet