Last week I had the privilege of attending Hubspot’s INBOUND conference - an annual marketing conference that the tech company hosts here in Boston. I’d never been to the conference before, but thought it would be a good opportunity to network and hear what’s new in the marketing world, since as an entrepreneur both of those things are super important. Thankfully, I managed to snag a free ticket from an incredible organization called She Geeks Out (if you’re a woman in tech, you should absolutely check them out!) and avoid the $500+ price tag for the opportunity to attend.
I went into the conference expecting it to be like many conferences I’d attended as a sales rep: full of vendor booths, swag, and plenty of opportunities to network, but not a ton of inspiration. Sure, there was a lot of the former. It’s a tech conference after all.
But what I wasn’t expecting was how inspired I would leave.
Why was I inspired? I got to see two of my biggest idols speak, along with some other incredible women who shared their amazing stories. The energy from each of them was palpable in the air of the conference center. I wanted to breathe it in and hold onto it - bottle it up for later.
The first night of the conference I got to see Dr. Brené Brown speak about true belonging and courage. Her work has been extremely influential in my life and her books on courage, vulnerability and fear should be required reading for everyone. Her wit and honesty that has shown through in every video and podcast with her that I’ve listened to, shown through just as strongly in front of an audience of almost 10,000 people. Her words and message made me think, analyze my own biases and reconsider the way I looked at/reacted to things in our current political landscape - all within 40 minutes.
I walked out of the conference center that evening thinking about the ways we are dehumanizing people we don’t agree with and how this is detrimental to our society. How could I be a voice of re-humanization and connectedness in my day-to-day life and my business?
Later in the week, I got to the venue before 7:30am just so I could get through security and grab a halfway decent seat to see Michelle Obama interviewed by Roxane Gay.
The moment Michelle Obama walked on stage, the entire audience got to their feet and gave her a standing ovation. It literally brought me to tears. I could feel her energy just by breathing the same air as her. It was comforting and inviting, but also strong and unapologetic. Her real talk about what is has been like to be in the spotlight for so long, on handling harsh criticism, and on wanting to truly do good for this world was refreshing and made me reflect.
How can I apply her energy and grace to my own smaller version of being in the public eye, of putting my thoughts and work out into the world, of standing in my power even when not everyone agrees with me?
On my way home from the conference, reflecting on these women’s talks, I started to think about the value of surrounding yourself with people and experiences like this.
Each of these women were showing up, speaking to a large audience, and at the top of their game. They are experienced, smart, and successful, while also being authentic. Each woman contributed (and does daily) something constructive and thought provoking in their speech. Their messages challenged the status quo and inspired their audiences to reflect on their own thinking and to grow.
It is by surrounding ourselves with experiences and people like this - that challenge us and lead by example - that we up our game.
To grow, we need to be willing to reevaluate where we are and get outside of our comfort zones. We need to be challenged and inspired. We need to be shown new, positive ways of thinking that help us make connections and have those “ah ha!” moments.
Those moments don’t come from sitting around, wishing for growth, but continuing to stay in the same uninspiring relationships or consume the same negative content. Rather, those “ah ha!” moments come from actively seeking ways to invite growth into our lives.
Inviting growth into your life doesn’t necessarily need to include going to a fancy conference (although it can). There are practical, daily shifts you can make to up your game and surround yourself with opportunities for growth.
1) Seek out uplifting and informative experiences
Go see a speaker that inspires you. Go to a book signing by your favorite author. Take a workshop on a skill you’ve been wanting to develop. Buy the plane ticket to see the friend or visit the place that always leaves your soul feeling nourished.
These experiences can be big or small. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that by inviting these experiences into your life, you are inviting positivity, growth mindset and love into your life. And that is going to have benefits for you far beyond what you can imagine.
2) Surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you
Take a look at the people you count as close friends and family. Do you feel inspired by them? Or does their energy make you feel heavy or drained?
They say we are a combination of the people we surround ourselves with, so look around and assess what you see. If you don’t like the feeling you get, the good news is that as adults we get to choose who we surround ourselves with far more than we ever have in the past. It’s okay to let go of relationships that are no longer serving you and to seek out new ones that do.
Go introduce yourself to the woman on the panel whose words you felt inspired by. Ask your colleague whose work you’d love to learn from out to coffee. Start hanging out with other women who are curious and positive like you.
Having even just a couple of people who understand you, champion you and challenge you to be better can be an amazing catalyst for growth and self-acceptance.
3) Be selective about the content you are reading
Do you find yourself frequently going down a dark rabbit hole while reading the news only to find yourself depressed or in a terrible mood afterwards? Then it’s time to change what you’re reading. I’m not saying stop reading the news all together (although sometimes a break can be helpful for your sanity), but start adding in some other positive content.
Watch some inspiring TED talks. Start listening to a new podcast. Read a book with a self-development theme (anything by Brené Brown - who I mentioned earlier - is fantastic). Read articles about positive psychology.
Changing what we consume on a daily basis can have enormous effects on our overall positivity, creativity and willingness to grow. It gives us access to new information that we may not have seen before and can give us those “ah ha!” moments of shifting a long held belief we may have had. The content we consume has energy, so why not gift yourself positive content that will boost your energy as well?
Attending the INBOUND conference was a great reminder that there is no such thing as passive self-development. Rather, it’s a practice. You need to put in the work and actively surround yourself with people, experiences and content that are going to get you there.
We each have an ability to invite growth into our lives on a daily basis if we are willing to do the work. I know I am! How about you?