This post is a continuation of the previously posted: Women of Influence Summit: A can’t-miss event
The Women of Influence Summit 2016 presented by Next Monday (the first of its kind) promised”to give your influence a name, to identify what makes your power special.” A movement, this conference intended to help you continue to carry on your influence to all those around you, each and every day.
And it did not disappoint.
With over 300 women gathered together on a rainy day on the campus of the College of St. Benedict’s, the summit kicked off not with a bang, but with a swell. A swell that continued to grow and expand with every conversation – every connection – made throughout the day. But what began as a whisper left as a roar, thanks much in part to the amazing speakers and willing attendees present.
There was so much to be gleaned from the influential minds in the room that day, but an overarching theme became more apparent with each speaker: Be true to yourself, stop apologizing for doing what you love, and follow your heart & passion wherever it leads you. Several speakers hammered this point home, and while I didn’t get to experience them all, I can summarize here some of what I learned at the 2016 Women of Influence Summit.
1. Be aware that you are rare.
This came directly from a breakout speaker, Trace Wiese, as a reminder for us all that we are each unique, different, and a little weird – and that’s wonderful. Her session, along with several others, emphasized the importance of living authentically. That is to say:
“Who you are, at the core, when you’re at your best, with and for others.”
If you have trouble defining your authentic self, or being able to communicate your values, think about what your mentor or best friend would say about you. What would they say is your greatest quality? That’s likely your #1 value you can own, emanate, and be proud of. Me? I discovered my intentional value is “Helpful.” And in every way I can, I’ve tried to keep that top-of-mind in what I’m doing. You know what? It’s pretty darn accurate.
“The trick is to not let people know how weird you are until it’s too late for them to back out.” – Zac Galifianakis
2. Slow the &$%@ down.
Jaci Finneman… where to even start with this woman. Her talk on being “Mrs. Over Do It” resonated with me to my core. Her struggles with not putting herself first, and her desire to be helping others at all times – even when it wasn’t needed or wanted – is something that so many women battle with every day. Why is it that we as women feel the need to exercise control, balance and perfection over everything? Where did this expectation come from, both internally and externally? Who knows, really, but the point is that it’s time to slow the &$%@ down and notice what the world is telling us. Watch for signs. Keep your ears and eyes open to those around you. Pick up on cues and hints. And know when it’s time for you to make a change for yourself. Know when to say “enough is enough,” and when to indulge yourself in your dreams and wants. Once you reach that point, tear up your to-do list, grab a glass of wine (or pint of ice cream or whatever your vice may be), and remember that it’s perfectly okay to put yourself first.
“That was the day she made herself promise to live more from intention and less from habit.” – Amy Rubin Flett
3. Stop making choices out of fear.
To paraphrase Katie Manar’s breakout session, we make 100’s of choices daily – how many are out of fear? Well, that answer may lie in this next question: When was a time you reacted less than your best? Chances are, when we react less than our best, it’s because we’re making a decision out of fear – fear on the surface level as well as fear that is hidden deep down in a place we may not even know about. When we let fear drive our decisions, we get stuck. We either avoid situations that we’re afraid of, or we react in a way we wouldn’t have under normal circumstances. If we remember to put love first – to think with our hearts and not with our fears – we will be able to portray our true selves better each day.
Fear is a real thing – but we can change how it effects us by how we allow ourselves to react.
4. “Remember, everyone else is faking it too.”
A quote shared by Maria Surma Manka, who heard it first from her boss. What an important reminder, especially when we find ourselves caught up in the haste, the bustle and the craziness of everyday life. In Maria’s session, we talked about worry, and the fact that humans are built to worry. It’s natural. It’s common. It’s expected. It’s universal. So how can we best handle our worries to remain productive, positive and happy? By looking at our types of worry – practical versus hypothetical – we can determine how to best approach strategies for dealing with them. If we’re worrying about concrete, literal issues, deconstructing them into hard facts and absolutes helps. If we’re worrying about the future and all its vagueness, we should schedule time to let ourselves worry, but not go beyond that. And the best remedy for worry? Celebration. Celebrate the big things, yes, but celebrate the little things. Because in the end, life is pretty dang great, and we need to remember and appreciate that as much as possible.
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.” – Erma Bombeck
5. Don’t give up on your dreams.
The opening keynote spoke of extreme tragedy. As a young, vibrant, talented dancer, Nicole Marquez’s life nearly ended after a tragic accident that left her physically impaired. She was told she would never walk again, let alone dance. So what did she do? She got her mind in the game, she gave every ounce of focus, grit and determination she could muster, and eventually – she danced. Her story along with several others throughout the day spoke of the importance of the determination, grit, and heart that it takes to achieve your dreams. The key things to remember? Surround yourself with supportive people, and know that you have to choose to make the best of the situation – only you can truly find your strength.
“Not only can you reach for the stars, but you can grab them, and girl – you can fly!”
The closing keynote had many of the same messages as Nicole. Gaia Nova moved from Bulgaria to France at age 18, and now lives in Chicago and has founded her own company, Power Tower. Gaia’s story is also one of resilience and never being satisfied with less than her ultimate dreams. The most inspirational part of her speech was not in what she said, but how she said it. Mid-speech, it became clear that she was extremely nervous and having a hard time communicating to us. So what did she do? Took a step back, admitted that this was really hard for her, and confessed that she was facing her biggest fear by speaking to us. And what did we do, after a long day of inspiration, passion, and women empowerment? We cheered. We clapped. We shouted words of encouragement. We stood together for the remainder of her speech, providing a wall of support for Gaia. And she finished her inspirational story, faced her fear, and we all celebrated with her.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” – Thomas Jefferson
Whew! Feeling like you can take on the world yet? Ready to kick some a$$? That’s how I felt after the Summit, and that’s how you, as a woman, should feel every single day. The hard work of Next Monday organizing this event and the amazing speakers (I wish I could have heard them all!) made the 2016 Women of Influence Summit a day to truly remember forever.
So don’t ever forget: be true to yourself, put your needs first, don’t let fear rule your decisions, worry within reason, and never, ever give up on your dreams.