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Carry a very small tambourine with you

Peter: panther head, gold scales, small tambourine, brilliant dancer

Four lessons from a conference

In November I went to Summit, a conference in Palm Springs. I’d signed up in a flurry of enthusiasm … but then everyone I’d mentioned it to said, “Huh; I’m not sure those people are really your type of people.”

So I arrived in a bit of a funk, pretty certain it was going to be a waste of time and money. And there’s nothing like having extremely low expectations to make something turn out much better than you’d thought it would.

Here’s a few things I took away..

It’s a poem if you say it is.

On the first day, I went to a poetry-writing workshop with IN-Q which was delightful. He read some of his work, then got us all to write a poem in twenty minutes. I actually ended up being the first person to read out loud to the group: for someone who presents regularly to groups, my hands were shaking quite a bit. IN-Q gave three really helpful pieces of guidance to us as a group. First, don’t try and write a great poem, write a true poem. Second, it’s a poem if you say it is. Finally, when someone stands up to read, love the hell out of them. (It was pretty great to be welcomed on stage by a madly cheering room.)

Your declaration can overcome your doubt.

Pull people onto the dance floor

I danced every single night at the conference, which makes more dancing in total than I’ve done in the last ten years. Shame on me. Pete, my gold-plated friend above, is not only an incredible dancer, but an incredible force at making other people dance. He was fearless about pulling people onto the dance floor, and it was delicious to see their reluctance turn to enjoyment so quickly. (There’s a whole nother lesson about wearing gold lamé in here somewhere, I’m just not quite sure what it is.)

Be the force that invites people to take a chance.

Talk about interesting stuff

The protocol for dinner was they clustered you into a group of eight, and then sat you down so you ate a meal together. On the first night, I offered up a question–”what’s the crossroads you’re at?”–that everyone at the table took turns to answer. Having a few good questions to disrupt the usual chat and get into the interesting stuff is super handy. Another question I asked was, “What are two essential things about you?”

Be curious about the juicy stuff.

Be cool with the ebbs and flows

There were a thousand or more people at the conference, and there were chunks of times I felt Not In the Inner Circle(s). I had one afternoon where I couldn’t find my groove: no sessions I wanted to attend, no people I wanted to talk to, no ability to just chill out and enjoy the desert sunshine. But eventually, I remembered that this too would pass, and sure enough, later on that day I started to connect again.

Know it doesn’t have to be all good all the time.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.