Each of the business cards I collected represents an authentic connection I made with another empowered human. “Networking” never felt so natural!
“All I have to do is show up.”
That’s what I told myself in advance of Nathalie Lussier’s Off the Charts Live, a weekend conference I’d paid money to attend yet wanted to skip.
I thought I had no business being there, mainly because, well, I don’t have a business. At least, that’s what it felt like. (Now I understand that not only do I already have a business, I might even have two! )
So, even though I’d committed my time and money, I experienced huge resistance in the days leading up to the event.
“I don’t really feel like going to the business conference this weekend as I don’t feel I belong but whatever,” I journaled earlier in the week. “I will show up. That’s all I have to do, I really have to keep remembering that. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in worry and overwhelm.”
And so I showed up. I was tired, and I was just barely on time, and I sat far in the back of the theater, up against a wall. Instead of smiling at anyone or attempting to make conversation with the other women in the room, I focused on my phone, typing out my frustrations.
I was experiencing off the charts resistance.
And then I did something brave.
Nathalie, who, by the way, is a super successful, sincere, excellently kind and helpful human, opened the weekend by inviting participants to introduce themselves. As I listened to woman after woman describe her business and her ambitions, I started to feel smaller and smaller. My worst fears were coming true–I was out of my league, over my head, an imposter, a poser, a wannabe baby.
My head was filling fast with self-hateful lies, but thankfully my stomach, which always tells the truth, was tingling for me to talk. I’ve learned to listen to that tingle, so even though I was frustrated and scared, I raised my hand and stood up with a microphone.
“I’m Christina Bryza, and I don’t have a business, or, I guess, I AM my business, ” I told the audience of intimidating strangers. “I’m a writer, and my first book, Are You My Boyfriend?, is being published in February, and I want to be prepared for that to be big, and so I need to build a brand and website for that, but I also care a lot about helping others heal, and I teach yoga, and I’m not sure how everything goes together and I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
[Note: I’m paraphrasing the above dialogue, as I wasn’t recording myself when I said it.]
I sat down, flustered and defiantly embarrassed. Nathalie nodded and said, “You’re in the right place.”
And, oh my goodness wow, I so totally was.
I learned and experienced SO MUCH at Off the Charts Live. Plenty of it was nuts-and-bolts practical and on-the-ground applicable: how to develop strategy, construct a business model, build my list, increase site traffic, make sales, and launch a product or service.
Plenty more dealt with emotional intelligence: how to get out of my own way, balance my brain, cultivate empathy, manage my time, form meaningful strategic partnerships, and connect with a dynamically supportive community.
But the truly transformative aspects of the weekend were not things I could take notes on. (Although I did fill up the custom Moleskine I was given.)
Because validation, and clarity, and inspiration, and confidence…those things are intangible—and they are also invaluable.
And while I presume I would have received some of those benefits even if I’d stayed a silent observer, I know that speaking up early on allowed for some amazing interactions. If I hadn’t pushed past my (dis)comfort zone and made myself known, I’m pretty sure I would have spent the first break tapping away at my smartphone.
Instead, a woman came right up to me and identified with what I’d said, and I was instantly invigorated. She’s a writer too, and we spent the rest of the break enthusiastically chatting.
Our connection was the first of many easy, authentic friendships I formed in the course of the weekend, each with exciting implications and possibilities. When I exchanged business cards with these women, it didn’t feel like “networking,” it felt like necessary action to be sure we stayed in touch.
And I’ll make sure we do, because I need their guidance and support, and I want to help them too. As Nathalie said during one of her presentations, “we’re here to educate. We’re here to bring everyone off the charts.”
I’m so grateful to Nathalie Lussier and all the awesome people who participated in her event. I’ve never felt more able to shine my light and show up big, and I owe a lot of my energy to what I’ve derived to be the weekend’s magic formula:
Generous Wisdom + Genuine Connections = Off the Charts Empowerment!