Little Secret; Big Power

Today, I share my secret to changing your disappointment, frustration or a lack-luster response into a powerful and inspiring motivator.

What happens when you pay, plan and prepare diligently for something and it turns out to be something way less than what you anticipated? That’s my story of this past weekend.

I was honored to have an opportunity to speak at the Washington Association Foreign Language Teachers Spring Regional Conference. It was a collection of foreign language teachers from all grades and all parts of the state that convened together to learn from one another and share best practices.

Knowing I was going to be a tad nervous and out of my depth, I drove up Friday so I could be well-rested.

I stayed at an AirBNB with a lovely lady named Tracy. Like me, she was a divorced single Mom of two, and even though her kids were grown, married adults; we had a lot in common and it was a true pleasure to meet her. I loved our conversation.  

I rehearsed on the drive over. I spent hours preparing and doing research leading up to the event; I interviewed a few teachers and also had a foreign language teacher review my materials.

I invested.

I justified the effort and expense because it’s something I feel passionate about. I also run my business out of my home office so it was an excellent opportunity for me to get out, get more exposure and hopefully book some business or additional speaking events.

The goal was to spark educators and to provide them with a classroom-based activity that would enable students to dive into subjects that were of interest to them (vs. being assigned by the teacher); topics that aligned with their passion and their talent.

As a life-long lover of language learning, I felt like a foreign language curriculum would be a great space to try it in.

In working with adults in a professional setting I most often find that they are unhappy, feeling stuck and don’t know how to change it.  However, when I talk to kids and ask what makes them happy; they can answer quickly.

Most kids I’ve met can also quickly tell you what they are good at. They do so without shame or hesitation.

Ask and adult what makes them happy or where there talents and gifts are and you’ll probably get a few funny looks and some blank stares; the answers are slow to come.

Somewhere along the maturity spectrum we lose the ability to answer these questions quickly and confidently. I want to do something to reverse that trend.

Being at the conference felt like a great place to start.

Not only do I think it’s super important that kids see adults who model this behavior but for adults to get involved in a discussion that’s focused on helping the child get clear on their own passions and talents.

I went to the conference with my passion, my preparation and my intention in mind.

I immediately felt like a fish out of water; it was hard to “mingle” since most everyone was bilingual and despite my attempts at Spanish, French, Latin and Japanese I’m not fluent in anything by English. Some of the sessions were even taught in a foreign language so I wouldn’t have been able to understand it.

My personal session, competing against three other options had only four attendees.

Nervous and a feeling a bit down about my attendance, I stumbled over my presentation; couldn’t quite get the hang of the automated slide-clicker I bought for this occasion so my pacing and order was a bit of a mess and the whole experience in the moment did a lot to undermine my confidence in myself. One of the attendees almost fell asleep.

When I was done; I thanked my audience and I got out of there as quickly as I could.

As I was driving back home and beginning to process what happened, I started to add up the amount of time and money I had spent to be there. I started to do the math about exposure and how many people I actually talked to and what that cost was per “lead”.

I could feel the downward spiral begin to pull and I caught myself with a single question: What did I learn?

Here’s the list I rattled off:

  • I learned that a change of scenery can be healthy.
  • That a trip back to a place where you had a “tough time in your life” doesn’t always spark bad memories; time truly heals.
  • I learned that my concepts and ideas were welcomed in the community if only by a few.
  • I gathered proof and evidence from real classroom situations and students, middle school and college that they do better, are more engaged and can truly rise higher than the teacher can imagine with the freedom to work on something they are passionate about.
  • I learned some key concepts to enable better, more knowledgeable conversations should I be in the same company again; terms like student-led learning and Brain Gym which will fuel my research and add to my expertise.
  • I learned that there’s a private school in Woodinville, WA that’s taking the ideas I'm passionate about and running an actual school with these ideas as part of their foundation; reinforcing I'm not alone.

As the answers to my question about learning started to roll and I could feel myself getting more excited I realized that I wasn’t there with an agenda to solely move my business and ideas forward but that I was there because the universe had brought me there.

That someone’s life was different because I gave them inspiration and an idea they didn’t have before.

I realized that my AirBNB hostess needed me to be in her home as much as I needed to hear her story. I realized that the teachers I did have in that room were there because they wanted to do something different in their classroom and they wanted to see if I could help with that.

So yes; maybe it was only a group of four but one teacher had 163 students and another had 75. Another was at the university level and had his hands in multiple programs that could benefit from our conversation. The fourth was a foreign language program consultant.

How far could this go if I looked at the reach each of these four people had?

It was once I shifted my perspective that I realized I had done exactly what I supposed to do; I showed up, I spoke my truth, I shared myself and my ideas passionately.

That even if I never got visible ROI on the event; that wasn’t the point. I knew after my re-frame that I had been exactly where I was supposed to be doing what I was supposed to be doing and that I had done my part to the best of my ability in that moment.

Sometimes things happen in our lives; we end up somewhere and we are not quite sure why or how and we may never know. Work that’s aligned with your passion, strengths and talents is service-oriented work.

I may never know how many lives will be touched tomorrow and into the future because of the seeds I planted with these four individuals on Saturday. The mystery is partly what makes what I do so fun. 

I am on this planet to spread a message and serve others. I did exactly that and I’m very proud that I did.

One simple question allowed me to completely re-frame my mood and my energy.

What events or circumstances in your life that have been negative or left a bad taste in your mouth have an opportunity for a re-frame?

What things have come from that darkness that you wouldn’t have otherwise? 

I brought this lesson home this weekend with my girls and we had a whole conversation about what positive things have come from their father and I being divorced. They each came up with a list of friends and teachers that they would never have had or known if their situation wasn’t the way it is today. 

Life isn’t always going to be peaches and roses; but if you know how to gather both the good and the bad from each situation, you put yourself in a powerful position to make life what you want it to be.