For me, heading to the Tribe Conference this year was like crossing an ocean. It was all new for me. It was crossing a continent, since the conference takes place just outside Nashville, Tennessee, and I live in Northern California.
I was heading into the unknown, a place I’d never been. I didn’t know a soul face-to-face.
Sure, I knew a few names. And I knew of a few others. And, I’ll admit, I had already developed an online friendship with two of the women going. But we had never actually met in the flesh. Yet.
There’s something about that stretch that intrigues me. Stepping out beyond your comfort zone. It’s just like one of the speakers, Shawn Coyne, stated, “You need to be constantly at the edge of what you know in order to grow.” Wow, I resonated with that!
And, I would add, “You need to be constantly at the edge of your comfort zone, and even outside of it, to grow.”
How I Got Here (and it’s not by a plane!)
You see, I’ve been good at what I’ve been doing for over 20 years now: welcoming, caring for, assisting, connecting with and making connections for international students coming to the U.S. for their studies. In some ways, I’ve been a type of community liaison. And I’ve loved the work. It’s been my calling.
My husband, a high school English teacher, and I have been able to do this together, through an organization called International Students, Inc. Together, we’ve gotten to know thousands of young (and young-ish!) change makers from all over the world. It’s been a thrilling – and sometimes exhausting – ride!
We’ve also raised our three kids, now 21, 19 and almost 16, in the midst of all this. Included in our parenting years were missions trips with the kids as well as a year living abroad in China and traveling elsewhere in Asia. Through these experiences, I believe our kids have a deep appreciation for the world "out there."
Feeling, Well, Awkward
I’ve lived in Japan, China and Indonesia. Have traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, and visited a few other places. I know what it’s like to stick out, to be different. Especially in Asia. To my surprise, I felt like this when arriving in Nashville, Tennessee for Tribe. Am I welcome here? Will I “fit in?” “Will it be for me?”
And the clincher, “What if I’m weird?”
I’m thankful to Jeff Goins, creator of the Tribe Writer’s Course and community (of which I’ve been a member for a year now) and the Tribe Conference. I’m thankful to him on so many levels. But, for this conference, I’m especially thankful he brought in Marsha Shandur.
Marsha was the “Awkwardness Controller” for the conference. She regularly appeared with humor and humility (and yes, a bit of edgy awkwardness) to give us insights into this challenge of relating with people we barely know and to make us just laugh. It did wonders!
The Introvert–Extrovert “Dance”
Now, you might be guessing I’m an introvert if you don’t know me. But, you’d be wrong! I am an unapologetic extrovert. But with a very demanding introvert side. Even ravenous. If I don’t satisfy that introvert in me, the extrovert cannot maintain. I get overwhelmed and drained all too fast.
That introvert requires silence. Walks in the woods behind my house and on the beach just five minutes by car away. Times with my Maker. Prayer and reflection. And writing. Oh, how I crave it now! But it wasn’t always that way.
The extrovert got in the way. Busy for everybody. Yes, if there’s a party to join – or to make – I’d be there! I love and crave people time. It is the best. People don’t drain me (usually), but energize me. I’m told that’s the mark of a true extrovert.
No question, if I have people coming over to my house or an event I must attend, even if I’m feeling tired or sluggish, and I groan beforehand, I perk up when I have to. And, by the end, I usually can’t even remember I was dragging.
It’s a good trait. Until it’s not. Like, when you fail to feed the inner introvert. The beast gets particularly grumpy when the “food” is withheld.
Then kids arrived on the scene. Three of them, and life just sped up. Kids and international students. International students and kids. Husband in there, too.
Fast forward. Now we’re just two years away from the empty nest. And we’re breathing now. And, ya know what? I kinda like it! And so does that inner introvert. Very much so.
Getting Back to Tribe
It was a welcoming, dynamic and thoughtful bunch. The speakers delivered more than I could’ve anticipated. Each one, from Carlos Whittaker on Friday evening to whip-snapping Carrie Wilkerson and Chris Ducker wrapping up on Sunday, made their mark. They each challenged us in one of four areas: (1) Honing Your Voice; (2) Establishing Your Platform; (3) Expanding Your Reach; and (4) Going Pro.
What made this conference doubly valuable is these speakers were accessible! Real people, relatable, interested in being there, full of insight, and (even) interested in us! I was happy I chose to attend at the Premium level, as this opened up even more opportunities to connect.
Jeff Goins created this culture. And I think he’s been able to do it because it is who he is. He is the “Boy Wonder,” the Robin to Batman. He’s the sidekick who has learned that when you bring others along with you, everyone gains. The scarcity mentality – i.e., that there isn’t enough room at the table – is simply wrong.
Jeff’s gone through the process himself, struggled along the way, failed and gotten up again, worked hard and been interested in others. It’s paid off, and I sense this year’s conference encouraged him a good deal. The tribe keeps growing!
In the end, the “foreign land” I had stepped into became a warm, welcoming place. This wasn’t just one of those “weekend experiences” where you connect with people then go back home and leave it all behind. No! There’s a Tribe Writer’s Community both online and offline, and the Tribe Conference made it all come alive for me. I can see these will be people I’ll be traveling along the road with for some time ahead.
Stepping into the new was worth the investment. Not just the money and time. But the pushing of myself to go beyond my comfort zone. Crossing into a new culture. And, quite honestly, that’s what I’m all about!
How about you? How do you overcome yourself to meet new people, enter a new “culture?”
Here’s another follow-up contribution from fellow Tribe Writer and ChristianJedi extraordinaire, Eric Gale. He focuses on Jeff’s opening talk about being a sidekick. Since I glossed over that a bit, you might enjoy Eric’s deeper take, with a Star Wars twist!
Chad Allen, another new Tribe friend, wrote a clear piece, the Top 10 Things I Learned at Jeff Goins' Tribe Conference. Some good stuff!