How to Bring the Party to Somebody Else’s Party

Right after lunch on Day 2 of Jeff Goins’ annual Tribe Conference 2017, I led an on-stage dance party that ultimately included 20+ people and raised the roof of the already-stellar Writer’s Conference.

Travel Tip: Buying new dress shoes the day before you fly may result in your being immortalized in a skirt and sneakers.

No, I did not help organize the Conference. In fact, I didn’t even have a ticket until a few days before it began.

No, I wasn’t a personal friend of the organizer. In fact, I shook hands with Jeff Goins (bottom left of this photo with his sweet daughter) for the first time ever less than a day before.

No, I wasn’t one of the speakers. In fact, I have never delivered a conference keynote (yet!).

No, I’m not a pathological rabble-rouser, or a professional dancer. In fact, I haven’t taken a dance lesson since I was 5 years old.

So how did this Homeschool Mom from Upstate New York start an on-stage dance party with 20+ strangers on someone else’s stage in the USA’s Historical South?

  1. I chose to show up in service.

It’s easy to lose track of my identity in the mundane day-to-day of family life. It’s a real struggle to make sandwiches as many times as I do in a year and not become “the sandwich maker;” or load, fold, and put away as many clothes without becoming “the laundry doer.”

As much as I adore my growing family, I feel it’s healthy to attend live events alone from time to time. It’s a great opportunity for me to put my own smile, stand up to my full height, look strangers in the eye, and focus on encouraging each person I meet to believe they are as awesome as I can tell they are.

When Jeff Goins stood and reminded us that, while we learn to be ashamed, “we were born to dance,” and invited us all to get on our feet and move as he cued the music, I sensed the discomfort level instantly rise in the room.

And I knew what I needed to do.

2. I chose to share what I’ve learned.

As a recovering people-pleaser, I looked around that room and saw myself.

I’ve worked for years to shed my insecurities around how I am perceived, whether my bold words might offend, and whether my presence is welcome in any given group of people. It’s common, I feel, for humans to feel this way. People with creative talents, like the ones who surrounded me at the Tribe Writers Conference, are especially prone to hiding, creating alone as a way to protect themselves from the world they fear will reject their best.

I’ve learned to make my life my message. If I want to challenge harmful stereotypes around what it means to be a woman, a mother, an author, a homeschooler, a teacher, and a friend, I need to live the reality I believe is possible.

In that room full of self-proclaimed introverts, living my ideal reality meant asking them all to come dance with me on stage.

3. I chose joy.

I knew as I walked, nudged, and “excuse me”d up to the stage, that it wasn’t my stage, and I needed permission to dance on it.

In the past, this knowledge has kept me firmly glued to my chair, when everything inside of me screamed and tore and me to be set free. But instead of using my strength to dance, I had used it to “remain seated.”

Now I knew better.

People say the opposite of fear is courage, but I don’t believe this is true. I believe fear’s opposite is joy.

Before I asked my long-time hero “May I come up?,” even before I caught his eye, I had already made my choice: whatever he says, I will be happy.

Because I can never choose what others will choose, but I always choose my response.

“Sure!” he said, but he didn’t know what he was agreeing to really.

Do any of us really know what will happen as a result of our choices?

He didn’t get one fun-loving attendee who wanted some extra attention, he got an Ashley Nance on a mission to invite as many people to choose joy as she could, and many more dancers who responded to her invitation.

I danced, I called out to the puzzled audience, I danced, I motioned everyone toward me, I danced some more. Before the music stopped, we had at least 20 people on that stage, including one who could break dance and walk on his toes like Michael Jackson, except in his work boots. I was in Heaven, knowing that I helped create a moment in time everyone there would remember.

I was so grateful I chose joy!

In fact, I was so over-the-moon happy that it wasn’t until I was in my car driving back to the airport that I realized Jeff might not have been happy I started a party where he had only said I could come.

But when I reached out to apologize, he laid all my fears to rest:

I brought the party.

I brought the party! I brought joy. I brought all of me. And I left a better person.

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your stage with me. God willing, I’ll see you next year!

Ashley Nance, author of Crystal Puzzle and Sunny Says, “No!,” lives with her husband and five brilliant children in Upstate New York. Check out her Sunny Says, “No!” for free here.