How Tribe Conference 2017 Changed Me

“Something brought you here.”

With those simple yet provocative words, Jeff Goins energized the crowd as he kicked off Tribe Conference 2017.

I’ve spent countless hours thinking about my goals, platform, and future. Jeff’s words were like a bolt of lightning. And the energy didn’t stop all weekend.

Something had brought me to the Tribe Conference. But I couldn’t clearly articulate it. I have always admired Jeff and his work. Jeff told me in 2014, through his book, that I am a writer and I just need to write. I’d read or listened to the messages of many of the other speakers who would take the stage. It was fun to think I’d see and hear them in person.

Maybe I was just being a “fan boy” searching for validation from creative heroes. Then, Jeff threw down the challenge of the weekend: “Try it on like a coat. Believe you can do it.”

So, I did. I put on the coat of a platform-building, tribe-creating entrepreneur. And then I realized I wasn’t a fan (well, maybe just a little). I was one of them, just at a different place on the journey.

Finding trust, not clarity

I was not alone coming to Tribe with too many ideas and not enough focus, too much thinking and not enough action. But this year I finally decided to take action, make the journey to Franklin, and participate in Tribe. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I just knew I was called to be there.

Like many other creative minds, I’ve struggled with trying to find clarity and the perfect plan before taking any action. Jeff changed that too. He told me I needed trust, not clarity, to go forth and succeed. Those words hit me like a splash of refreshing cold water on my face.

Over the years, I’ve been to countless conferences, seminars, and workshops. Some I’ve been sent to by an employer or professional organization, while others I’ve invested my own time and resources to attend. Never in my life have I experienced a conference like Tribe.

From the opening dinner with the speakers, conference organizers, Jeff’s friends, and other “premium” participants, I felt like I belonged.

Over the next 45 hours, a parade of thought leaders, authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs took to the stage and shared their wisdom and perspective on creative work and the path to success. Some I’d followed for several years; others I was seeing for the very first time. And here I was being one of them, wearing the coat Jeff gave me in the opening session, and finding the trust I needed to move forward.

Conquering my dork goblin

The attendees were diverse in their worldviews and creative outlets. Some were introverts, some were extroverts, and some (including me) were ambiverts. Storytelling coach Marsha Shandur eased the tension of networking by making us laugh and teaching us how to embrace our dork goblins. She helped me to stop feeling — and acting — like a weirdo in front of my fellow conference attendees. What’s my dork goblin, as Marsha calls it? Good question. That’s for another post.

I knew I’d overcome my dork goblin — or at least gave it a good fight — when Dan Miller sat down at my table. He stopped by to catch up with his friend, Erik Fisher, who I had met a few minutes earlier, and decided to join our table. Dan treated me like he’d known me his entire life.

It was an honor to meet Dan and thank him. His books and podcast had positively impacted my career and life. Dan gave me the courage to make changes I needed to make. If you ever find yourself in a career crisis and in need practical advice from a fatherly voice, you should listen to Dan’s podcast.

Hurling knowledge bombs

The amazing weekend at the Tribe Conference 2017 kept getting better and better. As each speaker shared their unique message, my hand was furiously capturing the knowledge bombs coming from the stage.

Here are just a few of the inspiring messages I heard:

Pamela Slim, author of Body of Work and Escape from Cubicle Nation, encouraged all of us to be “the weirdo in the room.” So, I did. It felt amazing to be a “weirdo” who was not out of place at all.

Rachel Bagby challenged us to craft a dekaaz — a 10-syllable wisdom bomb. When we pasted them on a wall in Liberty Hall, I discovered almost everyone at Tribe had at least one nugget to share.

Ishita Gupta told us to find our voice, amplify our quirks, and make our mess into our message. And, most powerfully, she reminded us that confidence is a learned skill. My confidence grew exponentially during Tribe.

Tsh Oxenreider encouraged us to listen to our frustrations, discover what we were meant to do, dream and scheme (in a good way), and do one thing that breaks the rules.

Sean McCabe, author of Overlap, challenged us to think about what would happen in our lives if we created as much content as we consumed. His new book is one example of Sean’s prolific content creation.

Andy Traub explained why, when shooting a video, we should sit close enough to see our facial expressions, yet far enough to see our hands. It was sage advice for anyone who wants to build trust with their audience, but who is not exactly “a natural” in front of the camera.

Ryan Holiday, author of Perennial Seller, told us to find the timelessness in the timely. He asked, “What will last the longest?” See if your idea or concept can fit with Ryan’s formula: This is a __________ that does __________ for __________.

Natalie Brenner, author of This Undeserved Life, gave us the straight facts on how to self-publish a big life-changing book on a small budget. Her book was released on Amazon during the conference, so needless to say, the room erupted in celebration and many Amazon 1-Click orders were placed (with a little encouragement from her mentor, Jeff Goins).

Jon Acuff, author of Finish, challenged us to finish it, whatever “it” is. He told us that people remember incomplete projects more than complete projects. Jon concluded his presentation by observing, “Starting is fun, but the future belongs to finishers.”

Two stars not on the stage

On Sunday, I found myself questioning the coat I’d been wearing all weekend. Was I nothing more than an imposter? Maybe I should just head to the airport and catch a plane home, I said to myself.

Then, like some sort of divine intervention, author and mastermind leader Aaron Walker caught my eye and introduced himself. Aaron’s positivity radiates from his beaming smile. We talked about his work, but it was clear he really wanted to hear my goals and aspirations.

Aaron left me with more energy than any cup of coffee or green tea could ever give. I’m grateful for the autographed copy of his book, View from the Top, which he inscribed, “May God bless all you do. Prov 27:17.” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Aaron sharpened me that day, and I’m humbled and grateful.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to have lunch with John Thurman. He’s an author, speaker, counselor, and crisis response specialist with a wealth of experience working with people at the most challenging times of their lives.

John’s mission is helping people get a grip on life by managing stress, anxiety, and worry. His energy, wisdom, and message change lives. What an awesome gift John is sharing with the world.

Aaron and John never took the stage, but they gave me as much as any of the speakers who did. I hope to have the opportunity to return the favor.

Bringing it full circle

In his opening comments, Jeff Goins asked us a pointed question to ponder individually as we went through the weekend: “Am I hiding or am I engaging with the experience?”

I engaged fully in the Tribe Conference 2017.

Meeting so many talented writers, speakers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives who are getting their work out into the world is a true blessing. Among them were five people in my group during the closing mastermind session for premium ticket holders: Paul Ellsworth, Brandon Kelley, Christine Goodner, Melissa Joan Walker, and Jathan Maricelli.

I tried to relax on the flight home, but found my mind swirling with excitement and ideas. Something did bring me to Tribe and great things will come from me because of Tribe.

Tribe 2017 changed me forever. I’m still wearing the platform-building, tribe-creating entrepreneur’s coat.

I can’t wait for Tribe 2018. Are you in?