I’ve been quiet for the last month here and on social media. While most of the country has been on lockdown, I was working on a huge project.
Most of you know that I have the honor of working with Mike Dooley at TUT (Notes from the Universe) to organize and execute two events a year. We had been planning the 15th Infinite Possibilities Train the Trainer 4-day Conference scheduled to begin April 2nd in Costa Rica. It was going to be our first bilingual event. But in the first couple of days of March, my intuition sensed we wouldn’t be able to hold the event. Not only did I feel travel restrictions were imminent, but I also felt worried about the safety of our team and community. I wanted to be wrong. But I couldn’t shake the feeling in my gut. We spent a few stressful days watching the news and contemplating the impact of canceling.
Then a new possibility presented itself. What if we didn’t cancel but transformed the event into a virtual one?
We decided to go for it.
But how? That question was in my care to figure out.
And I was stumped.
Immediately I felt overwhelmed. We had to figure out basics, make the announcement and put up a new web page, and hope that the attendees would be open to attending virtually. As I was writing copy, I was also packing up my family to be gone for a week, adding a new level of stress. Our spring break consisted of chaperoning a two-part trip with my son’s a capella group performance in Alabama and then the chorus trip to Chicago. I could feel my anxiety rise as everything was culminating. I was worried about us traveling, being away from my computer during a critical time, and being in charge of chaperoning other teenagers, especially when I couldn’t buy hand sanitizer.... anywhere.
To make a long, dramatic story short, we chaperoned the three-day trip before everything shut down. While we were away, the country was running out of toilet paper, and schools were closing. I returned home, relieved, and exhausted. As the world changed almost hour by hour, I dove immediately into the work of converting our live training into a virtual one with eleven speakers and 20+ volunteers and 100 attendees across 11 different time zones. I had to get more familiar with all the tech that would be involved. Emceeing from the stage would now require online moderator skills. The world was in uncertainty, and so was I. Could this work?
I knew what we were trying to create. I wanted it to FEEL like a live gathering of people who were creating connections and interacting. I wanted attendees to feel like they were an integral part of our supportive community even though we couldn’t hang out in a large room. There is so much that we build into a live conference to create community. How could we replicate it?
I could feel the vision of the end result.
But I didn’t know HOW to get there. And while Mike Dooley teaches about not messing with the “cursed-hows” as someone responsible for the logistics and figuring out all the details, I immediately began stressing about what I didn’t know. This wasn’t helpful, but it was human. Simultaneously, I was reading too much news that freaked me out, adjusting to my son’s distance learning, trying not to go to the grocery store, and eating all. the. chips.
In between moments of worry, I used my breath to bring me into the present. What is in front of me now? What can I do today? And as I continued to show up focused on what I wanted to create, magic and support also appeared.
There were also a lot of bumps in the road. Every time I would hit a roadblock, the team and I showed up to meet it. Somedays, this was harder than others. There were times when I was uncomfortable and unsure and fell into doubt. There were times when I cried and also when I didn’t shower for at least three days. (My team might tell you it was longer and a shower boycott in solidarity was proposed- but let’s say there were some long days and nights.)
Despite being uncomfortable, we kept showing up and challenging ourselves. We all learned many new things, like about how many time zones there are worldwide.
We learned new tech skills.
We rose together to create the vision.
On opening night, I told everyone that-
“Me had become we.
A dream became a possibility.
A vision became a reality.”
And our four-day conference, while not without its glitches, became what we had intended. It inspired, connected, and transformed a group of strangers into a community with purpose. And there were so many hidden benefits and gifts of doing a virtual conference that we could never have known had we not attempted it.
While my first month of lockdown during this pandemic may look a lot different than others, I still think the lessons I learned will continue to apply as we all step into the uncertainty of the challenges we face in the world.