#npstoryconf: a personal reflection & love letter

neil diamond cards

“Did you ever read about the frog who dreamed of being a king and then became one?”

My feet have just touched down and I’m beginning to process what I just experienced.

To say I’ve been fundamentally changed would be a gross understatement. What the hell just happened?

I just spent three days in Seattle at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference where, alongside about 300 others, I got to listen to and learn from my heroes.

A few of these individuals – like Beth Ann Locke and Vanessa Chase Lockshin – I’ve met before. But everyone else was brand new.

And not only did I get to meet these people, I got to speak alongside them.

You guys, my only public speaking experience was giving my high school valedictorian address, my grandparents’ eulogies, and that one time the produce guy caught me singing Notorious BIG to a pineapple.

If that counts. My list is so short, I think it does.

Yes, I’ve facilitated meetings and Colludo Playdates, I’ve presented webinars. But this was whole other level real life shit.

It could have been a disaster.

Because not only was I going to speak in front of a giant room of people, including people I’ve looked up to my entire career, but I was also going to do something completely wacky with them. I was going to make them play.

My task felt daunting – in 45 minutes, try to introduce the concept of play as a fundamental creative practice in storytelling and story living. I didn’t want to just prattle on. I wanted everyone in the crowd to “colludo” – play together.

I was nervous as all hell. What if everyone thought this was stupid? What if everyone thought I was stupid? Who is this turd who’s making us colour pictures when we could be listening to Tom Ahern or Jen Love or Tammy Zonker share their wisdom? What wisdom do you have that is worth anything at all? Who do you think you are?

Self-doubt is a bitch.

But thankfully, I’ve never backed down from a bully, even when she was in my own mind.

And self-confidence is a badder bitch. And she comes wielding 4000 business cards with Neil Diamond’s face on them.

And I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to look out into a crowd full of people, colouring, laughing and sharing. What a charge! I’ll never ever ever ever ever ever forget it. Ever.

For those of you who were along for the ride, I want to thank you for coming along. For trusting me to guide you through a silly, personal, and connecting activity. And for those of you who came up to me afterwards and shared your stories and playful inspirations with me, I am forever grateful.

And I’m forever grateful for Shanon Doolittle, who invited me to be a part of this. You are the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. And Chris Davenport, who had no idea what I was going to do but trusted Shanon enough to believe I could do it.

And thank you to John Lepp, Jen Love, Leah Eustace, Tammy Zonker, Marc Pitman, Beth Ann Locke and Trent Thompson for allowing me to lock eyes with you for a brief and encouraging moment from the stage. You kept me from fainting.

Thank you to Vanessa Chase Lockshin for an incredible presentation on Story of Self, which was the perfect way to introduce the crowd to playing together.

Thank you to Harvey McKinnon, for making me laugh and prepping me like a boxing coach.

And to Tom Ahern. My dad eagerly texted me to ask how everything went. He was back home at the farm, caring for my youngest son while I was away. When I told him it went great, he simply wrote “I’ve always known you were.” Thank you, Tom. For being that voice for me in that space. You helped convince me that I could ride a two-wheeler after all.

This is beginning to sound like a really shitty melodramatic acceptance speech.

And I guess it kind of is. Because it feels pretty darn good to be accepted by a huge room of people who are doing work that I so deeply respect. I guess it’s really no big deal, but I wanted to share with you all that, in fact, it is a pretty big moment for me.

Thanks for playing along.