I was lucky enough to sit next to Shelby Little (author of this awesome recap) at this year’s Muse women’s conference. She inspired me to think through which moments of the conference were truly amazing. Alas, reading a blog post about 67 truly amazing moments is too much to ask of you, dear reader. So here are six randomly selected amazing moments from three days of jaw-dropping inspiration. -Stephanie
1. When someone Central Oregonified age-old advice: Deschutes Brewery brewmaster Veronica Vega described the nauseating feeling of putting beer in front of brewery founder Gary Fish that she knows isn’t good enough to carry the Deschutes label and being told to dump it out. Without being able to push the limits far enough to find the boundaries of taste, though, she would never be able to innovate to the degree Deschutes is known for. In other words, the freedom to occasionally “brew to dump” has made her a better brewmaster. That phrase stuck out for World Muse founder Amanda Cudd Stuermer: Brew to dump. It’s the perfect Central Oregonification of the age-old advice to embrace failure as the cost of innovation.
2. When someone acknowledged an unspoken conflict: Lauren Fleshman, professional runner and co-founder of Picky Bars, discussed the complexity of motherhood for professional women. As a professional runner, she said she wants motherhood to be accepted enough by sponsors and racers that having children isn’t career suicide. Yet she’s conflicted when motherhood becomes the defining characteristic of her as a professional athlete. Sure, she’s a mom. But she’s more than a mom, too.
I felt a flash of connection as Lauren put into articulate, coherent words the confusing feelings about motherhood I’ve had since returning to work after my first daughter was born. I grabbed my Muse-provided journal and scribbled down a toast to Lauren and all working moms:
May motherhood be accepted, but not defining.
May it always be part – but never be all – of who we are.
I should mention that I’m not a “grab my journal and scribble” person. I didn’t even have a journal before the Muse Conference gave me one on the way in. One thing is for sure: Muse sends you home a different person than when you arrived.
3. When people who are literally changing the world confessed they have the same self-doubt the rest of us mere mortals sometimes do: The indomitable Sarah Pool, founder and CEO of Pacific Superfood Snacks and former University of California-Berkeley basketball team captain, has no reason to doubt herself, right? She’s changing the world through kale chips and TEDx talks. And yet even Sarah Pool sometimes faces self-doubt. She sometimes forgets her own name in front of a crowd. Merely knowing that real-life superheroes like Sarah Pool also occasionally struggle with holding themselves back was chicken soup to my soul.
She opened her incredibly inspirational keynote address by saying, “We all face adversity every day, but the biggest opponent we will ever face is our smallest self.” She roused the crowd to cheers, chills and tears as she encouraged everyone to let go of limiting beliefs and self-doubt.
This theme was also explored in Friday’s salon on startups, hosted by Kelly Kearsley of StartUpBend.com. Jamie Danek, one of the founders of Humm Kombucha, encouraged the crowd to shift focus onto their own strengths and unique talents when self-doubt creeps in. As an example, she said she occasionally feels intimidated when entering a business event as the only woman in the room. To curb that feeling, she focuses instead on what she’s bringing to the room. (I imagine this long list includes charm, boundless energy, saving the environment through bulk beverage distribution and being an apparent success at every business endeavor one tries, not to mention the best kombucha in the world).
An audience member at the startup salon commented that everyone has a unique strength. That strength may be something that comes very easily to you, but that doesn’t mean it comes easily to everyone. The sum lesson for me of both the salon and talks at the conference is: Value that strength, and focus on it when self-doubt threatens to sabotage your success.
4. When the teenager made me question my life’s meaning: Ily Logeais, a gifted filmmaker who also happens to be 15 years old, was asked what she wants to do after high school. She replied, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know how I want to do it.” At that moment, the audience was transported back to the moral clarity of our 15-year-old selves. Are we leading our lives how we meant to lead them before the business of adulthood influenced our values? Her reply was like a moral hip check against the glass. It took my breath away. [Check out Ily’s movie here.]
5. When my friend without kids spit out her coffee: There was a collective gasp of shock when Emily Evans, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, shared the statistic that Oregon has the third most expensive childcare in the nation. (It’s probably shocking to no one that we don’t have the third highest wages in the nation to match that price tag.) I was sadly not shocked, remembering back to 2010 when I paid $1,600 per month for daycare near Portland for my two very young daughters. We didn’t buy anything that year except food and gasoline, which is exactly why this issue matters to parents and non-parents alike: It’s an economic development issue, not a women’s issue.
6. When I did the equivalent of shouting “GO YANKEES!” at a Red Sox player: Joanna Lohman of the Washington Spirit joked that the main myth she has to overcome as a professional athlete is that a women’s professional soccer league does, in fact, exist. At that moment, I could have shouted any number of supportive slogans such as “I LOVE YOU JO!” or “I TOO KNOW THAT WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER EXISTS!” or “THANKS FOR INSPIRING MILLIONS OF GIRLS TO ACHIEVE ATHLETIC EXCELLENCE!”
Instead, I shouted “GO THORNS!” at the top of my lungs.
While the audience thought it was funny, Joanna did not.
I’m a huge fan of Joanna Lohman (as any Portland Thorns fan would be if they heard her speak). This is an athlete who invented her own hairstyle (the JO-HAWK!), who epitomizes the ideals of hard work and perseverance, who inspires such loyalty that a fan who sadly passed away asked to be buried in Joanna’s jersey.
I can’t pretend to be a Spirit fan, but welcoming an admired athlete by screaming their rival’s team name is not what Bend’s about.
Sorry, Bend. I’m still working on that “Be nice” thing. Maybe it’ll help to journal more. Thanks to Muse, I have just the book to do it in.