Conferences are funny things. You get 200 or so people stuck in a room, often with no windows; and they’re all watching a bunch of other people on stage talk about their areas of expertise. These conferences can be life changing, inspirational events – or they can be the most boring two days of your life.
The trouble is that when you sign up, you’re never quite sure which one you’re going to get.
Last week I attended the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. And I’ll admit, the event itself was overwhelming. It was full of successful female entrepreneurs from around the world, the agenda was laden with interesting sessions; and it was peppered with impressive experiences such as cocktails and dinner in the Esma Sultan Mansion on the banks of the beautiful Bosphorus.
A conference like this has a jam-packed schedule. There were workshops, networking opportunities and the organisers even scheduled early morning Pilates sessions in case you were inclined to give your abs a workout before getting into the conference for the day (I didn’t feel the need to disturb my abs for this purpose).
Unsurprisingly, it’s taken me a few days to absorb everything that happened and process the experience. And I can safely say that this conference fell into the life changing category.
This was the fourth annual Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference. The first was held in Shanghai (2010) and I’ve been fortunate to attend the ones in Rio de Janeiro (2011), New Delhi (2012) and now Istanbul (2013).
So why was it life changing?
Because it made me realise that it’s time for me to play a bigger game. Not just for my business, but also for myself.
I’ve always understood the concept of “playing a bigger game”. After all, it’s a phrase that’s bandied about by business coaches, internet marketers and motivational speakers all over the world.
And it’s true that, over the past few years, my business has grown, many of my dreams have been fulfilled and my goals have been ticked off. But, for me, the process of playing a bigger game has always involved adding more (A LOT more) to my “to do” list – and then working like crazy to get it all done.
Don’t get me wrong, This way works. But you end up running around like a headless chook to make it happen. I’ve done it for years. And now I’m drawing a line in the sand.
Those who know me well will probably pooh-pooh this declaration. Many of my friends think I’m a compulsive workaholic who wouldn’t know how to relax unless there was a certificate of achievement or KPI involved. Even then, I wouldn’t see it as a goal worth pursuing.
However, my recent trip to Istanbul and Rome has changed all that.
As I cruised on the Bosphorus with an amazing coterie of women, looking at Europe on one side of the boat and Asia on the other, I realised how little I knew about the country I was in. As I sat in a piazza in Rome, sipping pinot grigio and sampling the world’s best gelati, I realised how infrequently I took time to smell the roses, drink in life, and appreciate the amazing world around me.
That doesn’t mean I want to be idle. As I mentioned, I want to play an bigger game – in business and in life – more than ever before. But I’m not going to succumb to my natural tendency, which is to add a raft of items to my “to do” list in order to make this happen. That’s a recipe for burnout. And it will guarantee that I’ll never have time to smell the roses.
In fact, I’ve realised that I have to do the opposite. Sitting in that piazza in Rome, I realised that I need to let go of many things I’ve been holding on to. Because I need to make space in my life for something bigger.
Some things are easy to let go of. Like the gym membership I never use. Rather than kid myself into thinking I’ll become a regular, it’s time to give it the chop.
Others are harder to part with. Such as longstanding associations and projects that have become such a part of my life that I no longer question why I do them. This kind of activity-on-autopilot may provide a sense of familiarity, comfort (and, in some cases, steady income) but I think it’s time to step out of this comfort zone.
I’m making some big changes in the coming months. I’m letting go. And, yes, that is a little bit scary. But I just KNOW that this is what needs to happen in order to play a bigger game. There’s no space for me to invite anything new into my life when it’s already so jam packed.
If this sounds a bit vague, that’s because I’m not exactly sure what the future looks like. But I’m keen to find out. And no doubt I’ll be writing about it here on this blog.
My tour guide in Rome said there’s practically an entire city buried underneath the modern day version of Rome. Historians and archaeologists have a goldmine they can explore, although that would mean digging up existing buildings in order to get to what’s underneath. But while it’s important to preserve and analyse the past, it’s also vital to move forward. The past will always be there. However, sometimes you need to close the door on it before you can build an exciting future and truly live la dolce vita.