Author’s Note: I’ve made a list of 100+ events, places and experiences that happily unite people. I’m taking a tour to see and experience as many of them as possible, and also meet-up with Society members and friends. Of course, I’ll be sharing these #HappinessUnites moments with you. Find out more of the why’s of the #HappinessUnites Tour in my blog: 3 Reasons I’m Hittin’ the Road. Or find out where my #HappinessUnites Tour has taken me so far — and what I’ve had time to write about.
#HappinessUnites Tour: Stop 4 – Conferences
What can you like about work or professional conferences:
- Most of the time you learn something new – which is a key to happiness.
- You meet new friends and connect with old friends.
- You get to be social and do things you probably don’t do at home – often involving too many adult beverages, not enough sleep and possibly dancing on a few tables.
Yes, I do follow the unwritten rule for my professional conference experiences – exception being, if we’re chatting over a few too many cocktails.
Common Interest/Passion Conferences
The second type of conference voluntarily unites people because of a common interest – usually unrelated to our paid profession. If you have an interest, there’s probably a conference for you—ranging from gardening to fitness to bridal everything to gaming to cars to cartoon characters to cats (yes, I just read about this on one Facebook).
This is the second year that I’ve attended the Mayborn Writers Conference because I love spending time with fellow wordsmiths, including some who make their living writing. This is a serious writers conference. Most of the attendees and speakers write about the dark side of life – the stories that we need to know about, but would like to think didn’t happen. This includes things like wars, poverty and other social unjust. Even though my seeking-silver-linings topic, happiness, is on the opposite side of the topic spectrum of most discussions, I still feel a camaraderie with others who attend. After all, most writers, including me, want to write words that inspire readers to see something a little different than when the reader started reading the story.
This conference also offers attendees the opportunity to meet with literary agents. Although I’m not working on any particular book this year, I still met with two agents to find out what’s going on in the publishing world. The ones I met with rep serious books, so my lighthearted attempt to pitch a book about my #HappinessUnites Tour only garnered an agent referral from one of them who handles lighter topics.
With so many serious books being written about how people are divided, don’t readers need something to even the scales a bit? I believe we need something to remind us that the majority of us share experiences that unite us despite our differences. Sometimes I don’t understand why some people don’t see the serious need for more people to live happy.
JoAnn, who helps with the conference, arranged these meetings. Before the event, she and I had a long phone conversation about the conference, and we became friendly. She agreed to pose with me for a #HappinessUnites picture even though she said she didn’t like to take selfies. It was a #HappinessUnites win. Unfortunately, the cold that I brought back from my Outdoor Theater Tour stop, kept me from asking people to take the pledge.
I was eager to hear the Saturday evening speaker, Sebastian Junger, best known for his book-turned-movie, The Perfect Storm. Much of his storytelling comes from war-torn regions, like Bosnia, which was one of the inspirations of his new book Tribe.
His speech discussed how adversity during the worst of times unifies us into tribes. I heard him say that these tribes are based on unhappiness, and although I agree that unhappiness unites us, it’s not an exclusive uniting factor. He said at some point after he got married that he quite traveling to war zones. I wanted to pose this question to him, “Didn’t you change tribes from one that bonded on the danger of war, to one that bonded on the happiness of family life?”
Although I bought his book and stood in line to get it signed, I didn’t get to ask my question or get a #HappinessUnites selfie. I did give him a #HappinessUnites sign with the hopes that he might ponder if he’d joined a happy tribe too, in addition to the ones he belongs to from his danger zone experiences.
The lessons I learned from attending a conference for my #HappinessUnites Tour:
- Practice mindfulness at the conference – live in the moment without too many pre-set expectations. This reduces disappointments if an expectation isn’t met, but more importantly, it gives you a chance to discover something unexpected.
- Even if you’re an introvert, force yourself to meet new people even if it makes you uncomfortable. If you’re an extrovert, make a point to introduce yourself to an introvert.
- If you go to the same conference more than one year in a row, you’ll get to reconnect with people you’ve met before beyond your online social media connections.
I’d love to hear your take-aways from some of the conferences you’ve attended! What sort of common interests do you share with others outside of your profession? Will you be returning to a specific conference for a second or perhaps even a third time? Please leave a comment below! Such a great way to meet new friends who share your interests!