Today’s journey was, in part, a literal one. Rising while it was still dark outside, I was on I-44 heading east toward Springfield, MO at 6:00 am. My destination was the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, which was playing host to the Heartland IMA Conference. This annual event is geared toward accountants. I am not in accounting. However, one of the guest speakers this morning at the conference was author and speaker, and my friend and mentor, Lu Ann Cahn.
Lu Ann’s book, I Dare Me, chronicles her year long journey of doing something new every day…365 firsts. Her transparency in sharing the experiences that transformed her life inspired me to create my own year of firsts and begin the Cindy Goes Beyond Blog, which is in its second year. In January 2014 I shared a link to one of my blog posts with Lu Ann, expressing gratitude for the inspiration she had given me and appreciation for the way my life was shifting as a result of moving out of my comfort zone, daily.
Lu Ann responded so graciously, offering encouragement and the opportunity to do a guest blog post for her. We have become friends, and I continue to view Lu Ann as my mentor as she journeys on, speaking around the country, embarking on new adventures, and encouraging people to take that leap out of the routine and into the unknown. Lu Ann visited Joplin last January and we did a first together. I visited Philadelphia in June, attending a writer’s conference with Lu Ann and experiencing a whole string of amazing firsts.
When Lu Ann informed me she would be speaking in Springfield today, I was delighted to meet her there. We enjoyed catching up on each other’s lives over breakfast and sitting outside by the hotel pool before her session began. What a treat, later in the morning, to hear her share from her heart before an attentive audience of 500+ people.
I’ve read Lu Ann’s book and heard her speak before. However, I was reminded today how amazing the journey is when I open myself to new experiences. And reminded as well of the many opportunities that show up when I shift to saying “Yes!” to the unknown rather than defaulting to an automatic “No”. Lu Ann shared that the keys to moving out of the ruts and comfort zones we find ourselves inhabiting are playing, having fun, and being curious. She put actions behind her words and invited the audience to open the small colorful containers in front of them and blow bubbles. There was a moment of surprise, as accountants and finance students looked at each other, and then playfulness overtook them and bubbles filled the air. I heard one older gentleman chuckle and say, “Fifteen years attending this conference and I’ve never done this before.”
That’s what Lu Ann does, she bypasses our tendencies to play it safe and resist change by helping us to step beyond our comfort zones. By her example and her stories, she has done that for me, and my life path is forever altered. As she said today, energy around us shifts when we do, and the act of seeking and experiencing new things brings more new things to us to try.
I am so grateful that Lu Ann’s journey brought her to Springfield. It was a pleasure to spend the morning with her, and vital to be encouraged to continue on this adventure that began last year. I love how Lu Ann, while further down this path than I am, offers guidance along the way and cheers me on, pausing with a helping hand stretched out, providing wisdom and humor for navigating the tricky parts. My desire is to, in turn, offer the same to others on the journey. I can’t wait to see where our paths next cross!