Last week, I spent two days in Columbus, Ohio with 1,000 people from around the world. The Summit of Greatness was my first vacation in more than six years. Attending this event was outside of my comfort zone. I went by myself and as usual, part of me felt not good enough to join them. The excuses came. I can’t afford it. I shouldn’t take time off from work. I’ll probably be sitting by myself the whole time and feel like a weirdo. I bought the non-refundable ticket on a sunny morning over the summer before I could convince myself that I shouldn’t go.
The Summit of Greatness is put on by author and podcast host Lewis Howes, creator of the School of Greatness – a series of courses that help people unlock their human potential and create the awesome grownup life they want.
It was an incredible experience. The speakers (the likes of Mel Robbins, Chris Guillebeau and Esther Perel) were awesome but I was most moved and inspired by my fellow event go-ers. As I spoke with people from all over North America and Europe, I wished I could record every story, every conversation and share it with every child and adult child of an alcoholic.
I listened as they described challenges and obstacles: trauma, abuse, loss, poverty, illness, oppression, bullying, disabilities, substance abuse and addiction and others. I also met people who’ve had seemingly idyllic upbringings and grownup lives but are called to help people, to create and do extraordinary things. They spoke of their drive and their motivation. What struck me most was how much they were believers in the power of hope – believers that the answers and direction they seek are already within themselves. But above all, what inspired me most is their sharp understanding that they are givers. In giving, we receive. They are called to help people. They learn more from the raggedy guy on the corner than the guy in the office next to them. They know that the more good you do, the more good will come to you but no matter what, they’d rather go to bed at night knowing they helped someone that day than earn more money or material goods. Those are all bonuses that sometimes tag along with the experience. They want to change the world, those crazy people. They were fully present. Fully aware. Empathetic. Sympathetic. And bold enough to act.
There was an event at a park. There was a guy sitting alone. He wasn’t alone for long. Multiple people invited him to join their groups. Others sat down and chatted for a while.
They encouraged one another in a way I have never experienced.
These are the people whose voices should be amplified. On the ride home, I thought about the power of those voices.
Most of the people in my life don’t really get into healing and personal development and growth stuff. They don’t really understand why I spend the time I do improving myself and why I share with you. They’re not interested or not motivated. They accept their lives, even if they are not content. They don’t listen to podcasts or read books. That’s for broken people, they think.
I remember telling my mother years ago that I was trying to learn more about Catholicism, the faith I’d been raised in, by going to Mass twice per week.
“That’s a waste,” she replied. “You only have to go on Sunday.”
Eight years ago, I told her I was writing a book.
“What for?” she asked with annoyance in her voice. “That’s unrealistic.”
I don’t blame her. In the world she’s known and being controlled by a substance abuse disorder, dreams are for fools.
Imagine if I’d listened to her. There’d be no Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool and I wouldn’t have met the thousands of incredible children of alcoholics and other people of dysfunctional environments who’ve touched my soul.
As the kid of an alcoholic, I was confused by Mom’s unpredictable abundance and then lack of encouragement and support. Her words were loudest, figuratively and literally, among all of the voices around me.
I wonder sometimes how life would be different if I hadn’t absorbed her words. How I would view everything differently. How clear the path would have been if in my younger years, there had been more of the words, the smiles, the voices and the hugs I enjoyed at the Summit of Greatness. I wish I could travel back in time and tell young Jody (and all the kids around me) to amplify the encouragement and to ignore the negativity that makes you doubt what you know in your heart.
I’m turning the volume up on these voices. I’m surrounding myself with these people who push and inspire me.
I hope you do the same.