Two Fridays ago, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the 3rd annual Women’s Dream Conference—an inspiring and eye-opening event by local Chicago celeb Andrea Metcalf. A huge thank you goes out to Shruthi Reddy of Reddy Set Yoga! for inviting me. I already can’t wait for next year.
The day began with Andrea’s keynote. She related her trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro to starting a business, with many setbacks on her way up the mountain—including when she threw up in her goggles, and it immediately froze, rendering them useless. She was forced to blindly continue the trek through the snow for the rest of the journey. Unexpected moments like this can easily be compared to the harrowing, bumpy path toward starting your own business, Andrea says. When they finally reached the peak and were going to take a picture, a man from another group stripped down to his skivvies and leapt into the frame. “So the view from the top of the mountain may not always look how you imagined either,” Andrea dryly remarked.
Undies aside, my favorite message was Andrea’s advice on how to get what you want in life: Be direct. Once, when she wanted a certain position at a TV station, she called up the guy in charge and literally said, “I’m a health and wellness expert, and you should give me a job.” Her point was that if you know what you’re talking about and know what you want, you have to ask for it. By the way: She was hired.
Women’s Dream Panel No. 1: Wellness
The first panel was about health, wellness and balance. The theme that emerged was around the benefits of meditating, something I’ve been really interested in learning lately. But I was surprised to hear that it was something almost all of these women practice. Panelist Kathy Hart (of Eric and Kathy from 101.9 the Mix) was the first to stress the importance of making time for yourself to meditate or relax or do yoga or reset however you need—no excuses.
I like to think of it as the ‘putting your mask on first’ mentality—you can’t be your best self for others if you don’t take care of yourself first. (Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, almost all of our Panachies! But we digress.)
Women’s Dream Panel No. 2: Wealth
Panel No. 2 was about building wealth. Two points especially stuck with me:
- Financial advisor Mohini McCormick from Calamos Wealth Management talked about the emotional connection to money—and that it’s important not to make financial decisions when emotions are high. She says when you work with a financial planner or advisor, you put together a plan. Many of her clients will come to her and say, ‘Oh no, the economy is doing this! Shouldn’t we respond this way with my money?’ Her response is usually no, we have a plan to cover these sorts of things—let’s stick to it.
- “You can have it all, just not all at once.” Another panelist shared this sentiment, which was very heartening—and makes me even more excited for the future.
Women’s Dream Panel No. 3: Branding
The final panel discussion focused on personal branding. Sue Koch, social media consultant and owner of Soaring Solutions, told us that your brand is made up of 10 percent what you actually do, 30 percent how good you are at what you do, and 60 percent what people think of you—illustrating that it’s just as important for your bottom line to think about your brand as it is to perfect your offer.
Later on in the discussion, Micae Brown, host of The Micae Brown Report, created one of the most powerful moments in the room. She talked about how imperative it is for women to support each other. She acknowledged that there are times when your first instinct is competition, and thoughts like “There isn’t room for the both of us to succeed” permeate the brain—but that’s just not reality. This world is a big place, and there’s a space for each of us in it. If we spend more time helping each other and lifting each other up, we will accomplish a lot more.
The day was full of powerful reminders, and I couldn’t get over how many supportive women we are surrounded by each day whether we know it or not. My favorite part of the conference was the conversations: honest, earnest and full of real emotion. It was fantastic to be in a room full of women who just want to help each other live the best lives they can.
Anniversary Party Time!
Later that night, I attended The People’s Music School 40th Anniversary event—and it was spectacular. As a quick reminder, this is the only tuition-free music school in the country, and kids and their families camp outside for days every year before registration to gain a coveted spot. Growing up as a band kid, I understand the value of music education, and I was grateful to be a part of an event that helps kids learn music skills and gain self-confidence in the process. They ended up raising over $230,000 that night!
The young musicians of The People’s Music School kicked off the evening with an impressive jazz ensemble, and that’s when my nostalgia really kicked in—I used to play the flute. Later on, a young girl belted out “Tonight” from West Side Story while President and Artistic Director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa herself played the piano. Right after that, Jennifer accompanied a young boy on “Wipe Out” on the drums, blowing the audience away.
Besides the music, a theme of the night was captured by a father of three children who attend the school. He said: “What makes this music school special is the experience you have with these great people. The idea of having my children around good people is what we want and what we need so that one day, they can become good people.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the night.
The event culminated in one epic performance: honoree Jimmy Chamberlin, the Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer, joined an ensemble of 40 students. They played their own rendition of “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins—the event’s namesake song. Jennifer told me the theme was “Tonight, So Bright” (a lyric in the song) because they want to focus on the present.
“We’ve had 40 years of this great history, but we don’t want to be lost in the ‘before,’” she says. “The future isn’t fully formed yet, so it’s almost limitless—just like our kids. They’re not fully formed adults yet, and the work they’re doing now is planting the seed for them to become leaders and socially responsible, contributing members of society, as well as innovators, dreamers, executors.”
Whether we’re talking with women dreamers of today or the children that will create our tomorrows, that is something we can all believe in.
[Conference photos by Kate. Music school event photos courtesy of The People’s Music School.]
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