The Midlife Debutante and The Instigator Experience

Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker

I hope you’ll be patient with me for just a sec. I’m gonna kinda sorta talk about Beautiful Me for just a moment and then I’m gonna swing over to you and bring us all together in a great big virtual chorus of amazing women.

This past weekend was a Game Changer for me. I was invited to speak at the Instigator Experience, a conference of and for other “makers” – people who are creating high-impact projects.

I hope Life After Tampons is one of those.

At any rate, I learned so much from the amazing people who spoke. Kamal Ravikant urged us to be “inappropriate.” Justine Musk reminded me that, for a writer, reading is the inhale, writing is the exhale. Meg Worden pointed out that I have an actual body to live in and that I should practice “letting the world come to me” instead of rushing headlong into everything I do. This was especially important to me because, as you’ll recall, I’ve always kinda sorta felt like my body was just a transportation device to take my mind from one interesting thing to the next.

Erika Lyremark has the sexiest brain, and I really enjoyed her book, Think Like a Stripper. Greg Hartle was perhaps the most genius business advisor I’ve ever met. Melissa Cassera was completely infectious as she talked about making our work a “guilty pleasure.” And AJ Leon made a compelling case for why “misfits” are changing the world.

The Instigator Experience is a “must” for creative entrepreneurs and I can’t thank organizers Srini Rao and, again, Greg Hartle, enough for an amazing event. You can subscribe to their Unmistakable Creative podcast here. (By the way, I am NOT an affiliate for this project, but when something is this great, I feel like I have to share it with you.)

Truly, The whole thing was magical.

My topic was Orchestrating Your Own Breakthrough. I took a big risk and decided to bring my flute and play part of my presentation. It was a HUGE hit and I sort of felt like a peri-menopausal star was born.

I’ve spoken at lots of events, but this one – the one that brought music into the picture, was a first for me. I wasn’t prepared for how “complete” I would feel afterwards. I felt like I brought my whole self to the experience. And I didn’t realize how important that would be to me.

Before this weekend I just couldn’t figure out how to bring the musical piece of myself to my work. So, even though I’ve been a musician for 41 YEARS, I just left this part of myself out.

Here’s the “you” part:

I’m curious to learn if you shave little bits of yourself off because you think they don’t belong or you can’t make them “fit.” Do you hold yourself back when it’s your turn to shine? Are you afraid you’ll look silly? Or, stuck up?

After my talk, I felt ensconced in a circle of love from those in the audience. I had prepared for weeks for this talk, and it felt so amazing to get a good reception. I think of all the times in my life where I held back, and I want to vow to do less of that.

This weekend, surrounded by mostly younger people I was reminded of this: There is certainly power in youth – there is vitality, freshness, sex appeal. But a woman’s power as she ages is in the wellspring of gorgeous WISDOM that comes when she commits herself to culling ALL the learning she can from a life well-lived: a life replete with beauty, dark, light, joy, sorrow.

I was reminded this past week that, when we bring all of that to our daily work, we truly make an impact like no other.

Wisdom is HOT. A woman owning the fullness of her power is a thing of beauty.

My question for you is this: How can you bring more of yourself to this day’s work? How would you fully expand into your life if you allowed yourself to do so?

Love, Jen

Photo: Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker

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25 Responses to The Midlife Debutante and The Instigator Experience

  1. Natasha says:

    Thank you for bringing your whole self to the stage. I was truly touched and my eyes water as I think of your words and music.
    Kick my ass and give me a cookie!

    • Jennifer says:

      It feels like it might be time to make a batch of snickerdoodles. I’m thinking that’s an Instigator-type cookie.

  2. Luna Jaffe says:

    Jen- I love the way you summarized your experience and that you have really absorbed all the love and appreciation we showered on you. What a brilliant realization to write that although youth is full of spark and vitality,
    “a woman’s power as she ages is in the wellspring of gorgeous WISDOM that comes when she commits herself to culling ALL the learning she can from a life well-lived: a life replete with beauty, dark, light, joy, sorrow.” Yes, Yes, Yes. Thank you for owning that wisdom, and for reminding all of us that there’s much more to life than a face without wrinkles! Can’t wait to hear you speak at TED!! I’m holding that vision.

  3. Nicole says:

    I LOVE that you had such a great experience!! I knew you would rock your presentation.

    For the record – “inappropriate” is one of my favorite words and I secretly delight inside when people say that I’ve said or done something “inappropriate” (which happened A LOT when I was a kid). Makes me feel like I’ve made an impression and stretched some limits. Who is to decide what IS or IS NOT appropriate for you? YOURSELF, of course!

  4. Sam says:

    Hi Jen,

    Your flute playing was profound, never experienced a speech like this one.

    Great insights in this article.

    Be well,

  5. Lesley says:

    How wonderful that you found your full self at this amazing event. That must have been a real ‘light bulb’ moment. To answer your question I guess I would acknowledge that I may good at what I do. I was brought up to believe that saying you were good at anything was showing off and therefore I had be more than just modest. The result of that is that I have spent most of my adult life putting myself down and belittling what I do. Thank you once again for all your wisdom, you seem to pop into my in box at just the right time. I now realise that I need to grow into my beautiful self.

    Please keep dropping in Jen


    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you, Lesley for playing along. It sounds like keeping your “light hidden under a bushel” isn’t working so great for you. Maybe today you can tell one person something that you are awesome at!!! (like ending sentences in prepositions, for example, or completely disregarding capitalization rules — just for practice.)

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I knew you were a rock star! Was this event recorded? I would pay to see you and the other presenters in all your brilliance!

    Now I’m off to think about my shavings.

    • Jennifer says:

      hmmm. ‘think about your shavings.” that’s a conversation starter! I am not sure what Srini is doing with the recordings. I’d love to see the whole thing again, too!

  7. Marcy says:

    What a life-changing weekend for you, Jen — both as a teacher and student. For me the answer is BABY STEPS. I’m trying to be more authentic, real and more me everyday, but not in BIG leaps, but in small steps. Each victory gives me courage to grow more. Practice makes progress.

    • Jennifer says:

      YES!!! I didn’t believe in Baby Steps — but they’ve made all the difference in the world to LAT.

      • Marcy says:

        Thanks for responding Jen. I want to check out some of the presenters you mentioned from the conference. POWERFUL TOPICS!

  8. It resonated with us because we recognized the truth of what you were sharing. Thank you, thank you. You touched me and not just with your talk but with the clarity and insight you brought during the Q&A and afterwards taking the time to speak privately to my soul. Thank you.

    • Jennifer says:

      You are so very welcome, love. Remember not to forget to remember to be really really good to yourself. Love, Jen

  9. Carolyn says:

    I remember thinking when you went up on stage with your flute – Wow, she’s brave! For me, that would be like singing during a speaking engagement. The flute is a challenging instrument at any time, but in front of a group for the first time when your heart is racing and your mouth is dry.

    And, you were brave. Because you go where people don’t go. Because you played beautifully and handled a missed note the way it should be handled – let me try that again! Profoundly courageous. Thank you!

  10. Marie says:

    I love your enthusiasm regarding this event. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity and learning experience that others will definitely want to try. I love love love these lines. They are some of the most powerful, energetic sentences I have read in a long time:

    “…But a woman’s power as she ages is in the wellspring of gorgeous WISDOM that comes when she commits herself to culling ALL the learning she can from a life well-lived: a life replete with beauty, dark, light, joy, sorrow.”
    “Wisdom is HOT. A woman owning the fullness of her power is a thing of beauty.”

    I believe many of us have shaved off a bit of ourselves for whatever reasons, but mostly to fit in. I am also thinking it could be a generational type item. The young people I am around do not seem to worry about what they say and to whom. They cut through the BS in a way that I find amazing and sometimes refreshing!

  11. Laurie S. says:

    So many of your posts have been things that I can clearly relate to and appreciate, but this one has really stopped me in my tracks and commanded my attention! I will be doing some journaling and creating around this one for many weeks to come, as I think you have brought to light a whole new level for me. I HAVE been shaving off parts of me for most of my life, and it is time for me to identify them and reclaim them. This is going to be fun!

    Thanks for always putting into words (sometimes so eloquent, sometimes so perfectly irreverent – and always beautiful!) the things I need most to move me forward in my own mid-life insurrection process. I always knew that there was a deep and precious core behind your knowing smile; now I get the pleasure of both celebrating and benefitting from the “whole” you, in all the awesome glory of your hard-earned wisdom. Blessings to you as you continue forward with unfailing courage, positive perseverance, and of course your trademark, kick-ass sass!

  12. Sandy Morris says:

    Wow Jen! It sounds like that conference was not only a true Instigator experience, but also a real game-changer for you! I LOVE when things like that just happen and we are part of the making-it-happen action that makes it all come together. It’s like we are conductors of our own life orchestra! Things like that give me never ending energy and keep me hungering for more!

    As for your question, “How can you bring more of yourself to this day’s work? How would you fully expand into your life if you allowed yourself to do so?”, hmmmmm… That is a great question, and one that I am currently investigating. I have recently discovered that my life long battle with depression has been partially because I have a combination of Seasonal Affective Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. This crazy-making combo renders me practically comatose for a few tortuous months out of the year, and unable to focus for long periods of time the rest of the year. Luckily both are treatable and I have a wonderful therapist who is helping me navigate through the rough spots and is helping me to understand how this has affected me all these years. I am looking forward to figuring out how to not get derailed and overwhelmed by my own brain and how to actually let my creativity be actualized! As an artist this is very exciting to me!

    As for ‘hiding my light under a bushel’ or ‘holding back when it’s my turn to shine’, that doesn’t happen much! Part of me having ADD means that I don’t have a very good ‘internal censor’. My dad always put it this way, “Whatever is in her brain comes out of her mouth.” When I am really excited about something and am good at it, WATCH OUT!! I will knock you down and teach you about it or make you understand weather you thought you wanted to know or not! I become an evangelist for my own ideas and will take anyone around me along for quite a ride! A quality my dear husband isn’t sure if he likes or not!

    You are right, Jen: Enthusiasm is the best aphrodisiac, no matter what age we are!

    • Jennifer says:

      I love that you are seeing things more clearly and having some breakthroughs along the way. Thank you for sharing your experience with us — it helps so many. Jen

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