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It was a symposium event celebrating John Mellencamp’s music scheduled for May 2020 in Bloomington, Indiana.
The trip would take me back to my alma mater, my expenses would be paid, and I’d receive a stipend.
My response was an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Being paid to speak in academia doesn’t happen often (hardly ever). I could picture it all unfolding before me and my excitement grew inside the way it did when I was a five-year-old anticipating my upcoming birthday party. Eek!
Well, we all know what happened in March 2020—and like so many events during that time, it never happened.
Which was why it surprised me when the organizer of the event reached back out in December 2022, saying the event was “back on” and scheduled for early March 2023. Even more surprising, I was no longer sure if I could pull off what I would have in 2020.
So, my response this time was, “No, I don’t think I can deliver on my original topic.”
Well, along with the world changing, I had changed. You likely have, too. We all are, all the time.
What I originally planned on discussing was based on previous academic research on music used in politics, and it no longer felt like a “fit” for me. Over the last three years, my priorities had shifted into the personal growth space. First, with me coaching myself, and then with me serving as a coach for others. And now, my time in academia was coming to completion and I was stepping into coaching full-time.
Despite my “no,” the organizer asked if there was any way I would reconsider.
So, I did what all people in the coaching space do—I turned to my own coach. Her response:
“Courtney, I’m wondering what you can do to make that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ for you and the person you are becoming.”
Boom. Flash. Cue the lightning bolts of understanding.
Wait, what? You mean I can be so bold as to present a new proposal, with a new topic, wearing my coaching hat instead of my academic hat?
“Why yes, yes you can,” she said. And that is what I did.
My talk then became discussing John Mellencamp’s music from a personal growth space, and how his music can help us all tap into our own inner authority. The organizer was all in. And it was an amazing experience for the audience and for me. They wrote about and discussed ways they ignored their inner authority with people they were sitting next to. I even sang Mellencamp’s lyrics acapella.
Authenticity is tied to our inner authority. I’m often speaking with friends and clients about this idea of wanting to be authentically who we are, yet we struggle with this because we suffer from comparing ourselves to others. Our world is filled with images, pictures, constructed lives and experiences that are often glamorized and fake.
This is why it can be painful for many people to have fake, superficial relationships or conversations. Or, to put themselves in work and social situations that aren’t aligned with their belief systems and values. The further we are from our true selves, the more anguish we feel. It’s about living from the inside out rather than looking to the outside world and bringing it in.
So, is there something you think is a “no” that could be a “yes” for you? If so, how can you better align it with your authentic self and who you truly are?