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Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

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contribution

Cocktail Chatter: The Introverts Edition

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Thanks to this “Glory of Amlwch” bush, I shifted from anxiety to peace in a matter of seconds.

If you’re like me, when you look out on a sea of strangers – shaking hands, making cocktail chatter, and exchanging cards – you break into a cold sweat. Almost four years ago, I fled the stresses and social intensity of life in Los Angeles for a simpler existence on the shores of Puget Sound.

It suits me in the Pacific Northwest, and living so closely to the natural world has instilled a confidence and sense of self that eluded me for many years. Living here, I’ve also rediscovered the desire to inspire others that once led me to be a filmmaker. But isolation has also distanced me from my peers, and the desire to close that gap inspired my pilgrimage to The Hive.

Closing that gap was both easier and more challenging than I’d expected. It may not be necessary to say, but I am extremely introverted. I feel comfortable with animals, plants, intimate exchanges and meaningful conversation, but don’t fare as well with the kind of small talk necessary at a conference or crowded party. So there I was, in this environment of openness and excitement, knowing I was among the very people I wanted to talk to…and yet often feeling incapable of establishing the connections I sought. But here’s what I realized…

You ARE your contribution. When I remembered how much I care about the world and my commitment to connecting people to themselves and their planet, my interactions were intimate and meaningful, despite the flurry of small talk all around us.

Most people want to be recognized for who they really are and, while there were people with whom I didn’t connect, more often than not – through my commitment – I was able to find a common humanity with people even if we lacked common experience, background or age.

Check in with something that grounds youI’ve been photographing the natural world since I arrived in Washington and nothing soothes my nervous system like being up close and personal with living things. At my most anxious moments, if I could find a blooming thing with which to check in, I was fine. Ultimately, my social courage over the weekend was a testament to the wonders of getting grounded For me the source is flowers, but no matter your method, it’s worth embracing: not just in crowds, but in any stressful circumstance.

In closing, if you also find yourself in a cold sweat when you look out on a sea of strange faces, and prefer almost anything to shaking hands and making cocktail chatter, remember two things: you are a contribution and what is eternal, real and true can be the magic elixir when it comes to introducing yourself. Because, even if you’re an introvert, the next hand you shake may be the one that transforms your world.

Expansion

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The view from my room at Cavallo Point Lodge. If it wasn’t for the fog, beyond the eucalyptus, you’d see the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the hardest parts of preparing for The Hive Global Leaders Program this week was getting over the idea that I didn’t belong.

Once the initial euphoria of anticipation passed and I took a look at who my fellow Hivers  were, a shock of “I’m out of my league” shuddered through me and I closed my laptop lid.

As much as our hearts may dream of expanding our horizons and recreating ourselves in the model of who we are inside, our egos and identities want to keep us safe. There’s a  reason why we lead the lives we do and why so many dreams go unfulfilled. When we step into the unknown and out of the comfort zone of familiarity, a lot of uncomfortable emotions arise. And it’s a lot easier, and a lot safer, to avoid such raw feelings of uncertainty. It’s a lot easier to postpone something until we feel more ready, accomplished or prepared.

But there’s nothing like jumping in.

So I did. And with the loving support of friends and colleagues, I got over myself and started considering that I belong. Because I say I do. Because I know there’s a place for connection, communion and awareness in all spheres of life, and I want to bring those things to global leaders, just like I’ve been bringing them to my friends and clients all along.

I belong here because I see a need and I want to fill it: with insights, support and everything else I bring when I show up. I’m not like the other entrepreneurs, techies and leaders whom I’m meeting (most of them at least) and that’s okay. In fact, that’s exactly why I need to be here.

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