It’s been 7+ months since I jumped in with Team Rubicon at MOBEX Trigger and I’ve still not recovered (not sure that I ever will and I’m OK with that) so I don’t know why I thought giving myself a week to recover from NatCon was going to make a difference. But my head is a little clearer than it was a week ago and I’ve (mostly) caught up on sleep so I’ll jump in and see if I can manage some kind of recap.
First off, it was fantastic! From a logistical standpoint, the venue was perfect, the programming was solid, the guest speaker (General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was wonderful, the food was amazing, and the company/people were good for my soul. The weekend could not have been any better. The Hilton Anatole was an incredible setting - probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in. I didn’t get a chance to experience their lazy river or swimming pools but the garden area was beautiful and the amenities were quite luxurious. My room was nice…I think. Can’t say I spent a lot of time in it. I’m sure my roommate thinks I’m nuts, but I didn’t go to Dallas to sleep. Not including cat naps, I racked up an impressive 7 hours of sleep over 3 nights. But that was my plan going in so it wasn’t a big deal. Thankfully the kids had Monday off from school so I was able to sleep until noon and catch up a little.
My experience in Dallas was similar to my first Milbloggers’ Conference. I spent the majority of the time in Dallas just soaking it all in. I felt like the world’s biggest sponge and all I could do a lot of the time was just…BE. It was twofold: I was over-the-moon happy to be back with my regional team. In many ways, we’re a family and this was a wonderful reunion. On top of that was the conference itself, and just the idea of being in the room with all of these people I admire the heck out of - who do so much for so many and are rock stars in their own right - was enough to overwhelm me. So I spent a lot of time just soaking it in. I watched. I listened (two ear holes, one mouth hole. I tried to apply that ratio to how much I listened versus talked). I tried to commit everything to memory so I could go back and relive it later.
And I knew I was going to do this. It’s how I process things so none of this came as a surprise. I knew I wasn’t going to engage as much as I would have liked this first year. I did better than I expected and met/talked to a bunch of new people, but there are so many more I want to connect with so that’s my goal for next year. However, next year will probably hold a different challenge in that I expect the organization to have grown significantly, which means that next year’s convention will be even bigger (and the possibility exists that I will not be invited - I wasn’t actually invited this year. Instead, I was standing in for one of the regional managers that couldn’t make it). So who knows?
There are a lot of big, structural changes coming and a lot of uncertainty as they are rolled out. No one really knows what the actual secondary and tertiary effects will be and a lot of things are up in the air. Some people are really stressed about this, which is completely understandable. It’s hard to avoid stress when the parameters you’re use to functioning under are either shifting or dissolving. Change is tough and I’m the first to admit that. I don’t do change well and it makes me all panicky. However, the team I work with…I’ve never had the privilege - and it is truly a privilege - to work with a team that felt more like family than this group of people. It overwhelms me on at least a weekly basis and sometimes more. If any group of people can make it through these choppy waters, it’s this group.
Just today, I was brought to tears by someone saying something as simple as ‘Welcome home’. Silly but profound, all at the same time. For so long - most of my life, to be honest - I’ve rarely felt ‘at home’ anywhere other than in my own home. And, being a military spouse for so long (and being rather transient as a college student before that), even my own home felt foreign a lot of the time. As a kid, I never felt completely like a city-dweller, even though I lived in SoCal but I also didn’t feel like a country kid. In school, I didn’t have a particular group of friends that I specifically identified with. I was blessed to have good friends but they were spread out across different social groups and I never really fit in completely with any of them. Same goes for college - I was usually on the periphery. Ditto for my time as a military spouse.
And then I find TR. And I find these people that have my back - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in every way a family should. And they let me have theirs. That feeling is POWERFUL. Overwhelmingly powerful. It brings me to my knees if I dwell on it too much, and I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they have my back or that they let me have theirs, because that is an honor in and of itself. To be needed like that, outside of my own family, is fulfilling and humbling.
And the more I ponder all of this and dig into why all of this is so overwhelming to me - this concept of family outside of blood - I realize that part of it has to do with the fact that I am unfamiliar with it simply because I have never served in combat and never really been a part of a team or an organization where these kinds of bonds are formed. So it’s new and intoxicating and wonderful. I’m sure I’ll find a balance at some point but for now I just kind of revel in it and do my best to put that momentum I feel to use. It oozes out of me at times and I’m not used to that either but I’m getting there.
The conference itself was good - lots of TR Kool Aid, as it were. Not so much of a ‘leadership’ conference in that there wasn’t much in terms of leadership development. I would have liked to have seen that but the weekend was chock full of plenty of other useful information and experiences - functional breakouts, ‘speed dating’ with topics like ‘CEO/COO Q&A: Culture, Mission, & Org Strategy’, ‘Comms: Story Yelling, Tattoos, & Brand Friggin’ Standards’, and ‘Membership: What’s Your Safeword?’. All of these had little nuggets of wonderful information embedded in them, particularly for this newbie.
The welcome dinner Thursday night featured guest speaker and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford. He was a riot and did not disappoint. The hope is that, when he retires, he will don a grey shirt and join us. I suspect he will.
I think the best part of the entire weekend was the people - the ones I already knew and the ones I was privileged to meet. TR has a fantastic online presence and being able to faces to names was great. And the time spent with my regional people is always time well spent. I Also got to take my first Uber ride and that was really cool as well. I convinced them all to try Korean food and that was a raging success. We sang songs at a piano bar, some of us rode elephant statues.
It was a good weekend. I miss them all already and can’t wait to see them again in a few weeks for our Regional conference.