This is Where it Got REAL

Exactly a week ago, I flew to Nashville, Tennessee, for a two-day branding workshop to get coached on creating my new keynote presentation.  I documented my experience like a series of journal entries (a peek into my real world experience) to bring you along with me.

Speaking of the “Real World” I wasn’t allowed to watch that MTV show growing up, but–in a crazy turn of events–a Sunday school youth pastor showed us clips of the show so we could discuss how we might handle those “real world” situations.

To be honest, I can’t remember the lessons, but I can fully explain the perils of mixed drinks, late night hot tub sessions, and…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real.

Welcome to my version of the Real World.


4:30am I wake up to work out before my flight, but check on my daughter, Luna, who’d been complaining about not feeling well the night before.  In a matter of minutes, she vomited on her bed.  On herself.  On me.  And on the rug.  It was glorious.

5:00am I ask JD if we should cancel the trip.  No, he adamantly says.  I got us, he says, as he bathes our daughter.  Frantically I call the airline to cancel their flights, rebook the rental car in my name, and adjust hotel reservations.  I feel torn, I cry a little.

8:45am Luna blows kisses to me from her carseat and I wave goodbye at the airport.

2:09pm Decide to document my journey and share it on my blog.  I’m writing on the airplane sipping club soda.  Might be a terrible idea, but I’m okay trying it out.

7:14pm I meet Katie (President of Social Curator) at the airport, get our rental car, and find ourselves tucked inside a booth at SixtyVines sipping wine and eating salads–totally exhausted–but giddy exchanging updates about new features we’re adding to our platform.

9:00pm FaceTime JD and Luna, nearly kissing my screen because I miss them so much.  Catch up with email, read, and fall asleep at 10:30pm.


5:30am Katie and I meet at the gym, each quietly preparing for the day, listening to podcasts.

9:00am We meet with Rory Vaden of Brand Builders, his office neatly organized, and warm americanos ready and waiting.  JD joins our meeting from home, via Zoom.

11:30am I’m feeling overwhelmed.  There’s just so much to think about and decide and answer and and and…I order another coffee.  We work through lunch, pieces of my tofu salad slowly making its way onto my fork.  Wishing it was a burrito.  I crave comfort food when I feel anxious.

1:30pm Took a break from–wait for it:  joke writing.  I’ve never written a joke in my life.  I try to explain that I don’t do jokes.  If I happen to say something funny on stage, it just sort of happens.  In fact, all my presentations are off-the-cuff in nature.  Rory explains that I’m not writing jokes, I’m learning the structure, cadence, and confidence needed to be in control of my humor.  It’s awkward.  I’m awkward.

4:58pm Rory recaps the day and suggests homework to be completed that evening.  I tell him my brain feels like oatmeal and there’s zero chance I'll form a coherent thought for the remainder of the day.  He smiles knowingly.  We high-five goodbye.

9:30pm Back in the hotel after dinner with Katie and Courtney (a friend), doing deep breathing exercises to clear my mind.  I scribble ideas in my notebook, things I need to ask Rory tomorrow, and ideas swirling around in my head.  Ideas…they’re coming.


5:30am Katie and I see each other at the gym, a slight nod to each other, our face laden with the sleep we wanted.

8:30am Katie and I teach a live branding class inside of the Social Curator community.  We share our early insights and encourage people to take action using what we’re learning.

9:00am Rory explains today is the moment the real work begins.  I’ll be taking my ideas and message, and create a new keynote.  We’ll make frameworks and action items, we’ll shape my message into a single sentence.  I’m ready, I say.

12:00pm The lunch gods smile on me…Chipotle arrives!  We work through lunch, and ideas tumble from us like endless scoops of guacamole.  No extra charge.  The entire keynote has structure, and we build frameworks.

3:30pm The keynote presentation is fully outlined.  Rory asks if I like what we created.  No, I say, I love it.

3:34pm Rory watches an old presentation of mine on YouTube.  He pauses every two minutes to give feedback and critiques my stage presence and vocal diversity.  It’s uncomfortably awesome.

5:00pm Rory and I hug goodbye.  I thank him for taking my ideas and words to form my mission.

6:00pm I toast to new beginnings with Amy Porterfield at 5th and Taylor.  We talk about everything, we talk about nothing, like good friends do.

8:30pm FaceTime with JD and Luna.  I wish I could teleport home.  I wish Luna wasn’t sick, but JD reminds me everything happens for us, even if we don’t understand it now.

9:30pm Email, contract reviews, pack my bag, and read until the Melatonin sinks in.

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2023

4:00am I am awake, nervous to miss my 4:30am alarm.

5:43am I’m sitting in Nashville International airport.  Feeling hopeful, satisfied with the work I did, and excited to squeeze Luna.

And here ends my episode of Real World.  Well, except, not really.  I’m also documenting this process on my podcast.

Next month, I’ll be sharing two episodes about the branded keynote process with Brand Builders because I want you to follow the process on your own, even if you aren’t working with Rory.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  One day–if I’m lucky enough–I hope we can meet in-person at an event where I’m giving this labor-of-love presentation.

To watching reality T.V. during Sunday School,