I NEVER in a million years would have allowed my kids to do what I did last month:  take off for a weekend with complete strangers, to an undisclosed location, with very little information. Except that I was invited to represent Military Mama Network at the Facebook Communities Summit. Only 100 Facebook groups out of 640,000,000 were invited. Someone is more likely to win the Powerball.  Twice.  Or be struck by lightning WHILE drowning.  Four times.

Facebook didn’t choose those groups at random.  They invited some to apply and interviewed the final possibilities. It was a friendly interview and fun to remember what we had done as a group; powerful to think back on some of our biggest missions. After the application, interview, and internal Facebook research, MMN was invited to attend. We didn’t know where we were going or staying.

The Facebook Communities Summit team expected me to come as my authentic self. My authentic self? My authentic self is a painfully shy accountant.  My authentic self would rather be with my family and close friends than in a strange room filled with people I didn’t know. No, Facebook, I will not come as my authentic self, I thought.  I will come as my Sasha Fierce self.  I will attend as the person I put on for networking and public appearances and bring my authentic heart and my interest in others.  That will have to do, Facebook Communities Summit team.
And so I packed my favorite jean jacket, some MMN shirts (red sparkly for Friday) and some comfy shoes.  Three of us carpooled:  one of the gals I invited to attend the Facebook Communities Summit with me and another attendee who lives in my same town. Off we went, to a still undisclosed location except for where we were staying.  I dropped them at the Facebook Communities Summit and had lunch with my brother.  And this is where the lessons learned begin:

Follow your heart and don’t let others’ criticism deter you.

Do a gut check when you receive feedback. Learn from it and course correct.  But never compromise what your authentic self knows is YOUR path. MMN started with a bunch of strangers who all had someone we loved going through the same Army Basic Training cycle, combined with a collection for a soldier and his dog. My heart connected with people sharing the journey. I became “mama bear” to some and we became a family. In following my heart to found MMN, there were sacrifices, broken moments, and wonderful successes. And ultimately an invitation to attend an event where the odds were 1:64,000,000 of being invited.

I followed my heart on the first day of the Summit when I spent an afternoon with my brother instead of networking with other Facebook Communities Summit attendees. I’m sure I missed something, but I received more: laughing and having lunch with my brother outside on a beautiful day.

Believe in the power of kindness and give people the benefit of the doubt.

We all have bad days, weeks, months, maybe even years.  We all snap and overreact when we wish we hadn’t. In MMN Facebook groups, we don’t allow mean girl stuff or drama. We are focused on the mission. Sometimes I come across more curt than I’d like or I don’t respond quickly enough, but please, in all of these, assume the best tone and intention. When others resemble porcupines more than people, give them a hug, virtual or otherwise. Life is too short NOT to be kind. Give someone a ride, invite someone to come along. Include the person standing near the circle but not inside it.

Share your wins. It may just bless you beyond the moment.

Facebook said we could bring two guests to the Summit and for me, one was an obvious choice:  My friend who works in social media. I hoped being at the Summit would positively impact her business. Walking along the same path for a time developed our friendship. She did things way out of her comfort zone and clicked with people immediately.  It cost me nothing to share my win with her and seeing the impact attending the summit had on her has been a gift. I get emotional when I talk about it.  Share the win.

Encourage others at every opportunity. Literally “put courage” in others.

I had a brief conversation with one of the young Summit attendees. I thought what she did was cool and I told her that. I found out later that the conversation had a huge impact on her and changed the direction of her Facebook Communities Summit experience.  She then changed someone else’s and so on. My statement took 10 seconds… and the ripples are still being felt.  That is the power of encouragement.

Elite events don’t cure insecurity.  But go anyway.

There was a woman who almost didn’t attend the Summit because she didn’t feel “worthy” of being there. But she came and what she does…it’s epic. She gives her members, who are limited, a voice and an opportunity to share talent and beauty and celebration. It’s empowering.

At the Summit, around people I didn’t know, I was forced to deal with my insecurities or allow them to diminish the power of the Facebook Communities Summit. I’m always shocked when people don’t see my insecurities. I feel like I wear them on my sleeve.  I’ve been told I don’t and that ALWAYS makes me wonder if someone’s behavior is rooted in insecurities or a bruised heart.

Size doesn’t matter.  Impact does.

At the Facebook Communities Summit, there were groups that had fewer than 100 members and some with more than a million.  The groups in attendance weren’t there because of size.  They were invited for the impact they had on their community and the way their virtual reality/social media connections translated into real world change.

Coming home and sharing what we learned with others will continue to impact the world around us.  I don’t want to make money, like some will.  I just want to impact the world in a positive manner.

If you love something, take care of it and stay the course.

We worked hard to build MMN but, as I learned at the Summit, we have a lot of vulnerabilities.  We need to take care of our network.  Legally, emotionally, and relationally.

You’re never as alone as you may think.

Helping a couple attendees overcome their “First Facebook Live” fear was fun. I think it was for them too. Or at least, less horrible. For me, almost everything is less scary when I have someone next to me.

Many of the Facebook Communities Summit attendees spoke of the hours and hours they put into their groups. They take care of them and worry about their people as much as I do. Whether it was a super conservative group, or very liberal group, EVERYONE has someone sharing space with them.  Service providers, service members, nursing moms, church groups, dads, moms, community based, formed in response to oppression, everyone had someone. You know the lesson I most appreciated?  Every single person I met was fascinating. Amazing.  Had a wonderful story and a huge heart.
So thank you Facebook, for inviting MMN to attend the Facebook Communities Summit.  It was an amazing event. Because we were invited, because you chose to recognize the works that we and other groups do, because you see the impact we make on the community, we know we can do more.
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