Guest Posts · Higher Education · personal development · Weekend Reads and Listens

Weekend Reads and Listens: Conference Edition

Greetings from Chicago! I’m attending a work conference in this vibrant city that I was lucky to call home for four years during college (yes, my university was in a suburb, but still claiming it).

Man, do I love a good conference. It includes so many things I value and appreciate: professional development, idea exchanges, networking, eating like you’re on vacation (you should definitely try the Cookie Monster cupcake at Molly’s Cupcakes next time you are in the city) and hotels.

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Evening view of Chicago River from hotel room

Even before I became a parent, I’ve always enjoyed the solitude of traveling for work and staying in a hotel room. And I revel in the few days of having no laundry, bed-making, or bathroom clean-up. No matter the number of stars of the hotel, it feels like pampering to me.

As a parent of toddlers, this lack of responsibility is even more relished, while being equally harder to leave home. I hated saying goodbye to the boys, but the “me” time when I am not conferencing is slightly heavenly. When I find I have a couple of hours in my hotel room, my brain goes something like this: I should write a blog. I probably have time to write a post and do some planning for future posts. What I really need to do is read this book for work. But I could also just watch HGTV since I never get to do that. Ugh, it’s Love It or List It. I wish it was House Hunters. Okay, so that’s a sign I should focus on blogging. Or I could take a little cat nap….

And so forth. This analysis paralysis resulted in my delayed Weekend Reads and Listens post, but below are a few pieces I have earmarked to dig into.


I am so excited to listen to and watch Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions, Ms. Winfrey’s take on TED Talks. From the website, these sessions are “11 Life-Transforming Talks from Spiritual Thought Leaders, Change Makers and Wisdom Teachers.”

Since I have been listening to the Magic Lessons podcasts by Elizabeth Gilbert I mentioned in my last post, I started with her session. And I’ll be damned if she hadn’t gone and read a blog post I wrote in 2011 and turned it into a speech! It’s cool, Liz, it could use a bigger audience.

As she starts her speech, Gilbert says she would be the last person to ever front the anti-passion movement, but that’s what she was doing. A letter from a disappointed fan who had just heard her talk emphatically about chasing your passion had changed Gilbert’s mind about making everyone feel like they have to identify and fervently pursue a “passion.” Amen!

Throughout my career in higher education, I have long tried to assure students that it’s okay if you don’t know or don’t have what we all-too-frequently refer to as a passion. You will find one by going out and living life. And if you don’t ever have something you would call a passion, well that’s fine too. People are perfectly happy and satisfied in life finding things they are interested in and energized by, whether or not it checks off the list of “passion” criteria (like, if you don’t feel something “in your soul,” it’s okay).

To be honest, I haven’t finished Gilbert’s session yet because I have to keep pausing it. It almost speaks to me too much. Is that weird? I’m looking forward to getting back to it and I hope some of the sessions are of interest to you too.


One of my favorite parts of conferences is getting energized (some might say “impassioned” but not me or my BFF Liz Gilbert) by conversations about what we can do to help college students be as successful as possible. A buzzword connected to this in higher education for the last couple of years has been “grit.” Since this TED Talk, the work at the University of Pennsylvania by psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, who defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” has been the focus of the grit movement. It basically posits that one of the biggest predictors of success is not necessarily intelligence, but the personality trait of sticking with something until you achieve your goals.

I have read a lot about this, usually while I’m on my post-conference information high, and I find it fascinating. But I haven’t exactly figured out what I do with this information to help my students. So in the meantime, here and here are a couple of articles that further explain this concept. It really is interesting as we think about the roles not just of educators, but of parents, clergy, and anyone else who influences the lives of our youth. Or are you just born with or without it?

Finally, one more article I’d like to suggest. And it’s a shameful plug for my second guest post at The Seeds 4 Life. I’m writing about a favorite quote of mine from Conan O’Brien. You can read about The Seeds 4 Life and my first post here. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts and opinions on personal development through this site.

It’s about time to wrap up my Chicago trip. Tomorrow I will happily head home to hug my babies who will probably excitedly throw a toy at my head as a way to show their love. I can’t wait. But while I still have this hotel room to myself, I think I’ll see what’s happening over at Flip or Flop.

What is on your reading and listening list right now? What are your thoughts about passion?

When I started writing this, I was watching the tragic events in Paris unfold. I’m sending thoughts and prayers to the people of Paris, especially the victims, their families, first responders and law enforcement.



5 thoughts on “Weekend Reads and Listens: Conference Edition

  1. Caryn, there’s so much to like in this post! I’ll start off by saying I wish I could trade places with you and have someone make my bed for a change! Ah, the sheer delight of using those mini sized soaps and drinking those mini sized cocktails from the mini bar! I live vicariously through you on this front. I’m not sure I agree with Liz Gilbert. As you know, I’m a lover of passion, To me, going through life with a “meh” attitude is like drinking lukewarm coffee. Of course, like you mention, everyone is free to either follow or not follow a certain passion. The Significant Other says passion followers tend to be histrionic and quite the lovers of drama. I say, what does he know? So happy to be reading your posts again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading Bella! I definitely understand what you are saying about passion. And I think if someone has a passion, they should by all means follow it with fervor (which is completely different from drama by the way!). I just think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on people, especially young ones, to find a passion or they will never ever be happy in life. And I don’t think that is the case. Always love connecting with you on the blogosphere!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Chicago, although I have only been there twice! Must have been fun as a college student. I’m checking out the Oprah Soul Session (thanks) and off to read about Conan:)!


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