I was blessed to be the key note speaker this weekend at the annual National Spasmodic Dysphonia Conference held, ironically this year, in the Music City of Nashville, TN. People with broken voices from all over the world came to the city of beautiful voices to learn, connect and share their stories. It was such a joy to share my story with the people gathered there.
At the conclusion of my talk about searching for my own voice in the Land of Crazy Horse I shared three ideas…
The first was on the idea of leaders doing less not more…of leaders pushing power out instead of collecting it in…of a future where everybody shares the opportunity and responsibility of leadership. I ended that idea with this quote…
“When the best leader’s work is done the people say ‘we did it ourselves’.” – Lao Tzu
The second idea I shared was to learn to SURRENDER to what comes your way…”What if Spasmodic Dysphonia picked you for a reason?” I asked the room full of people with SD. “What brings you here?” We will never know…but just pretend…what if SD picked you for a reason…what is that reason? What is that calling or opportunity? Earlier I began my talk by saying that my voice disorder was a blessing, one of the very best things that ever happened to me and that if a magic fairy appeared in the room and offered to take my disorder away I would not let her have it. SD has brought more blessings into my life than challenges. It was a blessing disguised as a problem. Without SD, I told the group, I never would have known that I was a story teller, a writer, a photographer, an activist or an advocate for reinventing leadership for the modern world. All of that came into my life becasue of SD. “What if SD picked YOU for a reason?”
Finally I shared the idea that despite the trauma that came with your/our disorder…”our true voice still lives within us”. At the opening reception the night before we shared a magical two hours as the microphone was passed around the room and a group of people who struggle to talk all introduced themselves and told their story. The broken voices did not bother anyone in the room. We all understood each other perfectly. During that process several times a broken voice would slip, even for just a few seconds into a normal voice. That true voice still lives with in us all. SD is actually a tool to help people find their voice, not lose it. I told the group we might not be able to totally cure the neurological disorder we share BUT that we could definately make it much better. I told them I didn’t want mine to totally go away anyway…it had been too good to me!
I closed with a reading from my book from a dinner conversation at the Singing Horse Trading Post with my dear friend Catherine Grey Day where she told me that “Change must come from within.” SD forces you to stop, sit still and look inward…that is the blessing of SD. It continues to be a joy to be connect Pine Ridge and the indigenous wisdom of the Sioux to the rest of the world! In the end we all belong to the same tribe and the borders that we think divide us are not real.
Last night, after the conference concluded, I went to the Grand Ole Opry and loved watching beautiful voices do their thing…just like I had at the conference full of amazing people with SD!!!! Blessed!