Look up! It’s one of the most important secrets to successful public speaking, and one of the hardest to remember in the moment. Yet the ladies of honor had no trouble looking up Thursday night at Ideas in Motion Media’s (IIMM) All About the Girls Part 5. The sold-out event at Sand Creek Country Club was packed with table after table of supportive, encouraging, friendly and familiar faces.
This year’s theme was Courage Over Comfort. After an hour of delicious appetizers and tasty pours, IIMM CFO Natalie Mahlmann smashed her comfort zone in a rare public speaking appearance to reveal a little bit about herself and her family, and to introduce IIMM Executive Team Leader Jenny Craig-Brown, who founded All About the Girls five years ago.
Craig-Brown enlisted IIMM Founder & Owner Chris Mahlmann as her Vanna White to unveil some of her favorite sayings, including “You’re not alive just to pay bills and lose weight” and “Don’t fake it until you make it; fail it until you make it.” Naturally, these led into the year’s theme of Courage Over Comfort.
There’s more to life than struggle, and there’s more to life than comfort. The stories shared throughout the evening highlighted a simple truth – through our struggles, and only by getting out of our comfort zone, we are able to learn and grow, all of which requires great courage.
First up was Cassy Swanson, who recommended looking up the Purpose Driven Career Venn Diagram, which helped her out of her career crisis. It helped her find her purpose, or at least her direction. She imparted the simple bite of truth that we all know, fear, and face every day: life is short. “You can’t have it all,” Swanson said, “but you can have courage to embrace your happy and help people in your life embrace their happy, too.”
Lisa Kusbel found a lot of reasons to look up. Her past caught up with her present at the event, where she described ending a decades-long career as an American Airlines flight attendant to dive into a real estate career, and also become the Director of Development at Valpo Parks.
“I am always learning,” Kusbel said. “Donna Flanagin taught me that I can make a difference and hold my head up high, even when it feels like I’ve lost my whole world.”
Three tables of supporters were in Kusbel’s corner this particular evening, and she gave ample shout-outs to her husband Frank and her children. The crowd giggled when she introduced her son Jake Dog by nickname.
Kusbel hammered home the idea that women understand each other’s struggles and can help each other. “You can make a change in your life. You absolutely can.”
To cheer her on, Courtney Smith brought her family, her work family from Burke Costanza & Carberry, and friends from Journey Senior Living, where she previously organized an evening of learning about end of life planning.
Somehow, Smith’s walk-up music was the wrong track, so she did the professional thing and went all the way back to her seat so she could walk up – and karaoke – to the song she claimed as hers, and she owned it.
She also owned this message: “Ask for help,” Smith said. “As women, we rarely ask for help. We hold ourselves to impossible standards, and I’m standing here today saying that everything I’ve accomplished has been with the help of my partner, my colleagues, and my family. Don’t hold me to a higher standard because I am not deserving. I am just one woman on a dais with some pretty amazing women, but I know we share a common bond: we all get by with a little help from our friends.”
Katie Eaton told of taking a professional phone call in the car while driving her daughter. “Who was that?” her daughter asked, not of the person on the other line, but of Eaton. She was not familiar with her mom’s business voice. “I had to wonder if I was being authentic, and yes, I am true to who I am, always. Choosing courage over comfort will help you lead an authentic life.”
After a brief intermission, Buffy Adams of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana took the stage and gave away the base of her not-so-secret recipe for Courage Over Comfort sauce.
“Have the courage to believe in something greater than yourself,” Adams said. “Drop those f-bombs, and by f- bombs, I mean forgiveness. Sprinkle forgiveness and grace like they’re confetti.”
“There’s a world of joy and freedom that exists outside your comfort zone,” Adams said. “This place is found in the mixture of these ingredients, and once you get enough of this sauce in you, you will never again settle for a mediocre life of mere comfort.”
Elizabeth Marks, Director of Strategic Development at Lakeside Wealth Management Group, displayed her own vulnerability and courage.
“I invited my friends here tonight so they could be in a room full of courageous women and know that they’re not alone,” Marks said. “Everyone has been through something. You are courageous in a way you might not even know. You never know who’s watching or what problems they have, but I can guarantee you that there will be a day when you decide to get out of your comfort zone. On that day, someone will be watching you, and you will be their inspiration.”
Ashley Halpern, Chief Designer at Albert’s Diamond Jewelers, told of the strength of her mother, who cared for her grandmother as well as her child and grandchildren. “The woman I am today, my ability to be strong and resilient and courageous, is because I had the most perfect role model.”
Halpern walked the audience through her lupus diagnosis, and struggles with a difficult family dynamic during childhood, recognizing her mom for helping her build the courage she needs to come out shining on the other side.
“I’ve often pushed myself in ways that could be called courageous,” Halpern said, “because the comfort of others was more important than my own.”
Ashley Dickinson’s message was “you do you.”
“When I got a call asking me to take on the CEO role at La Porte Hospital, I had all the reasons I couldn’t do it running through my head,” Dickinson said. “Finally, I realized that this boiled down to whether I believed in myself enough to take that leap. Was I going to let fear be the thief of my dreams? I’m happy to say I took that leap. Women face these choices every day, and we have to choose courage, or comfort.”
Craig-Brown tried to end the show gracefully, but was quickly interrupted by IIMM Editorial Director Stacey Kellogg, who called the Lifer staff up to the stage recognize Craig-Brown’s incredible leadership in the history of All About the Girls and to present her with a gift: four years of Craig-Brown’s traditional Ellen selfies with space in the frame for the new one.
Mandy Haack, IIMM Contributing Editor, closed the show with a moving rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” When asked if she was nervous, Haack replied, “I think of this as my gift.”
Haack, of course, meant her gift for Craig-Brown, but the implications are much larger. Haack would’ve been perfectly comfortable enjoying the night with her friends, co-workers, and family. But she has this gift: her beautiful voice.
Without diminishing her confidence and strength, it was Haack’s courage to perform a song – after an evening of powerful stories of women living their authentic lives – that was a gift to the audience and to the tradition that has become All About the Girls.
Many thanks to the 2019 AATG sponsors: Sage-Popovich, Inc.; Team Chevy; NIPSCO; Community Healthcare System; Centier Bank; Albert’s Diamond Jewelers; Burke Costanza & Carberry LLP; Lakeside Wealth; General Insurance; La Porte Hospital; Flanagin’s Bulk Mail; and Party DJ’s.