Three lessons I learned at the Tribe Conference

By | 09/22/2017

Author Jeff Goins and daughter Amelia

Recently, I attended the third annual Tribe Conference held at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee. The curriculum-based conference walks writers, artists, and creatives through a modular process that helps them grow their craft and get the attention their work deserves.

I attended the conference to learn how to improve my writing skills and learn a few ideas on how to expand those skills in the marketplace. But the conference provided much more than that. I discovered a community of people who shared common experiences, provided guidance to each other, and helped me realize my creative potential.

The conference included seventeen speakers who shared their experience about navigating and living the creative life. I learned concepts on how to hone my voice (the personality in my writing), establish my platform, expand my reach, and “go pro” with my work.

I filled a small notebook with notes from each speaker, sometimes not able to write fast enough to capture all their concepts. I learned a wealth of information that I can take home and apply to my life. Three of those lessons were the following:

  • Pay attention to the world around you
  • Turn your mess into a message
  • Show up every day

Pay attention to the world around you

Author and podcaster Jonathan Fields shared about Exquisite Attention—focusing your attention on the world around you. When you pay more attention, your world becomes more vivid, which hones your voice. You begin to ask more questions, dig deeper, and learn the rest of the story. This helps you write about the life that exists between the lines, which enhances your writing and helps people stay engaged with your work.

Jonathan emphasized that obtaining the correct input is an important part of the equation. He explains:

The part that is game changing is the input side of the equation. It’s your willingness to cultivate the abilities and the skills and the depth of presence to allow your interactions and your relationships and experiences to become exquisite. And in so doing, you gain the ability to raise the bar of your creative output to create exquisite experiences. And maybe an exquisite life along with it.

When you learn to be curious about everything and listen and watch closely, you begin to see the hidden side of each story. And that additional information can add vibrant color to an otherwise black-and-white story, improving your writing and helping you develop an audience.

Turn your mess into a message

Speaker and leadership coach Ishita Gupta spoke about bringing your messy life to the page. When fear, obstacles, and problems invade your life, share them in your work. In the process, you will create a new audience and a new platform.

All of this requires confidence, and confidence is not a personality trait; it’s a learned skill. And when you hide your stories, when you’re not doing the work, it can have a negative affect on you.

She explains:

When you’re not doing your work—when you’re not writing, when you’re not brave with yourself, when you want to talk to someone and you don’t push yourself—life sucks. You just feel smaller. You feel like a smaller version of yourself.

Lean in to your messy life. Write about it. Because somewhere out there are people who are enduring the same messy life. And they need your words to survive and find resolve in their lives as well.

Show up every day

Author Sean McCabe spoke about deliberate practice—showing up every day for two years without expecting anything. Through the process, you can work out your imperfect words, build a body of work, and simplify your message.

He explains:

The people you hear who are successful are not successful because of a condensed version of their story they gave on a podcast interview. It’s because they chose to show up every single day when it was hard, and it sucked, and it looked like nothing was going to come of it.

As you create your body of work, narrow your writing to a single message. Because if you project everything, you’re known for nothing.

Showing up every day is not an easy task. Several other speakers provided examples of issues they had to address to show up each day and maintain a creative life.

For example:

  • Any definition of success should include struggle (Jeff Goins).
  • Setting and attaining goals will help you grow but may not be fun (Jon Acuff).
  • Slow down, take your time, and see your body of work as an investment (Ryan Holiday).
  • Pay attention to what you are made to do (Tsh Oxenreider).

When I walked away from the conference, I had a toolkit of notes and resources on how to start a writing life. I also have a community of people to support me in the process. The rest is up to me.

The next Tribe Conference is scheduled for October 26–28, 2018. You can learn more about the conference on the Tribe Conference website or by contacting Jeff Goins and his team at

  • La McCoy

    Well said Steve!

  • Nicole Akers

    A fantastic summation of some of the most powerful points. Thanks, Steve!