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Senior Correspondent

“More conferences? Why the heck would you go to another conference? Why put up with all the hassle: the travel, inconvenience and cost? Don’t you already know enough?”

That’s what people asked as I headed out to yet another big conference in a big hotel in a big city.

It meant getting ahead of my business by four or five days so I could leave it on autopilot. It meant coordinating everything on the home front so that could run smoothly in my absence.

And it meant breaking out a winter jacket as I’d be submitting my body to temperatures it doesn’t like…and thankfully doesn’t suffer…in warm, sunny Florida.

Here’s the rest of the downside:

1. Eating: My eating patterns are rudely altered, and I inevitably come home with a few extra pounds packed on my hips.  Somehow, knowing I’ll be far from my refrigerator and pantry triggers fears of being “food-less in the desert,” and I load my suitcase with things I never eat at home. (Go figure!)

2. Sleeping: I don’t sleep as well. No matter how many pillow tops they add to the hotel mattress, no matter if they do put handy foot-level “headlights” on the night table that go on automatically when I put my first foot down to stumble to the bathroom at 3 a.m., it’s never like home.

3. Everything else: All the little things take more effort than at home, whether it’s checking email, washing my hair or catching a little TV news.

But it’s all worthwhile. And here’s why:

1. The people: I shared time and deepened a friendship with a colleague…and my friendships are priceless. I visited with a mentor in a new environment and that added a layer to the relationship. Most important, I got to know someone I have admired from a distance for awhile, someone I somehow think could be pivotal in how I build my business and in helping me remove some stubborn personal obstacles.

2. The knowledge: I always find valuable nuggets tucked into the various presentations, and each one helps build some part of my business.  It may be a phrase, or a concept, or an actual case study – but, whatever it is, it enriches what I’m doing or makes it easier to achieve.  On this trip, the greatest single nugget came from a vendor/exhibitor that offers a done-for-you service I had never heard of, one that blasts open a whole new segment for my business.

3. The renewal: Travel the halls and ballrooms of a big conference, answering the question “So what do you do?” and notice the pride that grows each time you respond. Also watch how other people’s reactions contribute tidbits or ideas to how you see your own business. Add to that any verbal strategy sessions you have with new or old friends and acquaintances…and your business takes on a whole new glow.

But I’ve left the best for last. Despite the petty frustrations and inconveniences that come with the territory when you participate in conferences, the greatest gift is how your purpose and determination are revitalized.

And where are we without purpose? If we take our money as an example, we may have a healthy emotional relationship with money and a solid handle on it by knowing precisely where we stand in dollars and cents. But if we lack purpose, we hog-tie our motivation to get anywhere or achieve anything because we don’t know where we’re headed.

Our businesses and our passions are no different. It’s critical to keep that motivating flame fanned. We cannot allow doubt and fuzzy thinking to dull our spirit.

In short, here’s what the investment in a high-caliber conference does: it enriches your friendships, sharpens your knowledge, adds to your arsenal of ideas and, most of all, fires up your passion and your purpose.

I’m thrilled to be home. My suitcase is unpacked and my kitty cats are ecstatic. I’m bone-tired and dreaming of getting horizontal on my own bed. But I’m infinitely richer than I was on Wednesday when I left.

Tomorrow I start implementing.

What are you doing to nurture yourself on all those fronts? 

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