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Post-Conference Recap from Member Shari Weiss

Whenever I leave an Inspiration Lab event, I feel filled up. Never was that more true than following the Rise & Shine Conference on Wednesday, November 13.

But this story actually starts about a year ago, with The Inspiration Lab's Hustle & Heart Conference.

At the time I was roughly two months into my new job with N2 Publishing. Our Director of People Operations, Katherine Daniel, was one of the conference speakers, and a group of N2ers were invited to go.

I had never heard of The Inspiration Lab before, but from the moment I walked into Wrightsville Manor that day, I felt at home. Speaker after speaker said what I needed to hear. After years without a tribe, I might've just found one.

It took me to the following February, however, to work up the courage to officially join The Inspiration Lab as a member and attend my first event. With the Galentine's Day party, I was hooked. And as far back as then there was already buzz building about this year's conference, with the promise that Rise & Shine would be bigger and better than Hustle & Heart.

Boy, did they deliver.

The tone for the day at the Wilmington Convention Center was set when Katherine, this year’s emcee, entered the conference room to a Macklemore song. She explained that we were not only going to be moved by the day’s speakers but also, quite literally, move. Indeed, each session started with entrance music of the speaker’s choice, from Lizzo to The Greatest Showman to U2. Little did we know at the start of the day that there’d also be line dancing later on!

True to Inspi Lab founder Stephanie Lanier’s belief that the personal cannot and should not be separated from the professional, all of the talks touched on both aspects of our lives. Stephanie herself explained how someone may be rising in their professional life but shining in their personal or vice versa. Co-panelists Sheri Shaw and Lindsay Harkey stressed investing in your yourself as much as you invest in your team — whether that be your team at the office or your crew at home. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. I know I will be repeating this mantra from Sheri as much as possible: “I am, I will, and I am deserving.”

Nicole Holmes’ appearance was long-anticipated as she was originally slated to be a part of Hustle & Heart. Fortunately, the wait was worth it as she cleverly delved into the topic of negotiation by pointing out the importance of being like Curious George. That is to say, insatiably curious and inquisitive. Another key takeaway: You’re allowed to want something. That’s a refreshing sentiment for those of us who all too often focus on people-pleasing. From Kathryn Cook and Sarah Pless, we learned that calm is contagious… and so are cheer and praise. Root for those in your life.

Where did the line dancing factor in? That would be at the end of Lisa Brooks’ vulnerable talk about boundaries. After baring her soul on stage, Lisa lightened the mood by teaching everyone a self-care-themed line dance set to “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” I am already thinking about breaking it out at my company’s Christmas party in a few weeks. That’s how much I, a non-dancer, enjoyed it.

Rachel Olsen also encouraged activity and interaction by challenging us to write poems using only the words around us (on our agendas, in our notes, etc.). In the spirit of bravery and courageousness, I am going to share mine:

I want to rise.

I want to shine.

I search for inspiration.

I’ve got the gift of time.

I reflect.

I grow.

There is so much I don’t know.

To all the beautiful hands and minds,

I love you like you’re mine.

Rachel taught us that “constraints can be powerful catalysts for creativity,” and proved it with her poem exercise. Then Sharon Delaney McCloud took the stage to share her 10 steps for building resilience. The room was moved to tears by some of the hardships Sharon has faced, but her spirit was truly infectious. She was a living example of turning battle scars into badges of honor.

It all culminated in the Happiest Hour, filled with all the fairy hair, fried cheese balls, and Instagram-worthy photo booths you could want.

And I mention this was only day one of the conference?

Looking back on it all, my greatest joy came from seeing my co-workers — there were about a dozen of us from N2 in attendance — taking it all in. Though I also attended Hustle & Heart with teammates, at that time I was still very new to N2… not to mention brand new to The Inspiration Lab. In the 12 months since, I’ve immersed myself in both worlds and it was magical to see them come together. When you spend weeks hyping Stephanie and the conference, and then see your co-workers embracing it all alongside you and ready to become members themselves, well, that’s pretty special.

And for those who missed out, there’s always next year. I’m already ready to get my ticket. 2020 Inspiration Lab Conference, here I come!

Disclosure: Shari Weiss is an independent contractor with The Inspiration Lab, editing content as needed. If you find a typo somewhere, she’ll probably cry, but email her at


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