Simmons Leadership Conference
April 13, 2022
More than 6,400 attendees of the 43rd Simmons Leadership Conference explored this year’s theme of Cultivating Courage and Connection. In this post, our featured speakers, Simone Biles, Brené Brown, Molly Fletcher, Amanda Gorman, and Luvvie Ajayi Jones, share insight on the impact and power of connection and how it affects our mental and physical well-being.
Our Featured Speakers on Connection
Both Simone Biles and Brené Brown agreed that the forced isolation caused by the pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health and well-being of people around the world.
We go to Tokyo and no audience is allowed, we're quarantined in our rooms, and can only come out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyone expected us to perform in a certain manner. There was no camaraderie.
Connection is everything. It’s people to lean on, especially your family, your friends—they can help lift you and help you get through those emotions.
For the world to expect some of these athletes to go above and beyond when we're all going through the same thing and trying to survive a pandemic was really strange for me mentally.
We are neurobiologically hardwired for connection with other people, and in the absence of it there is always suffering. There is no joy in success without connection.
When we feel anxious and untethered, we look outside of ourselves for the tethering, for that port or safe harbor. What we’re looking for to reground ourselves is not external to us, it’s inside of us. We can only be as connected to other people as we are to ourselves.
In her conversation with Lynn Perry Wooten, President of Simmons University, Amanda Gorman explained that in order to establish connections and a sense of community, she begins with introspection and self-awareness.
Amanda recited an excerpt of her poem “Fugue”
In this excerpt, Amanda expresses the emotional toll of the pandemic.
“Sorry if we’re way less friendly —
We had COVID tryna end things.
Even now handshakes & hugs are like gifts,
Something we are shocked to grant, be granted.
& so, we forage for anything
That feels like this:
The click in our lung that ties us to strangers,
How when among those we care for most
We shift with instinct,
Like the flash of a school of fish.
Our regard for one another
How do I make connections with others? I start by investing in my connection with myself. How do I talk to myself? I try to be more caring and tender and loving with myself.
All of us have an opportunity to be the places of gathering…If you love, you are an intersection of the people who love you.
In her energetic and inspiring session, Molly Fletcher stressed that one must be both curious and fearless to cultivate connections.
Curiosity is the key that unlocks possibility. What is possible? We can’t create connections if we aren’t first curious. You can’t have courage and connection without curiosity.
Be curious. Shift from defensiveness to curiosity to make connections. Fear shrinks our world, curiosity expands it.
Luvvie Ajayi Jones called on women to unite, support each other, and use their power as a group.
When we squad up as women and create community and connection in the rooms we are in, we are less likely to be ignored. We are less likely to be punished. When we come as a group that is supportive as a group, we are more likely to get what we want.