I attended, led at, and organized leadership conferences in high school. These conferences were a mix between a summer camp and a professional development retreat for high school students – where motivational speakers were complimented by small (and impactful) group sessions on conflict and issue resolution, team dynamics, etc. Evening dances, weird costumes, and team cheers ensured that the frustration, vulnerability, and skill building that took place at these conferences were always speckled with fun.
I met this amazing girl Cody at my first conference in grade nine and we soon became great friends – leading at conferences together throughout high school and then running two conferences together in our final year. This memorable moment started as we were driving in her car up to lead at a conference outside of our usual district. She popped in a CD and began to play a 7-minute long song by this guy Jason Mraz: Dream Life of Rand McNally. I had never heard of this artist before, yet this mediocre recording of his live set at Java Joes resonated with me. He scatted, he made witty remarks about the Spice Girls, and he was soon put on repeat.
And I mean repeat. 3 hours, non-stop, of the same song! All of this was voluntarily as each time the song would end we would say “ok – one more time” until we could sing all of the words and scat along effortlessly.
After spending an incredible weekend with other vibrant students at the conference, we began our drive home completely exhausted. In the silence, she calmly reached over to the car stereo as we exited a gas station and pressed play on – you guessed it – our favourite song.
A love for Jason Mraz’s music and outlook on life emerged. His music would forever remind me of those conferences and the life-long friends I made there, of the power in believing in someone else, and remind me of the value that road trips, deep conversations, and childlike enthusiasm for life has in this world. After I learned he had also attended the Landmark Forum, I continued to listen to his lyrics as he sang of the power of possibility to millions of people around the world.
Pressing play transformed my life.
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