The Power of Nodding Heads

12/06/2012 05:45 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2013

Today, I was one of 8,000 strong attending the Massachusetts Conference for
Women in Boston -- just one body among a boisterous crowd of career changers,
entrepreneurs, and inspiration seekers. Throughout the day -- struck by a
number of quotable statements -- I dutifully scribbled the esteemed speakers'
words of humor and encouragement into my little blue notebook.

I promised myself I'd bring home these nuggets and post them, Shepard
Fairey-style, all over my life. I'd siphon anything the heads of industry
speaking at the conference were willing to share and immediately apply it to
my life. How could I not glean wisdom from Deepak Chopra, who said, "If you
have a story to share, you can depend on the forces of nature to support
you," or Arianna Huffington's advice to, "Put a spotlight on the positive in
your universe; optimism is what will change our world"?

I attended a session with Mel Robbins who taught the genius that is her
5-Second Rule, and then one with Delia Ephron, who gave a talk on navigating
life's crossroads, wherein instructed one first-time screenwriter to take a
course, "Because you have to know what the rules are before you can break

It wasn't Ms. Ephron's astute words that moved me most; it was the
audience's response to her next questioner. The 60-ish-year-old woman
explained how she successfully changed careers mid-life but was having
difficultly piloting her current crossroads -- coping with the death of her
husband of 40 years. Her voice quivered as she asked Ms. Ephron for advice.
I thought it was very brave of her to respond, "No, I don't have any advice,
but to say that grief is a personal journey and I am very sorry."

The room -- filled with at least 500 people -- grew quiet, and I noted the
motions of women gently bringing their fingers to their eyes to wipe away
tears -- tears of shared grief and empathy for the woman at the mike. The
three women standing behind her, waiting to ask the Ms. Ephron their
questions, instinctively put their hands on her shoulders, as if to say,
"You are not alone."

Perhaps it was that unspoken solidarity, or the sentiment shared among
thousands of heads that nodded when today's speakers recalled the challenges
along their paths, or the not-so-great decisions they made that eventually
brought them here today, that were the most meaningful statements of all.