Everything Else Is Icing

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I had the incredible experience of being the closing keynote at my friend, Chris Guillebeau‘s World Domination Summit in Portland a week ago. You can find Chris’ wrap up and links to others here. They do the experience far more justice than I could, with powerful words and gorgeous images.

This post is about something more personal, something I did a bit different in Portland.

Something that helped me reframe an experience that often scares me in a new light…

I love speaking, but I’m always pretty nervous before I go on. Which is why I’m usually nowhere to be found in the minutes leading up to a keynote. Plus, the setting for my talk was the Fields Ballroom at the Portland Art Museum and Chris had titled my talk “Jonathan Fields Reveals His Greatest Work Ever.”

I know, nothing like adding to the pressure than speaking to a group of 500 people in a room that bears your family name, after a weekend of deeply-moving presentations with the promise if revealing your greatest work ever. Easy peasy!

I don’t take much on stage with me when I speak.

One of the things I learned, taking depositions and investigative testimony as an enforcement attorney for the S.E.C., was to distill everything into a few key ideas and take and only a brief reminder of where the conversation needed to go into the room. Usually just a piece of paper with a few key concepts jotted on it.

Doing that forces you to listen, to converse, rather than preach. And I rarely ever hold it or even refer to to once I’m up and running. It’s just my insurance policy, in case I lose my place…or my mind…while on stage and camera.

But, this time, I took something else on stage…

You can see it in the picture above. It was resting on the monitor, right next to my far less important notes.

A heart, drawn for me by my daughter, before I left.

It was a reminder of what really mattered, no matter what happened on stage.

A visual prompt that even if I messed up…in a ballroom with my family name…in front of 500 people…awaiting my greatest work ever…to be immortalized in a later documentary…I’d still come home to giant hugs and lots of kisses.

That the most important role in my life, beyond husband, brother, son and friend, would be unaffected by what happened over the next hour.

And, it was a reminder that the greatest thing I could share with others is that same sense that when you bring yourself to the world from a heart-centered place, everything else is icing.


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66 responses

66 responses to “Everything Else Is Icing”

  1. Allison says:

    What a grounded way to start the week! Thank you!

  2. Tim Brownson says:

    In the words of the mighty Paula Abdul,

    “1 million per cent yes!”

  3. Hiro Boga says:

    Oh, yes. May it always be so.

  4. Leslie says:

    Love this post! Thank you for sharing.
    Shine Brightly ~Leslie

  5. bj rosenfeld says:

    Absolutely what I needed!

  6. Steve MacCormack says:

    Oh yeah!! My daughter just turned 14 months…everything in my life has changed for the way, way better. Awesome post and congrats at being the keynote at the world domination, I hope to see you there in person someday in the not too distant future…

  7. Fern says:

    Now if we all could bring our heart centered place to all of our activities……wow….
    Fern -for wealth beyond money

  8. Joe says:

    Jonathan – I couldn’t agree more. Anywhere I go I always keep the drawings and “gifts” that my 4 and 6 year daughter give me. It really does mean more than anything knowing that whether or not you succeed at something you have unconditional love at home! Thanks for sharing.

  9. You did just that Jonathan! It was a great and appropriate finish to an amazing weekend. And as you implored each of us to do, I’m heading your call to “take bold, consistent action in the face of uncertainty!” Looking forward to the new book. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

  10. My 10th grade son who has been struggling with anxiety looked at me this morning as he headed out for his first day of finals and said, “will you love me if I don’t do well on these tests?” My heart broke that he even had to ask but I knew it was a reflection of his own self judgement. I could only hug him and tell him, “There are no if’s–I love you always and forever no matter what.”
    Tomorrow I may send him off to school with a heart I draw just for him! Thanks Jonathan.

  11. Jen says:

    I love this! My husband and I just finished talking about how our family is most important and the choices we are making reflect that. I want to sit with the heart-centered piece. I feel like I still stutter-step with heart-centeredness. I get called back to my “get a good job and do good work” roots and get into my head in a way that isn’t productive. This is my current work internal work…to not shrink back from the heart.

  12. Honestly, when you held up that heart after your talk, it was one of the most special moments of the weekend. I saw the photo in the Flickr stream and a wave of joy washed over me. it’s a very powerful image. Thank you for sharing how this impacted you. People definitely noticed.

  13. Greg says:

    A great grounding tool and reminder of what matters. I learned about this while presenting for IBM, between 1984 and 1999. I still use it. Sometimes I use an index card with only the word “family” on it. It snaps me right back to how proud I am of my wife and sons and how grateful I am to have them in my life.

    Great post. Thanks.

  14. Bridget says:

    Many heroes get courage from big hearts in small bodies. Really happy that your daughter could be there with you in spirit.
    Hey, I had to meet with a client during the time of your speech and I missed it. I was bummed to miss out, but this guy needed to work with me.
    Did Chris record it? I’d love to see it.

  15. Angie says:

    Honored to have witnessed you on stage and more so to witness you now in this post.

  16. Sarah says:

    Invaluable perspective. Too easy to lose that with thinking you need more website visitors, comments, twitter followers, fb likes, etc.

    That heart is what’s really important!

  17. tracey says:

    I loved reading this. What a great reminder. Thank you!

  18. You’ve got heart!

  19. Mark Silver says:

    Jonathan- when you showed the heart your daughter had drawn I was so moved. That was the best example of heart-centered presence I could think of. Beautiful!

    And an “awww shucks” for the link. A generous spirit is what has lifted you so high. You rock.

  20. Pamela Slim says:


    So true — and that said, you killed it on stage!

    So proud to be your sis, and greatest cheerleader. OK, 3rd greatest cheerleader, after your wife and daughter. 🙂

  21. Lynn Hess says:

    I love it! And I love that — no matter what you said or didn’t say on stage — the heart truly did reveal “your greatest work ever.”

    Beautiful. Lucky daughter, lucky dad, lucky listeners.

  22. Jodi Barnes says:

    One of your best posts, yet. Thank you.

  23. Aww I love this, and I love how much heart comes through in your writing and speaking. It’s amazing how much perspective the young ones in our lives can bring us.

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us. 🙂

  24. dave r. says:

    having been a trained actor, something that may help anyone who is in front of an audience is knowing that the audience wants you to succeed. They will go were you want to take them should you flub a line or 2 if you use humor and an easy smile. The audience is your friend and ally.

  25. Steve Errey says:

    Such a great picture Jonathan, and it’s become something of a special image for the folks in the Fields ballroom that afternoon.

    One heck of a family you’re part of.

  26. Wish I was there.

    This drawing is so powerful. Thanks for sharing it with those who weren’t in the room.

  27. Jonathan Fields says:

    Thanks for all the kind words, gang.

    For those who weren’t there and are curious. I never actually revealed the drawing to anyone during my keynote. It was there just for me to see.

    But then in a Q&A session after the talk, I was asked what was a game-changer in my life. My mind went straight to the birth of my daughter and my eyes went to the drawing. That’s when I decided to share it, holding it up for the room to see, too.

    • Tisha Morris says:

      Very much enjoyed your keynote at WDS! If that was the appetizer, I’m definitely looking forward to your book. I will remember that tip for future presentations.

  28. marie-jeanne juilland says:

    missed the very end of your talk at WDS and the heart image.. was on my way home to my kids – my heart pulling… 🙂

  29. Jean says:

    Looks like you have your priorities straight, Jonathan!

    Love your post and also the bit about some key words to keep you focused in the direction of where you want to go…to encourage discussion,conversation, no preaching.

    Good points to remember for future speaking! 🙂

  30. gwyn says:

    Ditto Lynn Hess you revealed your greatest work ever on that stage with that heart and here. The rest is icing.

    Ditto Pam Slim too…you killed it!!!!


  31. Sukhi says:

    Congrats Jon! That’s awesome and it truly is what matters most.

  32. inna says:

    i was in the audience when you pulled out the drawing and i’m pretty sure everyone’s eyes ( including my own, of course) were welling up with tears. both your presentation and the q&a sections were really powerful and touching. it was clear you spoke from the heart. thank you 🙂

  33. That reminder matters a lot more than bullet points or notecards. Thanks for giving us an awesome talk Jonathan. Looking forward to your book.

  34. Alexis Neely says:

    I’m surprised to hear that you are nervous before you speak. And glad to hear it too – reminds me that we really are all the same. We want to do such great work and make such a great impact and yet all that really does matter is the love and connection we have with family (chosen and blood).

    • I think everyone, no matter their skill or ease on stage feels that nervousness. I’ve been public speaking in one form or another since I was 12 (my parents were wedding DJs and I helped out all the time!) and to this day, despite the ease I feel once I get going talking to groups of people, I have to pee before I begin.

      It’s a nerves thing, and it happens every time without fail… 🙂

  35. cara says:

    love it!

  36. Ana says:

    Too sweet for words. A picture of my boy Lucien (my very large cat) calms my nerves. I know it’s not the same, but I don’t have kids.

  37. Anne Wayman says:

    Probably your best speech ever… thanks to that heart. Thanks for the reminder of what’s important.

  38. emma says:

    what a very beautiful thing, made even more beautiful by your willingness to share it. thank you, jonathan. i look forward to watching the doc!

  39. Jonathan,

    Thanks so much for sharing. I tend to have visceral reactions to powerful writing, and when I read that last sentence, I had goosebumps. What a lovely affirmation of the force that drives us all to try to change the world from our heart-centered places!

  40. Wonderful point of view Jonathan.

    I am learning ever more that coming from the heart, and being in this moment is all that really matters, and holding your daughter’s love in your heart while on stage is beautiful.

    I am sad to say that I had to miss your closing keynote in Portland, but reading this warms and inspires me.

  41. reneefrancesconn says:

    Johnathan, this is by far my favorite of your many powerfully insightful pieces. Out of the ballpark my friend, stright up- homerun.

  42. Al Pittampalli says:

    Inpiring post, Jonathan. I heard through the grapevine, that your presentation was amazing.

  43. Children really know how to teach us, don’t they? Thanks for sharing your daughter’s heart….

  44. Momekh says:

    That’s in fact quite a good drawing. 🙂
    This post is a great reminder for what really matters, and what perspective can really do! It gave you a calm and the confidence to give a great presentation!

  45. I had tears in my eyes as I read this Tuesday morning. Perhaps it is Father’s day just around the corner or the maturing of my daughter before my very eyes of late or the investment that I have chosen to place on parenting…
    I recently changed jobs and offices – a change that is scary for the two of us because it means less time together, change in our traditions, and a little more separation – yet she is ready and I am ready… so we entered this change with as much excitement as anything else (if not more). And when I entered my new office, the first order of business was hanging pictures, newly drawn, on the bulletin board.
    I have read many of your posts and yet, I think this is one that speaks volumes in few words – authentic, simple and beautiful.

  46. Farnoosh says:

    It was a remarkable speech and it got better and better and better every minute and I could tell you were relaxing more and getting more of a command of the room – in a great way, yes – and just telling us one story after another while letting us draw the conclusions. The best kind of speaker. Thank you, Jonathan!

  47. Jon says:

    When I do a televised sporting event, it’s a little nerve wracking to work a show that millions of people are watching. I have a little smiley sticker that my daughter gave me before a game when she was 2 that gets stuck on my control panel, so even if I blow the replay, I always know what really matters.

  48. You rocked the stage Jonathan. Not only was your message so important you were also incredibly funny – way funnier than I thought you’d be 😉

    I had no idea that it was Chris who titled your talk – genius. Not much to live up to all then hey, either way you – you surpassed it.

    Reminds me of a time, my first ever speaking gig where I was required to talk about `The Art of Storytelling’! No pressure there either.


    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I try to save up my funny for big moments like that, it’s the sneak attack approach. lol

  49. Jonathan Fields says:

    Thanks, again, for all the kind words, gang, and for sharing your own stories.

    Even if you don’t have kids, I think the bigger message is to think about creating some kind of tangible reminder that allows you to come back to what really matters when you find yourself going too far down the [insert crazy challenge du jour] rabbit hole.

  50. Jonathan,

    I love your posts…and this was 1 of the best.Very moving and a great reminder to all us Dads.

  51. […] Everything Else Is Icing Whenever I get nervous about something, I think about my children and my wife. I have a great relationship with them. Everything else in my life is really just icing on the cake. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  52. […] Everything Else Is Icing Whenever I get nervous about something, I think about my children and my wife. I have a great relationship with them. Everything else in my life is really just icing on the cake. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  53. […] Everything Else Is Icing Whenever I get nervous about something, I think about my children and my wife. I have a great relationship with them. Everything else in my life is really just icing on the cake. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  54. […] Everything Else Is Icing Whenever I get nervous about something, I think about my children and my wife. I have a great relationship with them. Everything else in my life is really just icing on the cake. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  55. […] Everything Else Is Icing Whenever I get nervous about something, I think about my children and my wife. I have a great relationship with them. Everything else in my life is really just icing on the cake. (@ jonathan fields) […]

  56. […] Jonathan Fields spoke about the research behind his upcoming book, “Uncertainty“.  He said, “The greatest creators are capable of consistent action in the face of uncertainty”.  He talked about how “our brains are wired to avoid being wrong and then being judged”.  He said when we want to create something, but know how it will turn out, it’s been done already.  Doing “great work”, and creating something new, is uncomfortable.  He talked about the role of ritual in the creative process, “leaning into fear and anxiety” and “creating certainty anchors to allow creative space”, practicing meditation and mindfulness to open up creativity. […]

  57. […] in business and entrepreneurship.  This week’s post about grounding ourselves in a “heart-centered place” felt like it cut to the core of that […]

  58. renuka says:

    I felt touched!!