Five years ago I helped to get CreativeMornings off the ground here in Montreal. I wanted to attend these wonderful events that had sprung up around the world, and the closest was Ottawa. It was an ambitious undertaking that has now reached well over 10,000 Montrealers. I did it with a group of ten incredible people. We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and, happily, it took off like a rocket as it filled a vacuum of free friendly bilingual creative events in our city. I spent the next two years working on it and it changed my life. Then I chose to step away.

On May 25th, Louis-Félix Binette and I were invited to take the stage at this fantastic event that we helped start. We had been asked to come back and tell the story of its birth, explain where it all came from, and talk about why we thought it was still thriving. We were both so committed to making MTLCM a success — one that could be passed on from volunteer to volunteer — that we felt honoured to speak for the group as a whole.

I’m not a public speaker. But I do know about commitment. So I chose to put myself out there to celebrate the milestone MTLCM had achieved and to grow myself. I also wanted everyone to hear the story, share the emotion of creating something, and maybe take some inspiration from it. Because, really, the act of getting this event off the ground was exactly what CreativeMornings is about. We weren’t just showcasing the creative talent in our city, we were drawing on our own creativity to build a community. I had been a fairly quiet presence behind the scenes over the two years I was involved and the community really hadn’t heard directly from me. I had always spoken through the “CreativeMornings/Montreal Host” persona. So this was a (welcome) challenge for me, personally.

“The magic of CreativeMornings is founded on non transactional giving” — Tina Roth Eisenberg, CreativeMornings founder

The talk went well. I was able to give some insight into the commitment we gave to start the chapter, as well as some lessons I’d learned in working with volunteers and committing to a project without a definitive end. A project that each of us recognized we’d need to one day hand over to the next volunteer. I know I did ok, because beyond just the congratulatory “you did great” at the end of talk, I had a number of people approach me and say “I liked it when you said... / or I think… was an important thing to bring up.” The sign that people heard you. The indication that your words reached an ear and made some brains wave back! Like this comment from Chloé, who I have the pleasure to work with at Plank, and someone who knows what it means to commit yourself to a cause:

“Dans ma lutte contre la sous-représentation des femmes en technologie, j’ai souvent l’occasion de prendre part à des projets et d’en initier également. J’ai l’habitude d’exiger le même niveau d’engagement des autres, que de moi, mais le Creative Morning m’a fait réalisé que nous ne sommes pas tous égaux face à l’engagement. Il y a clairement un lâché-prise à avoir dont je n’avais pas conscience avant ce vendredi matin: comment les autres décident de vivre cet engagement ne nous appartient pas, mais il nous appartient de mettre tout en place pour qu’ils aient envie de le continuer.” — Chloé Freslon, auteure URelles

We left the crowd with three lessons that are worth repeating:

  • Capture the initial magic and excitement of an idea — nothing solidifies a strong start like actually getting something done.
  • Wrap your group commitments in a story that can be shared — a way to convey the “why”.
  • If you want a group commitment to live beyond your involvement, trust others to take over, write their own parts of the chapter, and push the boundaries.

My commitment ended when I passed the hosting torch to Louis-Félix, but everything else stayed with me. Cheers to the MTLCM community and here’s to 5 more wonderful years.