Before the end of the year, I got a handmade bowl in the mail at work. Not your typical delivery, but one that solidified my thoughts on a question I had been grappling with lately – should I be accepting invitations to speak at conferences/events when I am otherwise so busy? The answer is yes – and the bowl explains why.

In early 2018, I was invited to give the keynote speech at the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women (TLAW) annual Empowerment Conference in Nashville. When the invitation was posed, the conference was several months away and my calendar looked workable. But as the date for the conference got closer, I was slammed. Preparing for an hour long speech I hoped would be at least mildly entertaining is no small undertaking. As I cursed myself for not saying “no” as often as I probably should, I vowed to be more deliberate about accepting invitations in the future. In fact, I decided that afterwards, I would do something we do with our ElevateNext customers at the end of a matter or significant portion of a project or case – conduct an after-action-assessment to evaluate what went well and what didn’t to improve the process in the future. I conducted my after-action on the plane home after the conference and established set criteria that must be met before I accept a speaking invitation. For example, am I passionate about the topic, is it in a good location (shallow, I know), will I learn from the others attending or speaking, etc. But that’s the subject of another post (yet to be written). Back to the bowl).

As it turns out, the TLAW conference was wonderful. I met several women lawyers from a part of the country I don’t frequent and I felt good about my speech and the presentation. After the conference, I kept in touch with a few women who attended, and one, Lee Holcomb, reached out to ask if I would review a book called Lifestyle Lawyer she was writing for women lawyers and perhaps write a blurb/review for the inside cover. I gladly did so (I love helping women who are in turn helping women). Then I promptly forgot about it — until I got the bowl in the mail.  It is a beautiful one that Lee made herself (photo below). She sent it with a copy of the book (which had my blurb). This reminded me that not everything we do professionally translates into immediate or even not-so-immediate business or revenue. Sometimes it translates into a meaningful connection that otherwise would never have been made. And sometimes, the true value reveals itself months later in the form a bowl that will forever remind me of the effort I put into that speech, the connection I made with someone by giving it, the favor I did for that connection afterwards, and the effort extended right back in thanks for my effort. Lesson learned — you never know where things will lead and without extending yourself, even sometimes when you are at your busiest, you may be missing out on some incredible connections — and some very incredible pottery! Thanks, Lee.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse