This picture only begins to showcase the epic adventure I’ve had over the past five days.
Last week, Jill and I embarked on a life changing trip to Miami. The reason? A once-in-a-lifetime invitation to attend Summit at Sea, for what the team at Summit Series dubbed a three-day voyage with an ocean of possibilities.
We arrived in Florida around midday Thursday and headed for the Delano Hotel. The weather was balmy and the sun was shining – a far cry from our lackluster spring in Chicago thus far!
We checked into our stark white hotel room for the night before boarding with huge grins on our faces…
…and proceeded to have a little fun with photography…
…and a partitioned “relaxation area” next to the windows.
Clearly, we were excited to be there. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring all that South Beach had to offer, starting with lunch at Maxine’s Bistro & Bar.
The menu was outstanding! After much deliberation, I went with the Grilled Veggie Wrap, which came with fresh spinach, chopped peppers, onion, goat cheese and Maxine’s house vinaigrette.
The goat cheese was what made this wrap. It was oozing out at every bite. On the side was a small salad and French fries. I also ordered a crisp club soda with lime.
Once our bellies were fed, we made our way back to the hotel pool and people watched.
Totally natural to have a table and chairs in the middle of a pool, right? How about a giant chess board?
As Jill phrased it, we felt as though we were Alice in Wonderland. Then we stepped out onto the beach.
Miami was breathtaking. But the real mission of our trip was still to come. Here is where I attempt to describe the most amazing business event I have ever attended.
Summit at Sea brought together an unparalleled list of innovators, entrepreneurs and activists who are all doing something – no matter how large or small – to make the world a better place. Jill and I were honored to be connected to the team through one of her good friends, Audrey Buchanan.
Blake talked about the importance of giving customers an opportunity and a reason to want to share your story. Empowering them with a meaningful message is what will help build and strengthen your company, your idea, your product, your service – the list goes on.
But it was Blake’s parting advice that resonated most with me:
“The more you give, the more you live.”
The final opening speaker was Sean Stephenson.
You can read his incredible life story here, but the key takeaway from his talk – other than the fact that he is incredibly funny – is that it is not the vessel or appearance that makes a person who they are, but rather the energy and the spirit inside. He is on a mission to rid the world of insecurity and show us that we are enough, just as we are.
Sean spoke about the importance of laughter in ridding the world of our most deadly disease: stress. He encouraged everyone to find humor in the most anxiety-ridden circumstances by never being afraid to ask, “what’s funny about this?”
With a trio of opening speakers like this, I am sure you can imagine that the rest of the weekend blew my mind. Every person on that boat had an amazing story to share, and I found myself in situations that made me grow not only as a businesswoman who runs one company as she prepares to launch another, but more importantly, as an individual striving to infuse passion into my everyday life.
The fact that we were on a cruise ship only made the experience that much more magical.
The contacts and friends that I brought home with me from this trip have already altered the course of my life. The biggest lessons I learned along the way are written out below – one for my business, one for me as an individual. I hope they will inspire you as they inspired me.
Biggest Lesson For My Business:
Start With Why. This concept stems from a book written by Simon Sinek, who we had the pleasure of speaking with several times while on the boat. He has brought this concept to areas all over the country and the world (such as TED), and we were fortunate enough to hear it first hand, applied to our business.
The basic idea is that in our lives, very often we know what we do and how we do it. But the real game changers are the ones who tell people why they do it. For example, when asked about DreamChamps on the boat, Jill and I would often say we are, “working to connect Gen Y with startup companies who have amazing cultures, facilitating job placement through video resumes.”
It gets the point across clearly and succinctly, but does not address the core, “why” value of the equation.
We created DreamChamps because we believe that everyone deserves to have a job that makes them happy. To work for a company whose values, mission and personality aligns closely with their own. To be able to live out their passion and be inspired by what they create. We believe this because we ourselves graduated from college and took on roles in a supposed “dream job” for a corporation that, at the end of the day, did not fulfill us and did not have a happy culture. In fact, it was downright miserable most days. We are on a mission to showcase the companies that are getting it right.
Which of the two versions of our business story had the most impact on you? I’m willing to bet that more often than not (if not always), it was the second version. The moment we began leading conversations with why we do what we do, incredible, thought-provoking and results-driven discussions occurred. Knowing that something this simple can have such a profound impact makes us more excited than ever to begin reaching out to potential companies and clients in the coming weeks.
Biggest Lesson For Me:
I am not always the most outspoken person. If anything, I trend toward the other end of the spectrum, preferring to convey my personality through writing or careful, thoughtful answers, rather than the first thing that comes to mind when asked a question.
This does not always bode well for me in situations with extroverted people. And let me tell you, this boat was packed full of the most exuberant, high energy people you could ever imagine.
I pushed myself to step outside my comfort zone this weekend and “make things happen” by not being afraid to initiate conversations and do more of the talking. As one of the speakers eloquently phrased it, I tried to make my discussions more of a game of ping pong – it doesn’t work if there is not an equal back and forth. One person can’t hog the ball.
Still, there were times where my naturally quieter personality asked me to take breaks to listen, reflect and most importantly, jot down action steps for when I returned home. And on more than one occasion during this experience, I was told that this is not a bad thing.
Too often I berate myself for not always having witty, one-lined responses at the ready when meeting new people. Yet I found there were several people on the boat who, after talking with me for a while, pinpointed me as the person who, while quiet on the outside, is working furiously on the inside.
I am a doer. I just don’t always “do” in a way that everybody can see. And now (finally), I am OK with – scratch that, I wholeheartedly embrace – being seen as that person. I can still make the wheels turn inside my head and get stuff done, even if it is not always front page news.
In short, while I relish big picture opportunities, I thrive in the small details.
Everyone enjoys watching the sunset. After this weekend, I like to think of my personality and working style as the horizon. It’s not the brightest light, but without it, the sun setting can not happen. It’s just as important, but for different reasons.
Maybe you can relate?
Summit Series allowed me to reach a new peak, both personally and professionally.
It also confirmed yet again how lucky I am to have a partner who complements me in the very best ways.
It also made my heart grow even fonder for my hubby, who welcomed me home with loving arms and a sparkling clean apartment, two of the most wonderful things in the world. 😉
I am eternally grateful for the people I met, the things I learned and the future it has set before me.