Summit Series: Reaching A New Peak At Sea

by Jenn (eating bender) on April 12, 2011

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.

The weekend was kicked off with a keynote Q&A featuring Sir Richard Branson, best known for building the Virgin empire and for being an outstanding thought leader.

Following him was another Q&A with TOMS Shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie. If you haven’t heard of his One For One movement, I recommend visiting this page to start.

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.”

Well said.

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. πŸ˜‰

I am eternally grateful for the people I met, the things I learned and the future it has set before me.


{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica April 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Holy goodness! What a trip! Not only a GORGEOUS trip….but one definitely filled with lots of awesome lessons and the chance to meet and see so many incredible people. I don’t even know where to start my commenting….lets go with food :) That Grilled Veggie Wrap looks delicious. Melty goat cheese? Yes, please! And I think all of the speakers sound awesome. I would love to hear Blake Mycoskie. Glad you stepped outside of your comfort zone!


2 Jenn (eating bender) April 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Starting with food is always a good choice. :) This weekend’s meals were no exception, but I figured by the time I added those it would have been a short novel! Thank you for the kind words, Erica. I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone, too!


3 Cara (Twinthusiast) April 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Wow, Jenn, sounds like an amazing trip. Talk about meeting some big hitters!


4 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thanks, Cara! It really was great.


5 Karla April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

What an amazing trip! All I can think of to encapsulate this experiences is “WOW!”

I am in awe of what you and Jill have accomplished in such a short time and how awesome YOU are (and deserving of being in such great company) :) You rock, Jenn!


6 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thank you, Karla! That really means a lot to us. :)


7 Lauren April 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Oh my gosh, what an incredible experience!!! You look so happy and alive! :) What a great experience for you professionally and personally.


8 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thanks, Lauren! I certainly felt alive while I was there – and invigorated upon my return!


9 Melissa @ TryingToHeal April 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

wow, that is an amazing trip. all the stuff you learned and got to listen in on!! oh man!!!


10 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Thank you, lady! We still need to chat. :)


11 CaSaundra April 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

Wow–sounds like a dream vacation & you always do such a great job of describing your trips. Thanks for sharing :-)


12 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

So happy that you enjoyed the recap!


13 Megan (Braise The Roof) April 13, 2011 at 9:30 am

Wow, what an amazing event! What a lucky girl to have the opportunity to be a part of it! I can’t wait to hear more at our lunch. :)


14 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Thanks, Megan! :)


15 Brittany April 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

This Summit at Sea sounds like it was such an amazing experience for you and Jill. I absolutely loved reading your recap. The pictures are nice, but reading your detailed descriptions and the things that you learned make me feel as though I am getting to take away a small piece of the summit!

I’ve watched a few TED videos, including the one by Blake Mycoskie. His vision is awesome! I still need to buy myself a pair of TOMS. :)

Let’s catch up soon.


16 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Thank you, Britt! The reflection is my favorite part, too. I need to compile journal entries to make sure I don’t forget anything! I’m glad you were able to take something away from it, too – and Blake Mycoskie is awesome. I’m going to buy myself a pair of TOMS soon, too. :) We need to catch up as soon as possible!


17 Angela Ten Clay April 13, 2011 at 9:36 am

Sounds like it was an awesome trip, Jenn! Thanks for the recap. Beautiful photos, and I love hearing how you grew professionally and personally. That’s the best part…learning to wholeheartedly embrace who you are. Love hearing your updates, although I am insane jealous of your amazing business experiences. Who doesn’t want to go on a business trip like that?! Love you and Jill and all you are doing. So proud of you two!


18 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

As always, thank you for your support, Angela! It truly was an opportunity for me to be myself but also learn more about the person I want to be moving forward. I appreciate the kind words! :) Hope all is well with you, too!


19 KristinEats April 13, 2011 at 10:46 am

Jenn this is SO great and touching. Authenticity has the power to truly change lives, and you were so authentic here so thank you for that. I’m glad you got this opportunity. It was encouraging for me to read, as well, as I have a business meeting for KristinEats this week… eep! So glad you had a great experience and glad you shared it with all of us. You’re great. :)


20 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words, Kristin. Your comment about authenticity truly resonated with me and I am so glad you felt that way. I’m excited to hear more about your business meeting, too. How exciting!!


21 annie April 13, 2011 at 11:35 am

all white room? how fancy!


22 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Haha! I couldn’t even believe rooms like that exist! :)


23 Shannon April 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

what a great post, and opportunity for you two!! i found myself tending to agree with your interactions, and i’ll have to read this again after i think about it a bit to see how I can embrace it myself πŸ˜‰


24 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Thank you, Shannon! That is awesome and really means a lot.


25 Jennifer @ keepitsimplefoods April 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm

AMAZING! Thanks for sharing!


26 Jenn (eating bender) April 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

You are welcome! So glad you enjoyed!


27 jobo April 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

Wow! That sounds amazing!! Such a great experience, I’d love to go to one of those!! I can totally relate to being a ‘doer’ (was JUST talking about that to my sister yesterday, how weird) and that I’m not the first to jump out into a conversation and it’s sometimes a struggle for me to do so when I need to, pushes me out of my comfort zone…but that’s also a good thing. So glad you got so much out of this!


28 MarathonVal April 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm

WOW, what an incredible experience Jenn!! And I’m so jealous you got to hear Sean Stephenson speak, I’ve read about his story and emailed him about coming to speak to my students but he is SO expensive (many, many thousands of dollars) so that’s not gonna happen. Next time I see you maybe you can give me the Cliffs notes version πŸ˜‰


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