Summit LA 2017 turned out to be a whirlwind of thought-provoking metamorphic ideas, awe-inspiring energy, liberating acceptance, grounding authenticity, and countless serendipitous interactions all in the name of humanity. Summit appeared to be a conference for current and future global thought leaders to learn and teach the importance of practicing “good” once in a position of power and influence. Participants were subconsciously being trained to lead with courage, boundless thinking, respect, and open hearts to ultimately make the world a better place.
Upon registration, all participants were asked to set an intention for the weekend which quickly shifted mindsets from those of professional advancement to those of personal growth. Multiple event hosts encouraged these otherwise high-powered, structured, and busy professionals to be present, go with the flow, and trust the process. Another suggested approach included focusing on character instead of achievement.
Marketed as a “choose your own adventure” idea conference, there were infinite possibilities on how to spend the weekend. The experimental social construct of the conference was meant to encourage authentic connections that ultimately end up being more impactful than relationships built simply on the exchange of business cards and agendas. But when a company shells out anywhere from $2,800 to $10,000 to support this opportunity, it’s extremely difficult to erase all agenda from the mind. My company certainly wasn’t interested in learning more about my curiosity into the seeming ridiculousness of goat yoga, or a fascination with finding out more about the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness in life-incarcerated criminals. A combination of my non-linear intellectual curiosity and acute awareness into what’s important to my company made it slightly more difficult to truly let go. But I did the best I could.
Being there representing a technology startup as well as an investment fund, I was hoping to run into entrepreneurs and investors who could provide insight, guidance, and encouragement regarding the ups and downs of startups. However, “going with flow” personally led me to sit on a meditation pillow in a glowing open-air room with a Swedish artist sipping cocktails and talking about life. All the while, I was conjuring up stories to tell work about the insight I had gained on startups and fundraising. Luckily for me, while we sat there passing time waiting for Malcom Gladwell to speak, the CEO of Shopify sat down next to us and gave me an advanced lesson on fundraising and the pluses and minuses of taking a company public. At that moment, I decided to surrender to the process.
Being in Commercial Real Estate for two years now, I fully expect the typical personalities of this industry to reject what they might consider a fairy dust aura surrounding Summit. On the flipside, I want to commend this very same community for truly keeping its industry leaders up to date on emerging technologies and social trends. Even if the intention is to help with monetary success, the real estate industry does an excellent job of sharing insights and speculation on the future of the world. They just tend to be more practical people. Hoping that by sharing some experiences, I might open a few minds to the power of this conference.
Due mostly to CRE conferences, I felt very well versed in technology and thus gravitated more towards topics that allowed me to either think bigger or learn how to be an impactful leader. A few of the standout presentations from my chosen adventure included:
Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon: In a very candid discussion with his brother, Jeff Bezos exposed lifelong personal characteristics that helped him gain the inconceivable success he’s experienced to date. He also described the underlying passion and fascination fueling Blue Origin- his current initiatives to colonize space and make space exploration accessible to the next generation. Key takeaways: 1) some people are just born with it; 2) it’s important to remember that our natural talents do not deserve self-praise, as they were gifts meant to be used responsibly and shared with the world for positive impact; 3) in life and work, everyone should try to minimize regret and maximize courageous decisions; and 4) choose a life full of challenges and adventure, as a life of ease and comfort is boring.
Brian Grazer, American Film and Television Producer: While attempting to interview this fascinatingly eccentric man, Tim Ferriss managed to throw in a few questions that led to brilliant insight on Grazer’s opportunistic approach to life and his struggles to fit in as a young man. His authenticity and humility shone brightly on an awestruck audience who watched as Ferriss attempted to deconstruct his excellence. Key takeaways: 1) you only need one person to believe in you; 2) creativity and astuteness can get you as far, if not farther than grades; and 3) never underestimate the power of being brutally opportunistic.
Juan Enriquez, academic, businessman, and speaker: The current political state of the United States is in clear disarray. Enriquez took the audience through a brilliantly crafted presentation on the political polarization of our country and tried to express just how dire it is. What struck me the most was his final message to the audience. Enriquez clearly asked this very influential audience to maintain an open mind and peaceful demeanor when discussing political ideologies. He encouraged the audience to seek understanding rather than disagreement and made it very clear how critical our peaceful involvement will be in the creation of a middle independent party that will salvage what remains of this country. Key takeaways: 1) we have no idea how many stars will be on the US flag in 20 years- could be more, could be less; 2) the only way to reach an agreement is to listen; 3) the egos of the left are just as stubborn as the egos of the right; 4) a call to action at the end of a dynamic speech is extremely powerful.
Wim Hof, “The Iceman”: Watching and listening to Wim Hof manically mull over the possibilities of alternative medicine and his ability to master his body and mind through breathing techniques is fascinating enough for most. Yet, he somehow left enough time to guide an audience of over 100 people through a breathing journey that commenced with us communally holding our breath for 2 minutes. Once my brain let go of the panic associated with not inhaling oxygen, it was as if I could have held my breath forever. After taking in my first sip of air, my body felt euphoric, calm, and confident which he described as a normal outcome of what was essentially breath-focused meditation. While everyone was settling into their newfound surreal state, a doctor provided medical evidence and explanation of the health benefits of meditation and active breathing. Did I accidentally join a cult in those 2 minutes? Maybe. But so far, it seems worth it. Key takeaways: 1) alternative medicine is fully disrupting modern medicine at a rapidly increasing rate ; 2) active breathing and meditation can change the makeup of the brain, lessening stress and anxiety; 3) we all need to tap into our superpowers and proudly fly our freak flag the way Ice Man so easily does.
Ben Glieb and Hannibal Buress, Comedians: Summit is a conference full of very hip, important people, many of whom take themselves and the experience very seriously. That underlying seriousness was distracting to me at first. Ben and Hannibal brilliantly cut through the tension of this unwanted pressure and liberated my brain to experience the magic of the weekend. Comedy is one of the most influential and important art forms that exists. In all honesty, that comedy set was integral in my full enjoyment of the weekend. Key takeaways: 1) always be able and willing to laugh at yourself; 2) laughter has the power to break down social barriers and create a connection among strangers; 3) can’t wait for Ben Glieb to tour through Chicago at the end of January!!
Who Made Who, a Danish dance-punk band: Performing arts is an ongoing theme throughout Summit- world-class DJs, Jazz bands, dance, spoken word, electric violinists- all exceptional and inspiring. For whatever reason, though, the Danish dance-punk trio, Who Made Who was the most fun show for me. They’re emotional and loud while maintaining a sense of humor and allowing for good old dance party fun. My Summit experience wrapped up a few hours after this band ended, so for me, it is an hour of pure joy that I will never forget. Key takeaways: 1) leave time for random stops along the journey as they often times end up being the most memorable moments; 2) allowing your brain to take a break and get lost in any kind of art form will help inspire creativity and thoughts that will potentially solve global social issues; 3) music connects people, bonds people, and is one of the most powerful energy shifters on this planet.
As mentioned, these experiences were unique to my personal interests and choices over the weekend, so someone else out there is probably writing an article on what seems to be a completely different conference. The weekend I created left my mind and soul amidst a swirling mayhem of emotion when leaving Summit on Monday morning. It was truly transformational. Having been granted the opportunity to experience this conference and be among so many good-hearted, talented, and accomplished professionals across all disciplines and throughout the world was a truly humbling experience.
My Summit experience might not sound interesting to many of my peers in the technology and/ or real estate world. However, I encourage anyone who reads this article and has the slightest bit of curiosity to embrace the idea of trusting the process, letting go, and believing in the power of good. Take chances, open your mind, and welcome opportunities to challenge the conventional world.
Thank you to Free Market Ventures and (RE)Meter for allowing me this experience, and thank you to Summit for welcoming me into such an inspiring and beautiful community. Going forward with life and work, I will continue following the guiding light of positivity to show me the way.