Truth be told, I didn’t really have any expectations as I boarded the plane last Wednesday. The event crept up on me and before I knew it I was flying over the English Channel and heading to the German capital.
And while I may still be experiencing the emotional afterglow of the event, at this point in time, I can confidently say that Alive was a life-changing experience for me. Not in an ambiguous, flaccid, theoretical kind of way, but in a I’m-going-to-grab-the-world-by-the-balls-and-squeeze kind of way.
In this post I am going to explain just what Alive has done for me, and I’m going to start laying the groundwork to convince you why you should be going next year.
If you’re 100% happy with who you are, who you know and what you do, stop reading now. Everyone else, join me as I tell you – in no particular order – about the 28 people who helped to change my life last weekend.
Lea is one of those people with utterly infectious energy and optimism. I think you’d struggle to be unhappy around her.
She was also one of the most genuinely nice people I met in my time in Berlin – and that’s saying something, because every single person I met was wonderful.
Lea delivered a talk on Saturday afternoon (amazingly, her first ever public talk) in which she talked about how to make the most of your life. She began by challenging us to write a list of things we are proud of having achieved in 2013.
I managed to write two things down. Don’t get me wrong – there were certainly more than two things that I am proud of, but I could only think of two things on the spot. Lea then brought out four gigantic cardboard collages that represented the various noteworthy experiences she had in 2013. She sees these collages every single day.
The lesson was simple yet powerful: constantly remind yourself of what you have done to push you to achieve more. Celebrate anything that improves your life – the little and the big.
Thank you Lea for showing me that I should remind myself of and celebrate my past achievements more often. I know that it will galvanize me to do greater things in the future.
Cathy is such an inspirational person – she just doesn’t know it yet.
She is a 53-year-old single woman (I hope she doesn’t mind me saying!) who travels the world alone while holding down a full time job. As all you American LWB readers will know, with the number of vacation days you get (or don’t get!), that’s no mean feat.
Cathy documents her journeys on her blog, Solo Travelers Alliance. She made me feel utterly crazy for having reservations about traveling alone – if she is doing it, why the hell can’t I?! It turns out that I can, and I love it, but it took someone like Cathy to help me see that.
You’ve probably heard of Chris 😉
He closed off the conference with a talk on the Saturday evening, and has almost single-handedly convinced me that I need to travel more. I had the pleasure of speaking to Chris in person, and he was able to address my concerns about justifying the cost of travel, traveling solo, and spending time away from your partner.
Before Alive, I had resigned not to go to the World Domination Summit in July, because of plane ticket prices. By Saturday evening, I had firmly placed myself in the “screw the cost, it’s going to be worth it” camp, and I look forward to seeing Chris again in July. For someone so successful and busy, he retains a level of approachability that I’m sure all of us at Alive were grateful for.
Michał Szafrański (just call him Michael) – what a legend.
I am proud to say that Michał was at Alive because of me – he had seen my original post about the conference and bought a ticket straight away. And what an addition to the community he made – along with Lea, one of the most outgoing and fun-loving people you could hope to meet.
He also happens to have an incredibly inspiring story. He broke both of his ankles in a snowboarding accident in 2007 and was told that he would never run again. He proved doctors wrong – in spectacular fashion – by completing a marathon in 2012. How’s that for determination?
Not one to rest on his laurels, Michał quit his job in the same year and launched what is now the biggest money-saving/making blog in Poland. Last month he made around $30,000. I attended his blogging workshop and was taking plenty of notes. I have little doubt that you’ll see the effects of what he taught me here on LWB soon.
Sarah gave a talk on “The Upside of Loneliness” on Friday afternoon, and boy did it speak to me.
You see, I’ve always assumed that working alone is a bad thing – something to combat. We all read the articles about how self-employment is a lonely experience, and so on. I’ve made plenty of decisions based upon the assumption that I need to spend more time around/with people when I work. I’ve even considered hiring people mainly so I just have someone to talk to!
But Sarah challenged this viewpoint in a big way. In fact, she made me realize that it’s absolutely fine to be alone, even if society says it’s not. If I’m comfortable being alone while I work, I don’t need to try to surround myself with people.
The fact is this: I have an active social life. It’s not like I never see anyone. Spending eight hours in isolation (a word with so many negative connotations) isn’t something I should try so hard to avoid – I can embrace it as the ideal conditions in which I can work!
Working alone certainly isn’t for everyone, but Sarah show me that it works for me. It’s a huge step forward for me.
Carl Paoli is such a dude. His talk was one of the most entertaining of the whole conference, as he regaled us with his life story – from Olympic gymnast hopeful to personal trainer and beyond.
But that’s not all. Carl helped me unlock a door that’s long remained closed to me – a means of rationalizing fitness and exercise. His advice was simple, but it made perfect sense.
First of all, Carl has made me realize that not everyone is made for elite fitness. It may sound obvious, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated that.
Our senses are assaulted by how we “should” look on a daily basis, and we often fight to achieve that look. But if we’re not made up (physically or psychologically) to be that kind of person, we’ll never get there – regardless of how hard we try.
Second, he gave me a superb yet incredibly simple framework to achieving a higher level of fitness that aligns with your particular psychological makeup:
Figure out what you want to be, practically speaking (e.g. more flexible, stronger).
Figure out what you can do to achieve what you want, in a way that’s appealing to you (e.g. what particular type of exercise/sport that you would enjoy).
Find a comfortable, coaching-based environment in which you can do it.
Or to put another way, figure out what you want, the best way to achieve it, then immerse yourself in a support/coaching/accountability system.
I know that this framework is going to help me become a fitter and healthier person, and I have Carl to thank for that.
I know I’ve used the word inspirational a couple of times already, but Reggie deserves to be described in the same way. In fact, he is probably the most inspiring guy I spoke to at the conference.
I can’t really do justice to Reggie’s story, but I’ll try.
He comes from a relatively humble background; the child of a single mother. Reggie has struggled with issues in the past, but he’s overcoming them and is determined to create a positive life for himself.
Reggie currently lives out of a backpack. He has no home, no car and no possessions beyond those on his back. I don’t mean that as a negative thing – quite the opposite. He is the best example of making the very most of your circumstances that I can think of.
The best way I can put it is this: literally everything Reggie does is in service of becoming a better person and creating things of value. He is an inspirational thinker and a creator. He has been working on Sticky Inspiration – a site in which he shares his thoughts on post-it notes every single day – for five years. He’s got so many plans and I simply know he will succeed in his aims. The guy is unstoppable.
Jana – what can I say.
She is the reason that Alive exists. Jana had the guts and gumption to create something that has changed lives. I will be eternally grateful to her for what she achieved with Alive, and will do my very best to ensure that next year’s conference (and beyond) are even more successful.
In case you don’t know, Alive is Jana’s baby. She conceived the idea, then went about making it a reality. It wasn’t easy, but the end result arguably surpassed what we all expected. She has created connections that will last for years to come. I have met so many incredible people in the last few days, and it’s all down to her.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Jana for making Alive happen.
I’m really only getting started. I met such a wonderful cast of people during Alive and want to try my very best here to name all of them. If I have missed anyone out I truly apologize – there is not a single person I met who I did not think highly of!
Thanks to Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott for putting the “I must travel more” wheels in motion, to Andrezj for the banter, to both Linas for being so smiley, to Sannie for being so optimistic, to Mounia for being such a great coaching partner ;-), to Krzystof just for being a happy guy, to Ramona for being so warm, to Rakesh for fulfilling my need to talk about cricket (albeit briefly!), to Kris for making me not feel like the only heavily sarcastic Brit there 😉 and to Rob for being so generous with The Hundred Dollar Club.
Thanks to Lisa for making sure she met me!, to Marthe for her Florence impression 😉 to Kate for representing Oxford, to Laura for showing me that we don’t need to be in a rush, to Katya for her generosity without expectation of return, to Harry for his sense of humor, to Ivonne for introducing me to the concept of money coaching, to Emily for her research, to Hanna for the great chat on Sunday, to Sabina for the chat on Friday night, and to Patrice for showing me that Parisians understand sarcasm 😉
Thanks to Gill for wanting to offer something more than just a product, to Michael for his infectious smile, to Cath for keeping the Welsh language alive!, to Mars for his awesome Mexico story, to Carolyn for the enlightening chat on Friday night and the awesome talk, and to Ben for challenging my views on relationships.
I know I’m missing people out, and I know that there are loads of people I didn’t really meet who I would’ve loved to: Ffion, Guy, Henrika, Coco, Nina, Allie, Greg, Kathrin, Dave, Anne-Sophie, Paula, Else, John, Andre, Jessica, Rob, John, Nicola, Naho and many others! You are all awesome.
So What Now?
Having arrived back in the UK, I’ve got a lot to get on with.
Alive has galvanized me to do far more with my life – to broaden my horizons in every direction. The coming weeks will be a testament to what Jana has created, and I know I will be able to look back in a year’s time – at the next Alive – and see what those few days in May 2013 did for me.
This year I managed to bring one LWB reader with me. I want a lot more LWBers to go next year. I want us to take over the joint 😉
But we’ll get onto that in good time. Now is the time for me to act.