Monday, February 1, 2016

What I really learned at Alt Summit

To say that going to your first Alt Summit is overwhelming would be a massive understatement. Alt packs in hundreds of hours of courses into just two and a half days. There is no way anyone could ever take advantage of all of the content, and even the amount you do get takes at least a week to marinate and simmer in your mind. Then, after the fact, many speakers are willing to send out PDFs of their presentations, so you get even more information to process! The overarching theme at Alt Winter 2016 seemed to be the importance in believing in one's self and following your biggest, wildest dreams. Absolutely perfect for how I've been feeling lately. Initially, as the conference drew to a close, I found myself wishing there had been less inspirational content and more nuts and bolts. But, then I made a wonderful discovery...



Four classes had the biggest impact for me. The first was an early bird session during registration on Wednesday afternoon. It was called "Fail Big" with Olivia Omega. Failure is a big part of success, but it's something that we as a society are so uncomfortable talking about. People love to hear about the success after the comeback, but the process of the comeback is so messy that we prefer to gloss over that part. That's too bad because that is where the magic is! Sometimes we have to be cracked open in order to grow. Olivia told the story of her own big failure and how she moved forward to an even better life. It was exactly what I needed to hear to kick off the conference. 
Second on my list of amazing content was a session on Creativity and Vulnerability with Justina Blakeney. Justina started out by sharing with us the reason she started her blog: Her publisher sort of knocked her down one day with one of those, "By the way, your books aren't really selling well" bombs and suggested Justina build an audience and develop a following before they'd consider another book. (There's that failure piece!) After licking her wounds for a short time, Justina did exactly that. That really gave me a completely new perspective on things. I love the idea of there being a goal beyond the blog. Why limit oneself, right? Justina went on to talk about how creativity comes down to a small set of guiding principles:
TAKE ACTION
INDULGE IN MOMENTS OF INSPIRATION
UNLEASH YOUR PASSION
BE PROLIFIC
BYOB (be your own bestie)
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DOERS
AUTHENTICITY WILL LIBERATE YOU
INJECT YOUR WORK WITH YOURSELF
This list was awesome for me. But the greatest take away was the last point. She elaborated to explain that we don't have to be completely original to be creative. As long as we inject ourselves into our work, it will be unique, just like us.

The third class that really hit home for me was Finding Your Niche with Jessica Doll. Through a series of deceptively simple exercises, she helped us to define our brand's core elements. For me, that wound up being Motherhood, Design and Culture. Each of those includes a lot of topics, but it is going to be so helpful to have that framework as I come up with post ideas. If an idea doesn't fit into one of those categories, maybe it doesn't really belong here. If you'd like to do the exercise yourself, first do a total brain dump and write down all of the adjectives or attributes you would like people to think of when they think about your blog or brand. Then narrow it down to ten, then five and then three. Voila. Those are your core values!
The final class session the really did it for me was Reframing the Metrics You Use to Define Your Success with Vana Feliciano. Vana runs a coaching business focused on the idea of designing your day rather than managing your time. We explored other metrics we can use to measure our success, like lower stress levels, more time snuggling with our children, less time looking at our numbers and more time cooking, knitting, painting your nails or whatever gives you more overall life satisfaction. The idea is to do your work, to be accountable, but not to be consumed by it. Her tagline is "doing less with more love" and I walked out of her roundtable session feeling so grounded and good.
Because networking and business cards are such a huge part of Alt, I perfected my elevator pitch and got really comfortable with handing out my card. That may sound simple, but there is something profound about having a card and claiming what you do. I am a blogger. It's a hobby for many, sure, but for me it's become a (small for now) source of income and I want to keep that going. It was amazing to see the difference between the plane ride there and the return trip. I wound up handing out my card in both directions, but my delivery was much smoother and my confidence much higher on the return segment.
On the last night of Alt, there were a series of mini parties. By that time, I was so filled with ideas and information, exhausted from all of the learning, and really quite giddy and high on life following multiple days of no diaper changes, crying, whining, meal prep or bathtimes. It was exhilarating! Have you heard of Silent Disco? It is this AWESOME party service where it's silent in the room, and yet people are dancing - all to the same beat - and they are really, really into it. Then, you put on a pair of headphones and BAM! You're there, too. Everyone is hearing the same song, but with the music right there in your ears, it's somehow more intimate and moving. It was so much fun!
After I got home from Alt, J and I were talking about everything I had learned and my brain was still on overdrive from processing it all. I explained to him the ideas of designing my days and using reframed metrics, and going deep into that process of cracking open to become something new and better following a big failure, and clarifying my brand and core values and infusing my work with myself! Through all of that, I expressed this desire to really capture a voice that's me, not what I think a blogger should sound like. And then J said, "You know what, you should have your voice be like you at a party! You're always the life of the party and everyone loves hearing your stories and you make everyone laugh." YES! I thought and, I kid you not, just then, my friend Sally messaged me this picture:
When it popped up on my screen, I knew it was a sign from the universe that I'm on the right track. You, dear readers, are going to be getting a lot more of this girl. :) I realize that somewhere along the way, after I graduated college and got into the Montessori training and went along down that career path, that I let a key part of myself go. I felt it was so important to be serious and respectable and seem professional, that I decided it was necessary to suppress my super funny, loud, talkative, enthusiastic, life-is-a-party, cheerleader, comedienne side of my personality. Do you realize I used to do improv comedy and acting in college? It was awesome, and I was so good at it! Why did I want to turn that part of myself off?! Well, I can't tell you why, but I can tell you it's not going to continue. I can be myself and still be serious, well-respected and professional all at the same time. It's not one or the other. Besides, dampening the irrepressible aspects of our personalities is exhausting and no fun anyway!
It reminds me of my favorite chapter in Eat Pray Love. She's at the ashram and decides that she has been talking too much, or rather, that her entire life she's been talking too much, but definitely right then, on a spiritual retreat, she is taking too much. She decides to practice silence and gets a little button that says, "I'm in silence." She's really getting down on herself for her ability to create a cocktail party atmosphere wherever she goes and she is determined to change it. Then, right when she gets her button, she is assigned a new job: social chair, or greeting person, or something to that effect. The ashram staff tell her she's just perfect for it with her bubbly nature and ability to have a conversation with a brick wall. And so she's forced to embrace herself as is. No silence, after all. I love that. I'm going to live that.
Overall, going to Alt was just perfect for me during this particular season of my life. I never, ever thought I would say this, but I'm beginning to think that going to Minnesota, and having our lives turned upside-down, may have been the best thing that ever happened to us. Seriously. But, more on that later this week.
One thing is for sure, I definitely made a new friend for life in my roommate Rachel. That girl is pure gold! I'm so happy we met and shared our first Alt with each other. If all goes as planned, we'll be sharing a room again next year in Palm Springs! Sun and inspiration together? Yes, please. :) 

Do you attend conferences for your industry? How do you stay inspired and fill your cup, so to speak? Please chime in in the comments below! 

10 comments:

  1. hi Lyndsey. I'm delighted you had such a positive experience at the Alt summit. Your enthusiasm and positivity is really shining through in this post. I really enjoy your blog. Best of luck to you!
    Orla (Dublin, Ireland).

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    1. Thank you, Orla! I'm so happy to hear you're enjoying the blog and your lovely comment truly makes my day. Thanks for that! xoxoxoxo

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  2. Beautiful recap, Lindsey! I'm so thankful to have gone through this experience with you. Looking forward to our next amazing hotel slipper party in 2017!

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  3. You look *SO* happy in these pics, what a wonderful experience you seem to have had! Wishing you all the best and cant wait to see what you have in store for your blog, i LOVE reading. All the way from Durban,South Africa xx

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  4. I'm a newish reader (who got to your blog through your post on Design Mom) and wanted to let you know that I've been enjoying your voice, your stories, and you sharing your life. This post made me think about the parts of myself that I may suppress sometimes to be more efficient, more professional, more...something or other, depending on what I'm doing. I can't wait to hear more from you and thank you for bringing yourself to us every day. Brook (Oakland, CA after living in Glasgow, Scotland for 7 years)

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    1. It's like that cheesy song: This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! Thank you for sharing that, Brook. Let it shine!! xo

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your ALT experiences. Both the detailed lessons and your take on the summit are very inspiring. Would love to join you there next year.

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