The two most common questions I get asked about the Founders Thriving Experiences are, “What is the agenda?” and “What are we going to talk about?” My typical response to both is, “If you’re coming for the content you’re probably not ready. If you’re coming for the intention then jump in, the water’s warm.” If you’re someone who needs a specific agenda, then this may not be the experience you’re looking for – unless, of course, you’d like to explore and work on your rigid attachment to time.
My Life-Changing Experience
One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in my life was sitting in silent meditation at a Vipassana retreat taught by S.N. Goenka. If you’ve never heard of Vipassana I’ll spill the tea and tell you it’s not for everyone. A typical day includes a 4am wake-up gong, meditating in silence for 12 hours, eating a couple of vegetarian meals, an hour of teaching, then going to bed at 9:30 – all to get up and do it again for a total of 11 days.
No music, no writing, no reading, no talking – not even looking your fellow meditators in the eye – these are the principles of noble silence. For ten days you simply get to be with yourself and your thoughts…and my mind is a dangerous neighborhood into which I shouldn’t often visit alone. Hitchhikers beware!
Two Key Learnings
This experience represented seven of the most difficult days of my adult life but the benefits were truly profound. There are only a few experiences in my life where I can say I was significantly different after the experience than I was before and this was one of them.
The two most profound teachings I learned during my ten days were
- Everything we experience in our normal waking state of consciousness is impermanent.
- You must experience truth for yourself. Only then does it become your truth. Otherwise, it is someone else’s truth.
The second teaching makes up the foundation for every Founders Thriving Experience and quite frankly why they’re called “Experiences” and not conferences, workshops, or seminars.
Conferences, Workshops & Seminars
When you attend a conference, workshop, or seminar you have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting. Before you buy your tickets, you look a the list of presenters and say, “well if [Insert CXO ] from [Insert Silicon Valley Unicorn here] is going to be there, this must be a reputable event and I should definitely spend [$X] to listen to what he has to say.”
You sign-up, choose your track, carefully plan out all your sessions, and off you go. Lots of notes are taken, you snap pictures of slides that either give you an idea to try at your company or a factoid that categorically proves your manager, partner, or board of directors is wrong or underinformed.
But then when happens? How many times do you actually remember all those facts? Am I the only person who snaps hundreds of pictures of PowerPoint slides only to delete them a year later while I’m killing time on a long layover?
Conferences, workshops, and seminars are wonderful tools to provide answers to known questions. They give you strategies and tactics to increase conversion rates, decrease churn, or become a better person by following the 7 habits of other highly successful people.
What they fail to do is allow you to experience truth for yourself. You’re simply implementing someone else’s truth. And unless that someone’s lived experience is exactly – or at least highly similar – to your experience, then their truth is often not as valuable as you might hope.
The Eureka Effect
Per Wikipedia, the Eureka Effect (also known as the Aha! moment or eureka moment) refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. You know the feeling. Maybe it happened in high school algebra when it all just clicked into place.
Maybe it’s happened recently in a therapy session where you realized your co-founder wasn’t actually responsible for how miserable you are. There are corresponding feelings of both “getting it” while also a recognizable release of frustration that comes with a new level of acceptance. Our brains and bodies hate uncertainty. We love right and wrong and black and white. The Aha moment moves us from the yucky middle of indecision to the safe shores of certainty.
Once in a while, we get to have these types of experiences at conferences because we’ve been working on a problem but were simply missing the right language, knowledge, or context to arrive at a solution. Known problem + New Solution = Eureka!
But what happens when the actual problem is unknown? You know something’s not right but you don’t really know what it is or even where to begin trying to solve it. I experienced this in the early 2000s when I first experienced a website that made me type in a bunch of oddly turned letters before I could submit my form. Before I had the language to describe “CAPTCHA” I was dealing with a problem I didn’t even know how to explain. In life, you may have a feeling that you’re missing something but don’t even know who to ask or what to ask for.
If it’s operational in nature, you might be able to find a mentor that could offer context, experience, or language. But if it’s personal in nature your options can be a lot more confusing. Do you seek a doctor, a coach, a therapist, an acupuncturist, a hypnotist, or a guru? Sometimes the options alone can become overwhelming.
The Body Knows
This may sound a bit woo woo, but in most cases, your body already knows the answer to the question you seek. It’s likely been hiding there for some time. We’ve just never been taught how to access it. Using a very simplistic lens, this is the basis of Yoga. For thousands of years, the masters have known that healing happens through the body. In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel A. van der Kolk gives example after example of times when the mind is unable to cognitively process something but the body holds the answer – if only we can access it.
This is also what Goenka was referring to by using the term “experience.” When we can learn something experientially versus cognitively our brains no longer have to “remember” because once the body has had the experience it will never forget.
The Makeup of a Founders Thriving Experience
As the name implies, a Founders Thriving Experience is about having an experience. It’s not about learning or memorizing facts or even making lists of new habits you have to adopt. Each experience has been filled with activities that seek to move you towards the intention of the experience. Each experience has its own intention, and the umbrella intention of Founders Thriving is to be successful and happy – here and now.
Most often, an Experience contains practices like yoga, meditation, breathwork, and an opportunity to explore non-ordinary states of consciousness. Some also have a couple of hours each day dedicated to learning about yourself through writing and dialogue. At most, an experience will have an hour a day where you may be “learning” something that is not experiential. These topics are never about getting more top-of-funnel leads or building a better product. They are more esoteric and meant to offer new ideas, concepts, language, and ways of thinking. Should something spark your interest, you get to decide how much deeper into that topic you’d like to go.
The net-net is a Founders Thriving Experience is allowing yourself to learn in a completely new and different way than you’re used to. To allow the content, the location, the group, the food, the environment, the animals, and the Universe to teach YOU about YOU.
And the beautiful thing about self-awareness work is there are no right answers and you get to decide what you want to believe. If you hear something that is True, your body will know. But if you experience something that is not True (at least for you at that moment and in your current level of consciousness and process), you get to let it go and no one will tell you otherwise.
My teacher was fond of saying, “The Universe is a curriculum for the soul.” What this means is that everywhere we go, everyone we meet, and everything we do can teach us about ourselves. Any time some person, place, or thing upsets us, it is simply new information.
It’s not your partner’s fault when they press your buttons, it’s your fault for having buttons to press. And each time that button is pressed, you get to see where your reactivity lies. That reactivity (while potentially uncomfortable) is actually grace in disguise. It shows us where our bodies are buried, where our trauma is hidden, and points us in the direction of our deepest work.
If you’re a person who needs a rigid schedule, you could look at a FT Experience as an opportunity to explore your relationship with scarcity and time.
If you’re someone who thinks your company will crumble if you don’t check your email for 30 minutes, coming to a Founders Thriving Experience may help you realize you’re actually not that fucking important and other world does not rest on your shoulders.
If you think you’re done doing your work and have nothing else to work on, I dare you to show up and explore what’s still hiding under the hood.
And if you’re someone who is unsatisfied in life, wants to feel different, but demands to know exactly what we’re going to do and talk about, then maybe trust is where your work is at.
In all of those cases, if you’re sincere about growing, healing, and becoming successful and happy – at the same time – then I look forward to working with you and hope to see you at one of our experiences soon.