Reflections on a week in the alps — why body and mind balance are not just a side project
On Saturday June 11, 2016 I left 25 new friends, who returned back to the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, the US, Israel and even Bangladesh (peace Manny — if my lungs were struggling after New York pollution, you must have had a real shock in that crisp Alp air). I’m saying friends because I mean friends. The connections I made during a week in the French Alps with the Happy Startup School are real, I care about these people and I’m convinced we’ll cross path again in the future. I’m looking forward to assisting their projects and help ideas come to life and knowing I have a sounding board for mine. That’s what Alptitude 2016 was for me, a place where I connected body and mind, planted seeds for projects thanks to outdoor activities and an amazing group of people, who brought different viewpoints and experiences.
I think of myself as curious and loving to meet new people. But those guys blew my mind. Not only had they left their work, their families and traveled far to spend seven days in the Alps with strangers, but were they committed to getting the best out of it. It seemed that egos were left behind. No bragging, or platitudes, instead each of us showed vulnerability and opened up, being honest with themselves about why they were there and what they wanted to achieve. And they were committed to work ‘hard’ in the most beautiful scenery of the Alps.
To be honest I felt terribly jet lagged the first day and started doubting my decision to go there. I had left New York and a busy job shortly before. I felt the confusion of that transition phase and was still high on adrenaline. So meeting a bunch of strangers and telling my story felt like the last thing I wanted to do. I had signed up for this out of curiosity for the format, more than the content. Laurence McCahill, co-founder and co-heart and I had talked earlier about collaborating. I was curious to experience what the Happy Startup School was all about. So it seemed a perfect idea, to stop in the French Alps, where they had put up their temporary tents for Alptitude 2016 — a week of activities, sharing and co-creating, on my way to Europe. Having worked a lot with startup entrepreneurs, different formats of collaborating and designing learning experiences, I thought I could potentially support and contribute in terms of facilitation, while making new connections. But I was about to experience more than that.
I was curious about the format and fell in love with the people and nature.
The name is misleading. It wasn’t a school, nor was it all about being happy. It was about 25 people who left their day-do-day to find answers to bigger challenges: Someone was in a crucial phase of growth, trying to reach 1000 subscribers. Another one had closed a successful project and needed to define his purpose in order to continue. The format was very loose, yet we had a clear structure of the day. Early workout, be it Yoga, mindfulness walks or mountain biking (for the crazy ones). After breakfast we’d have a morning session on a topic suggested by one or more participants and facilitated by another. In the afternoon we would do something with the entire group — hiking, walking, biking — note, we were in the Alps, and we took full advantage of what they offer. Not last because of the friend of the house Jack Hubbard who knows every corner of dream valley — the name he chose for the place where he builds community for and with people who come to create and connect.
I’ve certainly not done as much physical activities in the past four years as I have in that one week. And it was magic. The fresh air, the vast space and real physical impact of altitude and workout unlocked calmness and new thoughts. Up on 2000m, in an environment that felt strangely familiar I reconnected with a place on earth that I had forgotten, or exchanged for exotic places. It was most natural to dream up ideas, like how to support governments to become more innovative and entrepreneurial — with people I had not known a few days before.
I experienced the purpose of the Happy Startup School and hope to be able to spread the word
We’re all humans, and we struggle with similar things, so why not break out of the solo work and share with others. Community and people are of the most important things for me to be creative and start creating. Good ideas come from a physical and mental balance and connections with other humans. Connecting body and mind is not something you do on weekends and after work, but I want it to be an integral part in my life.
I took away many insights and inspiration for how and with what I wanted to work in the future. Taking the people as an example, who came to the Alps, to build a community and to take time to connect with nature. I made some decisions for concrete projects, like a backpack that solves the pain for urban professionals that I want to start executing this year. Allowed one pledge, I promised to pick up writing again — on a book and shorter blog posts, and actually publishing them. Well here I am. Thankful for an amazing experience, my new friends, a new balance, and rediscovered love for the Alps. And I’ve published my first blog post.
Thank you for taking the time to read.