We’ve seen the future of business events. It’s simple, beautiful and life changing.
What happened when we took 20 purpose-driven entrepreneurs to a startup ashram in India
For far too many people, work is a struggle.
The thought of work being interesting, exciting or even fun is alien to most. If you’ve been led to believe the opposite, then understandably this isn’t something that will be easy to get your head around.
And even though I’ve worked in the creative field for more than 15 years, and run my own businesses for most of that time, I’m only now beginning to see how we can live and work when we use our hearts and minds to their fullest. Old habits die hard.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
Practising What We Preach
Since we started The Happy Startup School 3 years ago we’ve tried to be true to our purpose, to only do things that we’re passionate about and work on projects if they feel like fun. And if we do something, we give it our all. We’ve learnt that when you put love in, you get love back.
We also have a responsibility to show those in our community the way – after all we’re spearheading a global grassroots movement of startups that put happiness before profits.
So we don’t plan, we follow our noses.
We go where the energy is, where there’s a pull.
Little did we know it would take us on a beautiful journey to India with new friends.
“I said it after Alptitude and now it has been proven again and taken to the next level. This is the future of business events. Likeminded people sharing experiences. Simple, beautiful and life changing.” Jack Hubbard, CEO Propellernet
Ashram is the latest in a line of game-changing events we’ve put on. But although both Alptitude and Ashram have no speakers or agenda we’re starting to see similar patterns. Which makes us realise it’s not a fluke, there’s method to the madness.
Here I outline some some key themes that surfaced from the week for me.
1. Team flow
It doesn’t feel like work when work works. Productivity increases, tasks feel effortless and decisions become easier. You get done what you need to get done. Work has a point to it.
Experiences like Ashram – where 20 changemakers from around the world came together over 7 days – highlight that when you’re with likeminded people and in tune to each other’s needs, flow becomes your natural state. You’re in the zone.
What makes this possible in a short space of time is a deep level of trust between the group. Where freedom trumps fear, and everything is voluntary.
“Blisscipline: The discipline of being in flow” Vishen Lakhiani
2. Learning what you need to
In stimulating environments you’re learning even when you don’t realise you are. Learning can be playful, fun and effective. And chances are you’ll remember what you’ve learnt.
Hence we had hacking by the pool, stories on the beach and bungalow workshops. But much of the real learning happened in the in-between bits – the conversations over meals, bus journeys and temple runs.
3. Sharing where there’s a need
Everyone contributes. There are no speakers, rather everyone is a speaker. There’s a structure but no agenda. It should be chaos, but it’s beautiful.
If we planned everything beforehand we’d miss opportunities for chance connections and random moments.
At the right time the teacher always showed up.
“Where there’s interest, education happens.” Arthur C. Clarke
4. Playing to reflect
Play time gives space to digest all the inputs, leaving time for reflection – think of them as priceless moments of deceleration. At Ashram we had surfing, fishing, yoga, mindfulness and FUN, lots of fun including a group Bollywood dance class. Not taking ourselves, or life, so seriously is a big part of why our events work.
So head out on the waves, have that massage or go on a long hike. You’re not copping out, you’re being effective – and giving ideas time to surface. And it’s ok to play the fool sometimes.
5. The unexpected
Thanks to our brilliant (and brave) host Kumaran Mani, we hijacked India’s oldest business conference for 2 hours, with 500 of India’s business leaders and startups. We put on a series of talks covering happiness in business, purposeful tech, social entrepreneurship and the power of dreams.
Let’s just say it was an experience none of us will ever forget.
As Kumaran said afterwards with a huge smile on his face:
“We just brought happiness to Chennai”.
It ended with a short video of our Summercamp and Jack Hubbard doing a rap on stage (no really) and getting the crowd to beat box. Finally the whole Ashram group were invited on stage for press shots where we signed an agreement to bring The Happy Startup School to India.
This is what happens when you live your purpose. The universe does indeed work in mysterious ways.
6. Ideas came to life
Ideas without action are just dreams, and over the course of the week projects were launched. Dawn Banks has a strong vision to create a place where kids can explore life outside the exam factory that is the modern day schooling system, but until now she’s struggled to get this out into the world. After a few hours of tinkering by the pool, Dream Explorers was born.
7. Growth in every way
People grew in confidence over the course of the week. Sharing their stories and getting acceptance from others helped people to shine. Being around a tight-knit group of likeminded people is like having a crowd of hearts propelling you forward. When other people really believe in you, you become unstoppable.
And when you’re a startup, business growth comes from personal growth.
8. Connecting as people not contacts
We go to conferences to meet people and make connections. Well at least we used to. Events like Ashram highlight that the old model is fundamentally flawed.
Real connections come from shared experiences, where you have the time and space to let your guard down and be your true self. Only then can we be vulnerable and open ourselves up to others. This creates deep and meaningful friendships. And love in droves.
So clear out the business cards and find your tribe.
And do what you love.
Because love scales.
Ashram 2017 will take place in Goa from February 20–27.
Here’s just some of the ♥ from those that came:
“Ashram was a dream. Finally I found a group of likeminded people who were nothing but supportive and extremely fun to be around.”
“I feel like I’ve had the journey of a lifetime and can’t wait to get cracking with everything I have in mind! This week has helped me so much.”
“I have come home with a sense of nurtured happiness. I feel excited and lucky to be part of this community, meet such incredible people doing incredible things. Life feels so much brighter being part of it all and being able to share this happiness with others is a wonderful thing to be doing.”
“A lifechanging experience”
“I loved the mix of head, heart and body stimulus – yoga, mindfulness, health, spirituality, as well as innovation and business. So happy to find people who understand how these things work together.”
“An eye-opening experience on how your career can bring you happiness!”
“The best event I’ve ever attended. So much heart and intention. No fixed schedules, freedom to do as you wish.”
Ashram 2017 will take place in Goa in February
Special thanks to Dipti Desai for the great photos and our wonderful hosts in Chennai, Kumaran & Latha Mani– kinder people you will never meet.