Why we happily killed our plans & other lessons learned from a mountainside experiment

How a bunch of free-range startups, one magical place and a bucketload of inspiration can change your course for the better

I’ve just got back from Alpselerator – an(other) experiment in work, life & play. After the success of Alptitude and Summercamp, this was a little different.

Not just an opportunity to decelerate, but accelerate

Why were we there?

Well it was a test to see whether my startup — The Happy Startup School — and 6 other teams could not just unplug, but up their game; re-charge yet realise; make friends and make shift happen.


Alpselerator was created with the aim of accelerating purposeful ideas, making new friendships, deepening existing ones and getting exposed to a ton of great conversations, inspiration, and fun, over a week in the French Alps.

And if this were to be a success could it become something bigger? A dream accelerator in the mountains where people from all over the world come to bring their dreams to life with others. And not just selfish dreams, but BIG dreams.

Dreams to make our lives, and the lives of others, a little better.

Sweet dreams. Connected dreams.

You see Alpselerator and Alptitude both took place in Dream Valley – a magical place where innovation meets utopia – where hi-tech meets hi-nature. This is where business gets lets loose from the shackles of offices and dull meetings, to an adventure playground that makes people let their guard down. In somewhere like this you soon realise how powerful nature can be and start to ask yourself the big questions that we often escape from.

When you’re looking at a vast mountain, your perspective shifts.

No time to sweat the small stuff, this is where big decisions get made.

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” John Muir
Image by Jerome Ribot

So what happened?

Well…code got written, books got launched, websites got made, posts got written, videos were filmed, plans were hatched, roles were agreed, knowledge was shared, tips were exchanged, marathons were run (no, really) and cheese got eaten.

And when I say cheese I mean LOTS of cheese.

I did warn you...

I did warn you...

There were moments of quiet and moments of activity, periods of deceleration as well as bursts of acceleration. We got in flow, tuning in to each others needs and energies. We were thinking (and being) fast and slow.

The week had no structure. And I mean, no structure. We believed with a bunch of smart people with a common goal, in an inspirational place, we could work it out together.

And work it out we did.

By day 2 we’d developed a rhythm. People worked on their own projects, but they helped each other. People focused, but they opened themselves up to serendipity.

So what happened to the plan?

We had a long Trello board of things we wanted to do by the week’s end. And over the first day or so we started to work our way through them.

But then it soon dawned on myself and Carlos that we could do that anywhere. We could hide ourselves away in a cubicle and get sh*t done without having these bright minds surrounding us. And without those mountains on our doorstep.

Which made us question why were we really there? It wasn’t just to get stuff done, it was to help us reach our big goals, connect with others, get tooled up with new knowledege and get inspired.

So we quickly accepted that we wouldn’t get everything on our list done. And in fact, as it turned out, the list might have been the wrong list.

Great ideas don’t happen in the boardroom

Great ideas don’t happen in the boardroom

This week wasn’t about checking off to-do items from a Trello board. It was about making the right decisions, working on the right thing. Hanging out with likeminded people and absorbing as much knowledge from those in the room. Constantly checking in with ourselves to ensure we were making the most of this opportunity to learn, share and connect.

So what did we learn?

We achieved a few things we wanted to, but more than anything we’ve now got clarity on how we’ll grow our community, where the business opportunities are, how all the work we’re doing fits together and what we’ll be able to say no to.

We’ve been able to think bigger.

But most of all, we learnt a lot. There were a ton of small things we learnt such as tools we can use or people we should speak to, but I’d summarise the big learnings into the following:

  1. Get outdoors as much as you can— nature has a way of bringing in perspective you’ll never otherwise get – start with Free Range Fridays where you lose the office for a day
  2. Surround yourself with people that inspire you you’ll never learn more than living it rather than reading about it or watching a video
  3. Sharing is the new teaching— for creative workers the only way to learn is through sharing stories and experiences
  4. You make your own luck so get out there and connect with new people, ideas, experiences and cultures – it will inspire you and lead to opportunities you’d never expected
  5. Our goals are best met indirectly so don’t try and tackle your problems head on – chasing money doesn’t make you rich, chasing happiness won’t make you happy – so do things that give you energy and follow your gut. Then you’ll see obliquity in action for yourself.
  6. Work on something you care about, deeply otherwise the days will feel long and your life will become a struggle. Work should be a joy. If you don’t believe me, surround yourself with people that love what they do. It’s addictive and it will rub off on you.
  7. Have a story to tell — when people care more about why you do what you do not what you do you being to think differently. The more inspirational people I meet the more I want to inspire others myself. So start doing things that inspire you, and you may be surprised how many others look to you as a shining light of what’s possible – where works meets play.
  8. Thingify is a word (well if it isn’t, it is now). Thoughts don’t lead to action, things do. So don’t think too much, thingify your thoughts (sorry).

Get involved

If you like the sound of a new way of doing business that doesn’t revolve around grey suited moodhoovers and office cubicles, then join the Free Range Business movement.

At Alpselerator we took part in a video that we’re hoping will the start of a movement for Free Range Business and an end to Business As We Know It (#mothercluckers). There was a lot of fun had in the making.

If you like it please share using the hashtags #officenotrequired #remotework

Join the Free Range Business movement here.

The Alpselerator teams were, in no particular order:

Also thanks to Rorie, Kate and Chalet Badney for our wonderful home for the week.