The Art Of Being Yourself: And The Journey Of A Thousand Conversations

Image by Elements

Image by Elements

“Thanks for letting me be me. Because that’s something that’s not as normal as it should be.” Robert, Netherlands

For a few days now I’ve been attempting to write about Alptitude 2016, but failing miserably, never getting further than a few lines. This is the second year we’ve put on this event which, it’s becoming clearer, is hard to put into a words (thankfully I’m not the first one).

That said we sure know what it’s not:

  • It’s not a conference – because there are no speakers. Yet inspiring stories are told.
  • It’s not a training week – because there is no programme. Yet learning is everywhere.
  • It’s not a networking event — because there are no business cards. Yet deep and long-lasting friendships are formed.
  • It’s not a retreat — because there’s adventure on tap. Yet there were real moments of calm and peace to reflect on the things that matter.
  • It’s not a vacation — yet there is hiking, rafting, climbing, swinging (steady… the tree variety) and cycling. Not to mention great food, wine and a silly amount of fun.

You can see why it’s hard to fit Alptitude in a box. It’s all of the above, yet none of them.

Free range discussions at Alptitude — photo by Elements Studio

True emergence in action

When we first thought of creating this event with our friend Jack over a year ago the idea was a simple one. The conference format was broken. Big events don’t deliver, and anyway the best bits are the in-between bits.

So we created a whole week that’s just this and trusted that game-changing ideas, inspiration and connections would come out of it.

Or put more simply:

25 movement makers + the mountains = magic

The beauty of bringing a small group of likeminded people together in the right environment is that conversations flow effortlessly. Networking doesn’t feel like networking. It’s easy to make friends and open up.

Conversation ~ A talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

At Alptitude we talked. And talked. And talked.

Across the dining table. On hikes. On bikes. In trees. In hot tubs. By the pool. In the teepee. In the barn. In the snow. By the fire.

As a group we re-discovered the art of conversation. We forgot about our devices and were focused solely on the present. This moment, with these people took all our attention.

Stories were shared, people really listened. Support was offered and help was close at hand. We were 25 people with diverse backgrounds, personalities and life experiences but similar in so many ways.

As event hosts there was no need to fill up the schedule with sessions – our job was to create space then get out of the way. I’m glad we did.

Conversations led to emergent huddles around a particular challenge which often led to concrete action in many cases. Websites were made, viral videos created, events were plotted, trips were planned.

True collaboration without any briefs or project managers in sight. From idea to action fast.

Hike lunch (even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirits) — photo by Elements 

Key learnings

So much happened over the course of the week that’s it hard to sum up in a single post, but on the journey home I made some notes whilst reflecting on the experience and what stood out for me.

  1. Make time for the things that matter — spending time with people you care about is a precious thing and we had this in droves at Alptitude.
  2. Challenge yourself — you’ll feel stronger for it (physically and mentally). People got outside their comfort zone, overcoming mental blocks along the way.
  3. Create space to do nothing — and amazing things will surface. A lot of the best stuff happened when there was nothing to do, nowhere to go.
  4. Spend more time in nature — it will make you a better leader. Every time we take people to Dream Valley they leave with a renewed perspective and crystal clear clarity.
  5. Seek out kindred spirits — then watch those sparks fly. When you share the same values, the conditions are ripe for real innovation.
  6. Stay curious — you’ll learn about others, and yourself, in a way that will enrich your life and lead to unexpected opportunities. This led to us to an unforgettable journey to India earlier this year.
  7. Trust in the things you love — following what interests you and you never know where it may lead. The Happy Startup School started out as a side project so we’re proof of this.
  8. Turn inspiration into action — don’t let ideas overwhelm you, act on them while they’re fresh in your head. Thingify your thoughts.
  9. Find your tribe — where you can be yourself, and people love you for it. We’ve created our community as much for ourselves as anything else, as we never felt at home in other business settings.
  10. Dream up life-affirming experiences and go do them. When you’re looking back on your life you’ll remember moments like these, not stuff.

Campfire sinaglong — photo by Elements 

Alptitude in other’s words

Rather than have my version of events I asked those that came to sum up their experience in one sentence in the hope that it would better communicate what value these kind of events can bring. Here’s the responses we’ve had so far:

“The best gift I’ve ever given myself.” Robert, Netherlands

“I am richer in so many ways because of these good friends I have made.” Jack, France

“My experience was phenomenal. To be accepted by so many likeminded people — the week was truly inspiring and life-changing.” Muhaimin, Bangladesh

“Instead of working on my business, and business skills, Alptitude was for me the place for creating a stronger connection between my life goals, challenges, joy and purpose.” Gijsbert, Netherlands

“Alptitude has helped reinforced my beliefs and given me the passion to imagine what could be, instead of what is. We all have the opportunity to break current boundaries, there is no right or wrong. Let’s PLAY!” Maryrose, Ireland

“The rich diversity of this experience has helped me grow in a broader and deeper way than I have ever experienced.” Sally-Anne, France

“We experience breakthroughs in technology everyday. AI, machine learning and virtual reality are but a few of the buzzwords that point to a new future. But what about a breakthrough in who you are and who you surround yourself with? What if you could spend 7 days in a place where you can upgrade your business skills, relationships and leave with a brighter view of your future self and humanity? Sounds almost as crazy as a world of self-driving cars and leisure trips into space doesn’t it? But those things already exist and so does this place. I know because I did it. It’s called Alptitude and you can do it too — and you should.” Jack, USA

“Alptitude. Real connections, authentic people. Awe-inspuring, perspective-setting nature. Mountain made philosophy. River led mindfulnness. Challenging inspiration. And a gig on top of the world.” Dave, UK

“The best bits of everything wrapped into 1 week — inspiration, friends & fun. A kick to the head to wake me up to what’s possible and important.” Gar, Ireland

“Alptitude will push your boundaries personally, physically and in your business like no other event. An experience that will enrich you in so many ways and give you confidence to make changes in your business and your life with the knowledge that the whole community will be with you all the way.” Tom, UK

“In one week the passion, compassion, ideas and inspiration of 25 incredible individuals has enriched me personally and professionally in ways I never imagined. Alptitude has shone a new light on my business and personal pursuits and the future is brighter than ever. Thank you :-)” Kathryn, UK/USA

“Alptitude provided a rare chance to reflect on my day-to-day (and long term) life and work patterns from a birds eye view. It provided a safe place (amongst thoughtful, like-minded people) from which to workshop, and adjust my thinking and habits around workflows, relationships, project facilitation and team building. Perhaps most importantly, it underscored the idea that we have ‘one go’ at life, and that we can (and should) strive to make it exceptional — personally and professionally.” Warren, USA

The Alptitude 2016 tribe - Photo by Elements

Thanks to everyone that took part and helped make the week what it was. Alptitude will be coming to the West Coast USA later this year, and back to Europe in June 2017. Apply here »

Mountain t-shirts woven with love by Custom Planet

Kim Slade treating us to a surprise sunset gig 2000m up


“This feeling of Alptitude will never leave our side. Every time we hit the road I feel alive…. They say back to reality, I say back to normality. Those two are not necessarily the same.”
Kim Slade, Unknown Epic

Starry night at Refuge de Bostan, Samoens — photo by Elements 

Find your tribe at our next gathering, Summercamp 2016. 100 people, 300 acres of rolling countryside, 3 days of meaningful stories and conversations.