Take a cruise ship filled with 1000 people who don’t follow rules, innovate and provide hope for the future, and you get Summit Series 2011. On Friday, April 8, 2011, motivational speakers, techies, V.C.’s, entrepreneurs, actors, musicians and fashionistas left Miami for a weekend filled with sun burns, sand, speakers, networking and outstanding performances. As someone quite frightened by the idea of a cruise, to me, aka confinement on one large vessel for three days, summit series was to say the least, intimidating. With sea bands, Dramamine and 1000 interesting people, I soon forgot I was trapped amidst the Atlantic Ocean and became inspired by those on board. Summit Series’ motto could not have summed up the experience better, “Three days. One voyage. An ocean of possibilities.â€ Summit Series organizes and hosts events, which are invitation only with the goal to inspire and connect a new generation of successful leaders professionally and personally.
Sir Richard Branson kicked off the weekend along with talented pianist Eric Lewis, tech investor Chris Sacca, Tom’s Shoes Blake Mycoskie and renowned therapist Sean Stephenson. Those two and half hours completely rocked the boat before we even left the port. Talk about influential, inspiring, motivating, brilliant and thinking outside of the box. We hadn’t even been on the boat for more then a few hours and I was already in overwhelm overload if that even makes sense in the English language. Chris Sacca’s interviewed Branson capturing Branson’s uniqueness. Sir Richard Branson could have the most interesting life, with sentences like “I was just feeding a tiger with a bottle,” leaving the crowd roaring with laughter (pun intended) or “A hotel underwater might sound crazy now.” If I had any doubts about my ability to survive on a boat for 3 days, Tom’s shoes Blake Mycoskie certainly rid me of those as he’s been living on a boat for three years and could not be happier or more successful. Blake started Tom’s shoes, which not only sells cool slip-ons, but for every purchased pair, Tom’s donates a pair to a child in need. Pianist extraordinaire, Eric Lewis, played a myriad of songs without every sitting down. The last speaker of the first night, Sean, might be three feet tall and wheelchair bound, but he was one of the most charismatic and projected speakers I have ever witnessed. With his zest for life, Sean stressed the importance of eliminating the ego, confidence verse arrogance and it’s not the container but what’s inside. The impressive list of speakers and performers continued over the next three days including CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh, Russel Simmons, designer Rebecca Minkoff, Shai Agassi and a myriad of others. Gary Vaynerchuck, founder of Vayner Media and Wine Library, not only made me laugh uncontrollably but also has a pretty unconventional fairy tale ending type story line showing people anything is possible. He turned a small liquor store into a multi-million dollar business by combining customer service and technology.
Not only were the speakers great, but the workouts and dance sessions were also unparalleled. NFL linebacker Dhani Jones kicked our asses on the beach with a pro-athlete beach workout. I thought I was fit until Dhani made us do suicides in the thick sand and wheelbarrows. To calm down after a day filled with countless amounts of information, Imogen Heap performed her incredible vocal range along with slight interludes of comedy and DJ Cassidy, ?uest Love and The Roots had everyone fist pumping on the boat deck’s dance floor.
The most ironic part of the trip was the boat lacked phone service and wifi, yet was filled with techies, early adopters and Internet dependent people. When an announcement was made on the loud speaker mentioning the word “wifi,” everyone stopped moving, the boat was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. Despite our lack of connection to the outside world, we all managed to connect with each other in a powerful and inspirational way.
One of the most significant lessons I brought back to shore was the importance of organic networking. In many foreign languages, the word “network,” does not exist and often confuses those due to its inherent artificiality. The idea of going to an event with the sole purpose of “networking,” is quite a perplexing convention. While speed networking and other organized forms of meeting did take place on the boat, the relationships I developed were serendipitous. In order to meet women, I didn’t have to rely on the women’s happy hour but simply met people online for the ladies room or sitting by the pool.
Talks about our generation being a failure or letting global warming take over were completely negated on this trip. I was in awe of the people on this boat who were not just talkers but doers. These people don’t just want to solve the world’s most crucial problems, they are. From electric cars, to happier workplaces to overcoming the ego, every panel and discussion dramatically altered my thoughts on the world.
I have to thank the Summit team for truly capturing the innovation, creativity and brilliance that exists today. They inspired me to think outside of the box and illustrated that ideas do not have to be restricted to the minds but can be executed.