When I decided to move to Toronto, I had no idea what to expect. The main purpose of the move was to grow my company. How? Well … we had our ideas, our plans, and our thoughts as to what that should look like. What’s incredible about starting your own company is that as much as you plan and strategize, plan and strategize, and plan and strategize, it will probably take you places you never knew you could go.
This weekend I had one of the best weekends of my life and the reason why is so simple: there was no internet connection. We had to disconnect to connect and I am forever thankful to Ted and Erin for giving us this opportunity and inviting us to the Fireside Conference.
Funny story – I actually lost my phone two weeks ago. I was moving to a different neighbourhood and my phone fell out of my helmet as I was walking to my new home and it was picked up by someone else. I know it was taken for good because it showed up on Find My iPhone shortly after 6 blocks away and hasn’t been online since. I got over it pretty quick and to this day, am still phoneless. So leading up to the Fireside Conference, disconnecting was easy to do.
But that’s the funny thing. You can disconnect as much as you want but if nobody else around you is doing it, you’re simply the fool staring at the back of their phones and the shine on their foreheads. During the time that I’ve been without my assisted living device, I’ve been privy to notice a few things.
1. Sense of direction – Without an automated voice guiding me to my final destination, I feel confident enough to get around without having to blindly follow a moving arrow. This has also helped with memory.
2. Commitment – Meeting someone or doing something should automatically include respect and accountability. Without a scapegoat of having your phone to tell someone you’re running late, the only option is to show up on time.
3. Peace of mind – When you’re not distracted by whatever your social lifeline is feeding you, you begin to feel less stressed or anxious and you start to care about the things around you, like the health of your mind and body.
4. Yes, you can - All the apps you think you can’t live without, trust me you’ll live.
5. The OG Facetime - Communication is always best face to face.
The Fireside Conference is an invite-only, all-inclusive entrepreneur, startup, investor and media retreat … also known as grown-up camp for impact-driven dreamers and believers. My co-founder Kiel and I were extremely lucky to have spent an off-grid weekend with 400 inspiring human beings and connect over fireside chats, unlimited food and drinks, a beautiful lake and meaningful conversations. Not once did I have to pause my story for someone to finish a text or repeat something because a social media notification was more important. It was truly glorious and then some.
I know a lot of you know this about me but I have no problem meeting new people by myself. I know it’s not easy for a lot of people to do but I urge you to practice it if you want to grow and eliminate the corners of your life. Start small and work your way up. The best (and easiest) way is by engaging in something you love with others who feel the same way. For me, it’s easy because I'm passionate about a lot of things: food, sports, water, camp fires, food, doing nothing, doing everything, motorcycles, food, personal passions and apparently this weekend – dancing. I can’t remember the last time I tried to rip up a dance floor because it’s extremely rare but Saturday night was one for the books.
I can’t even begin to talk about the people I met over the weekend. The things they had done, are doing, and will do was inspiring beyond words and it was truly a humbling experience. These were the dreamers. Then there were the investors, speakers and mentors, knowledgeable and insightful with the heart to open their ears to our dreams and give us the time to connect over a gin-infused popsicle while sitting cross-legged on the grass after lunch. These were the believers. I didn’t get a chance to meet all of them, but it was a privilege to be able to learn from them.
And the campgrounds itself – Camp Walden, you are a piece of art. From mushroom foraging adventures to soaking up rays on the scenic lake, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I got to sing songs over the campfire, wakeboard with new friends I met 20 minutes earlier, cheers a scotch with game changers and tear down the dance floor with the CEO of NACO and the Executive Director at York Angels. I mean, WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN? But the two who really blew up my heart were Ted Graham and his incredible wife, Erin. Not only are they a power couple, they are relationship goals. They are remarkable on their own while complimenting each other. She swims, he crushes it at volleyball. She’s Director of Experience Strategy at PwC and he’s the Head of Open Innovation at General Motors. Kiel and I are forever thankful to have been invited by Ted to attend the Fireside Conference.
Thank you to the organizers, Steve and Daniel for creating this weekend for a third year in a row. From 75 attendees to 400, you’re clearly doing something right. Please keep doing it. To all the speakers, thank you for your wisdom and for simply taking the time to spend a weekend with a bunch of hopefuls and misfits. Thank you to my partner in crime, Kiel, for continuing to push boundaries with me. I’d be lost without you. And lastly … thank you technology, for still having limitations and not existing everywhere. Not sure how long we’ll be able to say that but for now, you can fuck off whenever you can. Until next year, Fireside, we’ll be back and we’re excited to grow with you with the year in between. For now, continue to be you and to be you relentlessly. You don’t owe it to the world, but you owe it to yourself. Let’s do this together.
For everyone else reading this, don’t buy into the hype that you will miss out if you’re not always in the loop. The amount of stuff that we are consuming every second is forcing our precious minds into OT. Combined with the fact that we are doing way more and sleeping less, we are setting ourselves up for chronic burnout. We are basically the tweeting, instagramming and walking dead, with our phone chargers hooked into us like an IV. So do yourself a huge favour and unplug to recharge. Power up by disconnecting. Let yourself remember what it is like to be in the only place that is real.