Life at Alt v2.0 {alt summit 2015)

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On the morning I left for Alt Summit in Salt Lake City, I couldn’t muster the energy to walk to the nearby Light Rail station. Instead I silently pulled up the Uber app as The Mister and boys walked out the door to the school bus stop. January proved to be a chaotic, showstopper month. As a consultant, I know it’s wrong to complain about being busy. Busy is good. It means I have clients (YAY!). I was also neck-deep in a passion project and putting a lot of energy into it, possibly too much. I hoped the time away from it would give me the recharge needed and possibly shine a light on next steps.

Luckily, energy was to be found at the luggage drop-off counter. Two amazing women, and lovely friends of mine, Kathy of Krafty Kath and Cathie of Tinsel & Trim, happened to walk up right at the same moment. As we waited at the gate, Kate of Nearly Crafty, joined us (talk about an instawesome friend). These three helped kick off Alt Summit and kept it going in the best possible way.

Lisa’s wisdom – and cool illustration work – in a giant PowerPoint.

Since it was my second Alt, I had a much better handle on what to expect, what to do, what to focus on, and what I could skip if I needed to step back for a few quiet moments. Preparing this year was so much simpler – business cards and packing weren’t nearly as stressful this time around. Basically it was like going to camp… ok, like a really fancy camp… in a hotel… with room service… and A LOT of Pinterest-worthy outfits. I ran into friends I made last year’s conference, digital friends were given analog hugs, and many new friends were made.

A few takeaways in no particular order:
1) Lisa Congdon is amazing. Her opening keynote is still tumbling around in my brain in the most perfect way.
2) I want Dallas Clayton to be my neighbor. He had the energy, thoughtfulness, and humor that would make me want to extend my hand over the fence to catch a frisbee, join an impromptu BBQ, or engage in a late night chat while letting the dog out.
3) Spending time with the amazing people who also returned from last year, the new people I met this year, and having many, many great conversations was definitely a highlight. These conversations, many like lifelines, are why I went back and why I hope to return next year.
4) Never, ever, shy away from saying “hi” to a stranger. You never know who you might meet and share a moment or two – or a few hours – of hearty laughter. (Shout out to the fun folks at Sanuk!).

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I have yet to meet a photo-booth at Alt I haven’t liked.

One of the greatest takeaways was the importance of balancing passion projects with, well, everything else. In short, passion projects are – as the name suggests – projects we feel passionately about for either personal or professional reasons: possibly as a way to have our name connected with a brand (recognition); sometimes it’s the chance to work with someone we may have admired from afar, or wish to work alongside once again (collaboration); or it’s a business opportunity we cannot financially contribute to but can offer sweat equity. These projects often come with little or no pay – or the pay comes along long after it’s launched. Taking on a passion project is an individual decision with its own risks and rewards, but they often take a great deal of dedication and time. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to taking one on – but there are always lessons learned. (If you wish to learn more, there’s fantastic pod-cast from Grace Bonney of Design Sponge about creatives’ pay and part of it includes a discussion about passion projects.)

While talking with others at Alt, listening to Lisa and Dallas’ keynotes, and during a session led by Jessie Artigue and Hilary Rushford, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I needed to take a serious look at a passion project I had taken on. The burn-out – no matter how great the project – can be very real.

Doing a passion project means there’s a lot of treading with care – and I wasn’t treading. I was drowning. I realized I wasn’t taking the needed time to step away for myself, my family, and my business’ financial goals. And while I still believe in the work and its overall mission, I realized at that moment I couldn’t continue at the same pace. It’s an incredibly hard and humbling admission to say aloud (err, to write so publicly). I may go into more detail at a later time, but for now let me just say this moment had to be the greatest gift from this year’s Alt experience. A much-needed one arriving at the perfect time.

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Notes upon notes.

Overall, I definitely feel like I’ve found my tribe as it pertains to this area of my life. Social media consulting and writing is a lot of looking down at a screen, often forgetting to look up and around. Alt Summit reminded me to look up, check in, and be part of the greater community. But most important, at my fingertips, there’s an amazing group that’s always ready to rally. Ready to help me find my way.

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