Guestblog: Lessons I Learned At Happy Startup School’s Summercamp

We love hosting Happy Startups’ monthly Ideas Cafe at PLATF9RM. They are progressive business dudes with outrageously creative minds and every year they host Summercamp. It’s their own festival and this year PLATF9RM Member Lana Burgess went along. We asked her to write a blog about her experience and it sounded like quite a ride!


Summercamp is the annual gathering of the The Happy Startup School community. It offers the opportunity to unplug, get inspired by a diverse range of speakers, and connect with other founders, freelancers, and creatives in a natural setting. This year was my first time going. I can safely say that it was nothing like I expected. But everything that I needed.

When I reflected on what to include in this blog post, I found that my most memorable realisations were around wellbeing rather than business. This, perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise as it was a recurring theme throughout the weekend.


With that in mind, here’s five lessons I learned about wellbeing this weekend that have truly transformed my perspective.

The Joy of Missing Out


There was so much going on at Summercamp that falling foul of FOMO (fear of missing out) was entirely possible. Each morning was filled with talks offering a unique take on entrepreneurship. In the afternoons, we could choose from a plethora of workshops.

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Some workshops were pre-arranged and others emerged through an innovative process called “open space”. Topics covered included the psychological role of awe, entrepreneurship as a spiritual journey and what causes burnout, to name but a few.

After the workshops, we could try different wellbeing activities. My favourite was the wild sauna spa. Jumping into the bracing, emerald waters of Frickley Lake after getting my sweat on was addictively exhilarating.

With so many valuable experiences to choose from, FOMO could well have wreaked havoc on our enjoyment. Fortunately, Marcus Pibworth from the Ministry of Change offered up a way to reframe this problem: JOMO (the joy of missing out).

For me, this simple reframing was immensely freeing. It helped me quiet the voice that often asks if there is somewhere else I should be. This reduced my anxiety and allowed me to be fully present to enjoy every moment. A good life lesson, indeed.


How to Access Empathy


My second lesson came from the workshop that Christine Raine and her partner Seb Castro ran on emotional mapping. This is the idea that we can communicate better by taking a moment to observe — and name — the emotion we are feeling. We are feeling this emotion because a specific need we have is unmet. If we can identify this unmet need, we can discover what we need to move forward.

We can apply this process to the person we are speaking with, too. Rather than simply reacting to their words, we can take a moment to feel their emotional energy. We should not tell them what they are feeling, but we could ask them. Asking opens space for empathy. It allows the person we’re speaking with to feel heard. Activating empathy can improve the communication, deepening business and personal relationships alike.

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The Beauty of Self-doubt



We spend a lot of our time as entrepreneurs trying to iron out undesirable qualities. To banish imposter syndrome. To quash procrastination. To erase self-doubt. But perhaps we shouldn’t. Because it’s our vulnerabilities that allow us to connect. That keep us open. That allow us to learn.

Without vulnerability, our default position can become that of the teacher. And the teacher alone. Sometimes this can prevent us from learning. Which seems like a terrible shame. Because, arguably, the best lessons are ones which flow in both directions.


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What It Means to Be Present


We’ve all heard of mindfulness. But how many of us have ever really, deeply, felt what mindfulness means?

I had a powerfully mindful experience with Gino Yu, from the University of Hong Kong. This is a man who can maintain eye contact like no one I’ve ever met before. When someone intensely holds your gaze for an extended period of time, it isn’t always comfortable. But it brings you into the present moment like nothing else.

When you’re in the moment, you experience the world physically, rather than through thought. Time seems to stop and anxieties fade. Being in your body, not your mind, feels radically different. Like coming home.


How to Move On

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Birthing a business can be an intense, fulfilling, and meaningful process. But what happens if reach the point where your creation no longer serves you?

The stories I heard at Summercamp revealed that there is no single answer to this question. How you decide to transition is deeply personal. But recognising when a transition needs to happen is essential. Ignoring the nagging voice that’s telling you you’ve outgrown your business can lead to disconnect. We stop being true to our authentic selves if we cling on to something that we need to give away. There’s no shame in admitting that it’s time to move on.


Takeaway


I arrived at Summercamp wanting to focus on my next step as a freelance writer. The insight I gained was much more personal. I connected with people on a deeper level than day-to-day interactions tend to allow. I forgot about my business and reconnected with nature. I felt the true value of community. A shared energy. Shared vulnerabilities. Shared love.

My thinking around wellbeing has taken a massive leap forward. And writing about my learnings has reminded me that words are not just something I sell. Writing is a tool that I can use to process my mental health journey. And to share it with others — when I’m ready.

Going to Summercamp may not give you everything you think you want. But, somehow, the process seems to give you what you need. I’m pretty sure someone once wrote a song about that! Anyway, go next year and I have a feeling that you’ll understand what I mean.

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