Alt SF – Down the Rabbit Hole

This past week I was lucky enough to attend the Alt Summit in San Francisco.  The minute I read about Alt SF, I knew I would do almost anything to go.  It seemed like a mecca of inspiration created just for me; an event to support community within the design and blogging environment.  My husband was wonderfully supportive and helped to me imagine that all could be covered at home during my trip.  Arrangements were made and I found myself on my way!  Add to this that San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and I was primed to have a fabulous trip.   When we were notified that the after-party would be held at the new Pinterest headquarters, I knew this was going to be big!  Alice in Pinterland was the theme of that party and it turns out this was the perfect description of my entire trip. There is something incredibly exhilarating about jumping into a new experience with both feet.

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As you might know, I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 6 years and there is a certain hibernation attitude that is possible to adopt in this particular lifestyle.  As frenetic as raising children is, it can be a bit isolated and insulated.  As I launch this new chapter of self-discovery through the blog and Poole Party Designs, I realize that it is time for me to emerge from this cocoon and broaden my world once again.

Altitude Summit was the perfect launchpad for this.  Although the attendees experience levels ranged from novice to professional within the design world, there was a warm sense of community that made this a very welcoming atmosphere.  A shared attitude of innovation was present and a strong feeling of comradery that I don’t think was just imagined on my part.

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Early in the day, an attendee handed me a quote along with her business card.  Maybe I was just in the right mindset to soak up everything coming at me, but, it read:

“Go as far as you can see;

when you get there you’ll be able to see farther.”

I feel like the message was meant just for me on my little journey.  I made my way to Alt, by myself, not knowing what I was getting myself into.  Once there, I began to dream about what could be next for me around the bend.  Had I not made the choice to go to San Francisco, I wouldn’t have been able to see that far.

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Altitude Summit picked phenomenal speakers that no matter one’s background, you couldn’t help but be impressed.  The speakers’ perspectives were varied, and all very inspiring.  Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of the lovely online stationary site Minted, reminded us that set-backs are part of the story that you don’t always see from the outside.  Throughout her career she was told by others that her ideas wouldn’t work.  Through this process she learned that entrepreneurs don’t care what other people think.  Mike McCue, founder and CEO of Flipboard, an amazing social magazine site, closed out the day with heartfelt and inspiring messages from his experience with start-ups.  Despite the difference in scale, these entrepreneurs made their business experiences feel accessible (and one element of their life that they balance with other important things such as family).

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1.  “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”  (Jon Acuff, author)

Emily Olson LaFave of The Startup Couple reminded the group of this important message about comparing oneself with others.  We are all in different places with our creative process.  When starting something new, it is possible to get overwhelmed, looking around at others and not taking into account that these people might be much farther along their path.  Good things take time.  It is important not to get frustrated with ourselves when things go more slowly than we might like.

2. “Understand what you are good at.”

Take the time to figure out where your strengths are and what makes you unique.  Spend most of your time where your personal strengths are.  Keep happy and passionate.  As you begin to employ others, try to retain the part of the process that you are best at and enjoy the most.

3. “Spread the love.”

Caring about what other people are up to is a good way to get people to care about you too.  Community is important.  I have been working in a bit of a bubble and it was such a good reminder that finding one’s community can be a great source of new ideas and collaboration.

4. “Be a sponge.”

These were Rena Tom’s words from Makeshift Society.  She reminded the group that inspiration comes in all forms.  Get out of your comfort zone and actively be in the world, one can find inspiration in all things.  Soak up inspiration in all its forms and don’t be afraid of trying something new.  If it fails, you will probably still be moving forward, just in a little different direction than you had imagined from the start.

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It is easy to feel overwhelmed after going to something like Alt.  There are so many amazing people, innovative ideas and creative stimulation.  I came home with a feeling of wanting to start over completely in all my projects and begin again… right nowthis minute!  Strangely, this created a paralysis.  It took me a full week to slow down my thoughts and remember that, for me, this is just the beginning.  Alt allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and slip down the rabbit hole for a day to dream like Alice in a Wonderland of inspiration.  And, now that I have been to Wonderland, my dreams will be different from before.  I navigated the city, met new friends and felt myself intoxicated with all the creative energy around me.

I will try to utilize all the lessons I learned at Alt, but know that I have time.  Time to keep discovering what I am great at.  Time to invest in my community.  Time to absorb the world around me.  I am not an expert in anything (yet!), but rather a jack of many trades, that loves to dabble.  My life is still mostly about being a mom.  I grab moments here and there in an effort to infuse creativity into our lives.  This is the curse and beauty of my life in this moment.  I have the freedom to explore and try to figure out what is next and, most important, enjoy the journey!

And now, here are some photos of the fabulous party that Pinterest threw in honor of Alt SF!  Certainly a fun element of the journey and a rabbit hole I would recommend to anyone!

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Thanks so much to Altitude Summit, Pinterest, Michael Miller Fabrics and all the other sponsors that made this event possible!

Photos courtesy of Alt Summit and atly.

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