40,000 Miles, 18 Layovers, 8 People, 6 Projects, 5 Days, 1 Stingray And 1 Mansion


This past week, my colleague and friend, Antonio Neves, and I conducted the first ever Ignition Lab. It was a 5-day retreat/workshop nestled in a mansion that sat atop a cliff off the Nicaraguan coast in a town called, San Juan Del Sur.

The purpose of the experience was to provide a place for 6 people to learn best practices in pushing a project forward, to be vulnerable with each other, and to actively support each other’s endeavors through dedicated group breakout sessions. Action, accountability, and brainstorming were only part of the experience though.

We also recharged and pushed our bodies through yoga, surfing, rappelling 110 meters and zip lining through the jungle.

In the end, here were the biggest business and life takeaways:

The World Doesn’t Care What Your Plan Was

While we prepared to the nines, there is only so much you can predict and control, in business or in a foreign country. The rule was, flexibility in control.

Here’s a taste of what didn’t go as planned:

  • Stingrays like feet; One of our participants got hit by a stingray in her foot when we were surfing. Getting stung by a stingray is also known as, “One of the most painful things you can experience in life.”
  • The entire internet and cell service went out in the town the day the participants were going to arrive. We had no way of communicating with anyone.
  • “You must have a 4-wheel-drive car” was told to us the day we got there, after we picked up our non 4-wheel-drive car. Subsequently, as our tire was slowly losing air, we happened to be with someone who knew of the only person in town who could fix our tire. He did.
  • Activities went a lot longer than we had thought so we constantly had to move our schedule around and get feedback from the group to see what they were feeling and what they wanted most.

This leads me to the next lesson learned:

You Can’t Solve A Business Problem If You Don’t Know What Your Potential Clients Consider A Problem

It’s not what you think, it’s what they think.

Through all the multiple businesses that were presented: design, art/social movement, non-profit, market research, travel/video, and coaching, one theme that came up time and time again was, “How can you test the assumptions you have as soon as possible?” Just because you think an idea is good, doesn’t mean that the people who are going to engage you on your product or project do too.

Conduct surveys, interview people, ask; do whatever you have to do to get any type of feedback on the idea that you have. Of course that is what the Ignition Lab was all about: feedback and support. So what was the biggest roadblock for the group immediately became its biggest asset.

If you’re afraid to get feedback it might be because you don’t feel worthy enough or good enough to ask.

Here’s a secret: you are good enough. You don’t need permission to be curious.

Together, We Really Are Better.

Through all of the shared vulnerability (business and physical) and managing things we couldn’t prepare for we became a unit that supported each other intensely, far more intensely than I could have imagined. Tears were shed by most, uncontrollable laughter was had by all, we did things we’ve never done before, we pushed each other forward and we made commitments to how we were moving our projects forward in the next few weeks.

What an experience. What a testament to group genius. I am humbled and thrilled to have been a part of a group that made everyone better. In fact, I’m actually jumping for joy, as you can see below.

If you want to be part of the next Ignition Lab, enter your email address here to stay updated on the details —> The Ignition Lab.

Who Makes You Better?

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