I’m still scratching my head as to how the events of the last week unfolded…but I’m just going to refer to it as “Erik’s best week ever.” What I experienced was remarkable and filled with coincidence. I’m not publishing this to gloat or brag but more as a way to make sure I don’t lose any detail from what I saw.
More than anything, I want to give my friends/family/co-workers some context into my behavior, disconnected mental state and general absence. I’ve shared bits and pieces with many of you…the experience was too cool to keep bottled up in my head. To keep things detailed but brief, I’ve included a few links that you can click-through to:
Wednesday (March 27th)
- I attended BIG KC after a co-worker hooked me up with a spare ticket at the last-minute.
- After the event was over I was talked into skipping my “Food not Lawns” gardening class and instead enjoy a beer at the VIP cocktail reception.
- I truly connected with this amazing lady wearing a bad ass Harley Davidson shirt. Our conversation slowly shifted from that into the TechStars model of acceleration.
- This lady, who turned out to be Lesa Mitchell, invited me to join her on a trip to Portland (April 4th – One week away) to visit the Nike+ Accelerator, powered by TechStars…I thought she was joking.
Thursday (March 28th)
- I received an email from Alana Muller just after midnight, one of my favorite leaders and an influential mentor…Lesa had told her about the invite to Portland and she too kicked me in the rear with words of encouragement: “She was serious… GO! Don’t pass it up.”
- I checked prices on flights…it would be an expensive trip. Though I believe this could have been spun as a “business trip” surely work wouldn’t pay for it. I sent an email to my boss just to give it a shot, he said “no way.” (for the record, I love my boss…this was a crazy request and he was more than happy to allow me to take vacation)
Friday (March 29th)
- I reflected with a number of people on my dilemma…I would be investing more than $800 of my own money to make the trip and miss a pretty important day of meetings with a vendor I had invited to town. The decision was unanimous…
- On a road trip to Omaha, my wife and I had an impassioned discussion: “Let me get this straight. You want to spend how much to fly to Portland next week, with a WOMAN you met at a happy hour?”
- She had a point but we eventually came to an agreement. I booked my flight and hotel room just before midnight…I was in.
Saturday (March 29th) – Wednesday (April 3rd)
- I questioned myself, read a lot about Startups & Acceleration, I woke up early every morning with memories of vivid dreams and all kinds of thoughts running through my head
Thursday (April 4th)
- I woke up at 3:30am….my alarms (three of them) were blaring but I couldn’t sleep anyway. I was in an excited emotional state that I haven’t felt before (For those who don’t know me… I’m an overly passionate person. This was different)
- Armed with some new reading material (Startup Communities by Brad Feld, The 2012 Kauffman report “Entrepreneurial Community in Kansas City, From Fragmented to Collaborative” and dozens of internet articles clipped to my Pocket Reader) I didn’t sleep a wink on my flights to Portland….my eyes were opened even wider with new insight
- I landed in Portland and met Lesa at her gate…we walked toward the cab and she asked me: “so what are you hoping to get out of this?” She patiently listened while I did my best to dump all of my thoughts over the previous week into a mostly coherent verbal manifesto…we had a fantastic 35 minute conversation in the cab before pulling up to a rehabbed old brick building in NW Portland.
- We walked into the Nike+ Accelerator, a very open space with tables, chairs, couches, whiteboard paint on almost every surface and tasteful Nike branding scattered throughout. Around 30 entrepreneurs of various ages were all over the place. We were greeted by Greg and Dylan a couple of Rock Stars who are leading things at the space.
- We talked about the progress so far, I shot a bow & arrow (yeah…in an office), we sat in a room for some one-on-one time with 8 of the 10 teams. We were given demos of products in their current state, challenged the teams on certain aspects, brainstormed with them on their biggest issues and referred them to other mentors who may be able to help when we didn’t have any more answers.
- Around dinner time, the entire group stopped working. I grabbed some Chinese food, poured a beer and sat down to hear each of them make a 5 minute pitch for their business followed by some critiquing of their presentation skills.
- At 8pm things were wrapping up, so I went to grab a beer with a couple close friends who live in Portland….I was mentally spent and some casual conversation with good buddies was exactly what I needed.
- I hit the sack at 12:30am pst….I had been up for 23 hours straight. LITERALLY, the best day of my career
Friday (April 5th)
- I woke up at 6:45am pst. I couldn’t sleep any more due to my enthusiasm (and a splitting headache….Portland has some REALLY good beer).
- Because Thursday/Friday were officially vacation days for me I hit the streets of downtown Portland for some fresh air and a coffee (cold brew is awesome…why isn’t the Roasterie bottling that stuff?)
- I walked around putting thoughts together, reflected on the past 10 days…So much opportunity, a lot of decisions to make.
- On the flight home I wrote this list and another blog post that I’ll post soon. My eyes were fading fast though, the trip from KCI to my house was terrible. I hit the sheets just after midnight and slept. There’s nothing like your own bed.
No words of wisdom here….just trying to piece things together while it’s still fresh in my mind.
Maybe one take away. The events of the last week are proof that I’m doing a better job of applying the things I believe in. In the last month, a lot of my personal beliefs have been validated by Adam Morgan’s books “Eating the Big Fish” and “The Pirate Inside” as well as Seth Godin’s book “The Icarus Deception”:
I am a challenger brand. I am not playing it safe any more. Safe is dangerous. Making hard choices and doing hard work (as opposed to working hard) is remarkable.