It Starts With Love

I’m sitting on my couch with my girls, watching Super Hero Squad, enjoying much needed cuddles while my thoughts drift to a replay of last weekend, an hour+ outside of Austin, Texas. It’s barely a week since Up to All of Us and a number of tweets, pictures and blog posts have been shared about the event. I’ve taken a few stabs at summing up my thoughts about the experience, and I’ll publish the other drafts (eventually). Today, my thoughts turn to my role in this adventure, what makes Up to All of Us special and why this year was different from last year — because it was different.

It starts with love.

Photo by Jay Cross

Photo by Jay Cross

Last year, Up to All of Us was born out of a love for the people we know in learning, education and design and the mission Megan and I felt to enable the brightest minds, warmest hearts and gifted hands… to improve themselves and their craft.

Once we started working together towards the first Up to All of Us, our shared desire to help provide an opportunity for good people to come together and focus not only on their own development but on the bigger things they want to improve in the world, we found in and of ourselves something special — a shared desire to make ourselves and our world better. With the people we brought together and, removed us all from our normal context in beautiful Sedona, last year we touched on something rather epic and we practiced what we preached.

Willow Point Resort - Photo by Megan Bowe

Willow Point Resort – Photo by Megan Bowe

This year was somewhat the same and somewhat different. Again we gathered incredibly bright lights — many of whom we didn’t know. We, as Megan blogged, ventured into the unknown with our friends and comrades. Having done a few of these types of experiences, we handled the logistics without any of the drama of having learned the hard way how to do it for the first time last year. Again, everyone found the opportunity to focus on their own development and align it to something bigger.

I was emotionally drained for a host of personal reasons during much of the design and planning for this year’s experience. Megan cared so much about what we were doing that she took the reins when I could not. That this was invisible to almost everyone is a testament to how wonderful and strong Megan is as a friend and a partner and how brilliant she is as an experience designer. It was not fair to her. It is something I aim to make right as my head, heart and hands get back in the game and we plan for the future.

I’m uncomfortable with the unknown.

I talk a good game and I talk it often enough I can convince myself that I’m good with the unknown, but like everyone, I get overwhelmed by the vastness of what is unclear to me. I shut down. In those moments, I’m thankful that I can intuit what’s good and right and have people to nudge me towards what I should be doing. I’m thankful that I can pay attention to the nudges (most times) and steer towards that intuition.

It took our weekend together (and this last week after it) for me to wake the hell up [note: this is what’s on the coffee mugs we gave out last weekend) and realize that. To find my fucking way [note: this is on this year’s flask :) ], we all have to start with love.

We can’t cling to the past. We can learn a lot from our choices; We can’t allow them to be the crutch we lean on expecting whatever we know and/or whatever we’ve done is somehow binding or permanent, lest it stunt “the possible.” What we know should be our rail against the storm of uncertainty. When we meet things as they are — bracing ourselves with what we know and then letting it go — it’s that moment when we learn.

Jay Cross in a cowboy hat, me in a pink shirt, grappling with complexity. - Photo by Megan Bowe

Jay Cross in a cowboy hat, me in a pink shirt, grappling with complexity. – Photo by Megan Bowe

So, if we’re to improve — if we’re to navigate the uncertainty that comes from everything under the sun able to be connected — then the answers we seek are rarely going to be linear. There are going to be lots of paths and lots of obstacles to get wherever we want to go next.

So as I find myself lost in my thoughts — uncertain, scared, angry, confused — I realize today at this moment… whatever it is I’m to do, it has to start with love. I took that important reminder away from this weekend and it took everyone there to do it. I can’t thank you all enough for the gift you’ve given me — my soul.

Different as it should be.

Aisha Taylor sharing at Up to All of Us 2012 - Photo by Megan Bowe

Aisha Taylor sharing at Up to All of Us 2012 – Photo by Megan Bowe

Whatever the experience that is Up to All of Us… whatever it was a year ago, we’re all different now. The collective is different. The world is different. The wonder of this last weekend is that we met us all where we were at. Next year, it will be different again, and it will again be something unique and special… and wonderful… in a different way.

I’m really glad I have such an outstanding partner-in-crime to help keep things focused on what’s most important, because I wasn’t as ready for the unknown as she was. As the Avett Brothers sing, I had a head full of doubt — even while we were already on a road full of promise.

Video: Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise by the Avett Brothers

Up to All of Us as both community and experience was summoned out of love so that those of us who can’t find what we need elsewhere have a place where we can get what we need from each other. Marcia Conner, speaking at DevLearn years ago, had almost 2000 people chanting “together we’ll be better.” If we’re honest with ourselves about how much we want to make shit better, we need to be the change we each want to see in the world and face the challenges and the vastness of what we don’t know. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.

Megan stepped up huge to make that happen this year. Brian stepped up to make that happen, as did Jason Early, Jay Cross, Adam Menter, Julie Dirksen and a host of people in attendance and not. They did amazing things for this weekend to happen and if I’m to be completely honest, what makes this year special, like last year was special, is that people always step up to make each other better, through their heads, their hands and their hearts. There was no requirement for our friends to do so. Yet they needed to, as we all need to in the quest to achieve something bigger than ourselves.

Megan Bowe, Mike Hruska and Brian Dusablon as we landed in Austin and headed for a food truck.

Megan Bowe, Mike Hruska and Brian Dusablon as we landed in Austin and headed for a food truck.

If you’re trying to figure out how to make that happen… it starts with love.

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