2011 review: Costa Rica, Reflections, and Entrepreneurs

I’d like to interrupt the middle of winter for a short escape to the pure life: la pura vida, costa rica.

This past week I spent living in Costa Rica with a group of six women for an entrepreneur’s retreat. For many people, particularly small-business owners or entrepreneurs, working from home or abroad is a real possibility – we just don’t do it or take advantage of it as often as we should. (In the case of people like me, with a "real job" and several side projects, I did have to take a few vacations days – but it’s always worth it).

For just under a week, a group of women from across the United States traveled to Quepos, Costa Rica, to share a house and combine vacation, fun, entrepreneurship and learning. In addition to ziplining, exploring the jungle and spending time in the surf and sunshine, we spent ample time unplugged and away from computers. Instead, we exchanged ideas, talked about our fears and successes, and compared notes and ideas on both current and future projects.  Each person had an exciting story: a different career track, advice to share, and processes and questions to consider.

For me, December is the time to slow down, reflect, take stock in what has happened over the year past, to see what you’ve done with yourself, and plan ahead for the year to come. It’s always a time when I need to spend extra days in quiet reflection, analyzing what worked (yay!), what didn’t (which can be frustrating and disappointing), and figure out how I might change or tweak my existing systems to get better results in the future.

Some of our reflection questions: Each day, we shared questions and thoughts about our current progress, our future goals, and our business aspirations. We spent an hour (or more) each day talking openly about the following reflection questions:

  • What’s holding you back?
  • How do you define success?
  • If you could be in (or on the cover) of any magazine, would you want to be? Which one would it be, and why?
  • What do you have to offer and what do you need?
  • What are your goals for next year?

Thoughts and reflections: Here's my personal list of take-aways, questions, and reflections from the retreat; these are ideas that I'm starting to spend a lot of time thinking about. (If you have any advice or ideas, please share!)

  • Down time is necessary. This was the first time I stopped working for 5 straight days. I'm embarrassed to admit that, to myself even. Recently I've been struggling with burnout and exhaustion, and I'm starting to realize how vital it is to take breaks.
  • Unplugging is good. Creativity does not necessarily come from technology, computers, television, cell phones, facebook, twitter, google, blogging, cars, or any other thing that we're currently using in our day to day lives.
  • Is comfortable bad? I don't know the answer to this question. I've now asked myself it over and over again for almost a month. If you want to participate in the conversation on this topic on Google Plus, there are some interesting comments and ideas being exchanged.
  • How do you know when to change? Again, a question I don't fully know how to answer.
  • What do you do when your systems aren’t working? As a personal glimpse: I’ve been very discouraged and frustrated at projects lately that either aren't completed or haven’t turned out well. One of the important lessons I learned was that each project you work on, it’s a test of the process and the idea. Several of the projects would be more successful with tweaks and changes to the structure and process. Everything is a work in progress, I suppose!
  • Focus. Following on the themes above, I often struggle with chasing too many ideas. Allie said it best: “A man who chases two rabbits, starves.”
  • Decision waffling: Sometimes I get completely stuck in the decision making process. Do you?
  • What are you afraid of? What is it that is holding you back?
  • We are often the ones to get in our way first. So much of what we do and say comes from our monkey brains, those mental traps that don't serve us but rather, burden us. Interfacing with other people is often the best therapy for getting out of our own way (Feedback, friendship, mentorship, coaching, conversation all serve to stimulate idea progression rather than stalling in an endless loop of self-chatter).
  • Comparisons are ruthless. I've learned this one before and I'm reminded of it again: we can't compare ourselves to everyone else, or we will always fall short. Harvard suggests that Facebook is making us miserable -- and I'm inclined to agree.
Gratitude. As always with traveling, I am grateful and humbled. The opportunities I have I cherish. Things I am grateful for:
  • New views. Alternative perspectives. I love looking into new cultures and experiencing the world from a new set of eyes. Travel lets you do this.
  • Language. Language lets you think in another form. It’s been a while since I’ve brushed up on my Spanish, but I was delighted and surprised that my college lessons kicked in after I dusted the old cobwebs off my internal Spanish neurons. One of my dreams is to be fluent in at least two languages, and I’m now back to solid intermediate level. (Another dream is to live in a Spanish-speaking country for at least a month and re-learn the language, getting closer to fluency. More on this in as events transpire …)
  • I love people. I love meeting people, skipping over fences, hopping, dancing, hugging, and celebrating.
  • An excess of things. Leaving the country always reminds me that I own too much stuff, too many things, much of which burdens me. I am always inspired to get rid of things and de-clutter my life.

 

If you’re interested in doing a trip like this:

  • What is your purpose? Why do you want to do this trip?
  • What kind of people would you like to meet? What kind of people would you learn from?
  • Expense, wise, the highest cost is the flight;
  • Housing can be extremely affordable with co-sharing;
  • Food and meals can be shared and cooked in, keeping it in budget.
  • Transportation and travel time is significant – remember to allocate this into your time.
  • Plan ahead for major events: we scheduled in advance about 3 months, booked tickets to certain events (ziplining, etc)
  • Some coordination on the back-end (with clients, schedules, and events) is definitely required.

And for you? What are your dreams or goals?

  • How did 2011 turn out for you?
  • What worked well? What are you proud of?
  • What do you want to improve? What didn't happen that you wish you had done?
  • What are your goals and dreams for 2012?
  • How are you going to make them happen?

Closing thoughts: 

This trip kick-started my December year-in review, where I reflect on the year past, study what worked and what didn’t, participate in the month-long Reverb prompts, and prepare for the year ahead. I’m excited to be participating in Reverb 11 this year. Reverb is a month-long set of prompts for you to participate and reflect on the year past. Kaileen Elise put together a list of questions. I usually answer about half of them, and I'll post some of them here and some of them on mytumblr if you're interested in following along.

I’m grateful to be able to do this, to meet people, and exchange ideas. “To exchange ideas, to engage in conversation, to meet new people” – these are the golden nuggets. Not just sitting behind a computer screen.

As always, I encourage each of you to *do something*. This is the heart of life. Not sitting. Not waiting. Not idling. Do something. 

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