What I learned at Tropical Think Tank 2015: we’re so much closer than we think


It’s safe to say this year’s been a bit full on for Ant and I. Between my new role with Flying Solo, suddenly having to moving house in February, coping with a major business disaster (which included the loss of this website) and moving offices, we were in desperate need of a line in the sand from which to basically ‘start over’!

Well, the arrival of May signalled that line in the sand. More than seven months ago Ant and I signed ourselves up for Chris Ducker’s 2015 Tropical Think Tank (TTT) and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that’s where we were last week. I’ve sat down to write a recap post about it a few times since, but have been stymied by an inability to do it justice. Let’s see how I go with this attempt!

TTT is a deliberately small, (50 attendees) masterminding conference. The conference is held at a resort where all the attendees and speakers stay. The three days are structured with three keynotes in the morning, followed by round-table mastermind sessions in the afternoon.

The setup of this conference means you have unprecedented access to both the speakers and your fellow attendees. Now the speakers were amazing (and I will run through the key things I learned from them in a second). But first I have to give a shout-out to my fellow attendees. I’ve never been around a more energising bunch of heart-centred, smart, motivated and kind entrepreneurial minds. People whose interest in making money runs second to being better humans and making the world a better place. What a privilege to be in their number and what a reflection on Chris that these are the kind of people he attracted to his conference.

Unsurprisingly, the speaker list Chris assembled was also very heart-centred and while every session was filled with amazing and detailed ‘run a better business’ information, each speaker also left me with ideas for being a better person.  And it’s mostly those that I’m going to run through here.

Session 1: John Lee Dumas

John (from Entrepreneur on Fire) says he refuses to live a life beneath what he’s capable of (so as you can imagine, he had me at ‘hello’). He also spoke about identifying a courage moment in your life, a moment where things were so bad it felt like you’d lost everything. He said when things get tough in his life he refers back to his courage moment, and takes a lot of power from the fact that if he survived that, he can survive anything.

I wish I had that technique when I wanted to go lie down in some traffic earlier this year!

Session 2: Matthew Kimberley

I don’t like to pick favourites but if I had to, this was probably my favourite session. Matthew was ostensibly talking about “how to get more clients than you can handle even if you hate selling”. My number one takeaway? This line:

“People who stand for something are simultaneously magnetic and repellent.”

Honestly, I’ve not stopped thinking about it since I heard it. I cannot bear the thought of being repellent to anyone thus I often hold back on sharing thoughts or ideas that might make someone think “ugh girl, you are not for me.” That stops now. I know what I stand for: kindness and the relentless pursuit of being your best self (because when you are your best self, you are best placed to serve the world in a meaningful way). And I’m going to stop the way I’ve been tempering that message out of fear of those who think this is a very first-world, privileged pursuit!

Session 3: Dan Norris

Dan is the founder of WP Curve (and a brewery) amongst many other things. What Dan highlighted for me is something I kind of knew already, but it was nice seeing it in action: generosity scales when it comes from a genuine place. Dan has built an incredible network, online and off, by taking the significant intellectual property in his head and putting all of it out into the world. It is both humbling and inspiring.

Session 4: Michael O’Neal

Day two kicked off with Michael O’Neal talking about brand. He urged us all to ensure we knew what our core purpose was because that was the key to building a brand people would truly connect with. Michael also endeared himself to me by using the word ‘whitespace’ which, as you all know, is my word for 2015.

Session 5: Amy Schmittauer

Now Amy is all about video and after challenging myself to do a video a day for seven days last year, I decided video was not for me! But I still took one big thing away from Amy’s presentation and that was the Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I’ve had the outline for my second book sitting, ready to go, in Scrivener for months now. So many people have told me “I need this book”, I’ve become paralysed. My inner perfectionist has decided it requires ‘perfect’ writing conditions (better headspace, more time, sunnier office) in order to do it justice.

That stops now too!

Session 6: Nick Unsworth

Nick spoke about building and marketing your movement. He highlighted the importance of understanding your purpose in life because when you have purpose it’s easy to take inspired action.

I’m just going to leave you with that one thought from Nick because I think it’s pretty powerful!

Session 7: Darren Rowse

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Darren speak – it’s got to be pushing close to double digits now. Yet I take something significant away from him every single time. This time it was the concept of being a change agent. He asserted that great blogs change people. So if you’re a blogger, ask yourself: what change do you want to bring about in people? What journey do you want to take them on? And most importantly, who do you want them to be when they’ve outgrown your blog?

Session 8: Kate Erickson (with special comments from John Lee Dumas)

Kate is John’s partner and she was talking about being partners in both business and life. Pretty pertinent for me given Ant and I are both these things too. The biggest thing I took away from Kate’s session was the need for both partners to be very closely aligned with regard to their mission, vision and goals (which we are) – and also to have complementary strengths (which we do).

I loved Kate’s session for the fact it reminded me how great a team Ant and I are when we’re both operating in an optimal way. So the key is to ensure we set our life up to allow us both to operate in an optimal way!

Session 9: James Schramko

Anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset generally doesn’t mind working long hours in pursuit of their goals. But after years of this it does get a bit old. And once you have kids, you just can’t do it anymore (well at least, Ant and I can’t).  Which is why James captured our (and frankly, everyone’s) attention. He is someone who makes very good money working around four hours a day because he has ruthlessly systemised his business(es). The one big thing I took away from him:

“Be ruthless with your time but gracious with people.”

Can’t even begin to tell you how much I love that.

Closing session: Lewis Howes

Lewis’ session involved a lot of audience participation and normally I hate that kind of thing. But I decided to be open-minded about it and thank god I did because that session sparked a fairly major breakthrough. Towards the end Lewis asked us all to write down one goal for a year’s time under three headings: Physical, Financial, Relationship.

Here are my three things:

Physical: Run a marathon faster than my current PB of 3:15.

Financial: Have Swish Design in such a good financial position that Ant can be less stressed, doesn’t need to work the long hours he is at the moment, and is more available to the kids in the afternoons.

Relationship: Set things up in our lives so that when the kids go down to sleep at night, Ant and I can sit on the couch together and watch tv rather than having to jump back on our laptops or do household chores.

I read these out to the group at the end and then promptly burst into tears.  Why? Because I went over to TTT thinking we were going to come home with a bucket load of things that needed doing before we could achieve the life we wanted for ourselves and our kids (as well as managing to be nice people to those who spend any kind of quality time with us). And frankly, I wasn’t sure I had the energy to do that bucket load of things.

But in the moment of reading those words it became apparent that we are so much closer than we think. Our business and our home lives really only need the smallest tweaks. It was SUCH a relief.

So there you go.

That was Tropical Think Tank.

I wish I had time to tell you more about our incredible fellow attendees: people who are just amazing human beings and are going to do great things for this world we live in. But given you’ve already read 1500 words to get this far, I’m going to have to share their stories another time.

In the meantime, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t thank Chris, his gorgeous (inside and outside) wife Erz and the amazing Sian for putting on such a mind-blowing event. Here’s what I sent Chris in an email the week after. It doesn’t do the event justice, but it was the best I could do at the time:

“Thank you for putting on such a tightly-run, heart-centred, mind-blowing, off-the-planet event. One thing I have learned from other conferences I’ve attended is that the people at those conferences are always a reflection of the people who put on the conference. Ant and I were completely blown away by our fellow attendees – people who are not in the game just to make money or to be famous, people who first and foremost want to make a big difference to this world we live in. What a beautiful reflection of you guys they were. And what an honour to be in their number.”