Sometimes things surprise you. Sometimes you overthink potential opportunities and get lost in the details. Other times, you don’t really know what to expect so you keep your expectations in check, just hoping for a positive outcome. The story I want to relate to you today falls in that last category.
Recently, I was contacted by a C-level business person who was planning a full day retreat for about 25 folks. We set up a time for me to do a client needs analysis with them to learn more about their specific needs. During the CNA with he and one of his business partners, we talked about several topics that could be included in a full day workshop, the potential day and time, and the investment level he had in mind – pretty typical discovery type material. He told me that folks would be coming from all over the state and from as far as Boston for the event. Sounded like an important semi-annual or annual gathering for the company and those types of events are one of my specialties.
When I asked about the age ranges of the attendees, I got a surprising answer. He said their youngest attendee is 10 and the oldest in their mid 60’s. I have worked with a lot of millennial owned companies in the past couple of years, so if he had said the youngest age was 17 or 18, it wouldn’t have shocked me. When he said “10”, I doubled back on the question and asked “Did you say 10 years old?” He responded yes. Then I asked if this was a son or daughter of one of the attendees, and he said yes.
There was a significant pause in the conversation as we each thought about the answer he just gave me – and then he realized what was happening. He said “Brad, perhaps I didn’t make this clear – this is a FAMILY retreat. We get together twice a year and for this one we wanted to make part of it a learning experience. We want the young people to have training in leadership, time management, dealing with challenges – a lot of the topics on your website. The adults can also benefit from the session and they will then reinforce what they learned with the children. 10 is the youngest, but we have high schoolers, early college aged kids, and young adults, in addition to the parents that will be there.”
I was driving during this discussion and at that point I nearly careened off the road into a ditch. I have spoken at family events before but it has always involved a light-hearted topic or a pure motivational discussion – these folks wanted deep dive business training for their family gathering…I was shocked…then I was frightened…then I was envious…and finally, after I got my emotions in check, I was intrigued. We finished our discussion, I sent them an outline of the day’s events, we worked through it a couple of times and the full day workshop was set.
The retreat was this past weekend and I have to tell you, driving down to the location I was pretty nervous. I know how my 16 and 20 year old kids would react to me telling them that during our family vacation we were going to take 7-8 hours to learn new business related skills – believe me, it wouldn’t be positive! I couldn’t help but think about how difficult it was going to be to keep their attention during the four different modules that we were going to cover in the session. I was concerned that after lunch they would be nodding off or playing games on their phones and disrupting the entire process of the workshop. Worse, they could be ducking out of the room to go to the bathroom or go outside at the resort just to get away from me and “working” on a Saturday. This would make the parents uneasy and they would go after them and then I would look up and half the room could be gone at given any moment.
The reality is that these folks are not a typical family. They have an incredible bond and respect amongst them. They all bought into the concept of a day of learning – so much so that all of the younger attendees (and there were about 10 of them) placed their cell phones in a box in the back of the room before each module began. No one got up to leave the room during the sessions – they were engaged during the interactive elements of the workshop – asked incredibly mature and pertinent questions – genuinely looked like they were enjoying the process – and at the end of the day they had great feedback to share with the group. One young man in high school stood up at the end of the day and said, “Well I just want everyone to know that I wasn’t sure what this was going to be about and that the day might be really boring. But after hearing Brad’s topics and message, I am really glad I was here today. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with my friends and maybe even teachers because this stuff was flat out awesome!” The whole room broke into applause – and I felt tears welling up in my eyes.
I love what I do and I think I’m pretty good at it, but when that young man said what he did about the training and his reaction to it, I was humbled. This group opened my eyes to an incredible culture of support, a clear vision for the future of their family, and a love and commitment to their children and their ability to thrive in the world. The adults loved the workshop as well and I’m very happy it was meaningful for them to attend. However, I was a given a special opportunity to witness the ultimate support system in action right in front me – jealous that my family doesn’t operate that way right now – but encouraged that I can try and make it that way in the future. I definitely learned as much during the workshop as the family members did – and for that experience, I am eternally grateful!