Before I dive into this – like the roast beef under the lights in the bottom right of that pic above…mmm…roast beefy -, let's clarify what Forefront is, so we can all be on the same page, shall we. 😉
What is Forefront?
…it's “unlike any “conference” or “seminar” you’ve been to. It’s a one of a kind gathering of the most ambitious, talented people you’ll ever meet. […] Want to run a business from your home office? Take a 2-year sabbatical? Learn how to deal with critics? Whatever a Rich Life means to you, you’ll build a community of people striving for the same things.
I had the pleasure and honour of not only attending Forefront this year (in Chicago) but also co-MCing the event!
I have so much I want to share about the weekend with you but for some reason I found myself 3 weeks post Forefront without having lifted a finger for this post.
Well…that's not true. I wrote notes in my notebook from my Forefront swag bag, and I opened a couple Google Docs to get the show on the road, but I couldn't get past a couple paragraphs. I basically kept doing THIS over and over…
What was the problem?
If I'm honest, I was trying to write a post that someone else would have written. Something like Primoz's “3 Personal Lessons From Ramit Sethi’s Forefront Conference” post; that would be epic, actionable and strategic but there is only one problem with that.
That’s not my Forefront and it's totally not ME.
My Forefront has and will always be 100% about the people.
The friendships, the conversations, the inside jokes, the connection and fun. THAT is what Forefront is all about for me and I wanted to try and capture it so that others could get a taste of it, and explain why the Forefront community is so important to me.
So today, I’d like to share 14 of my own personal memories from Forefront, that made me realise that this event is all about people and community. I'll then dig into how you can make your own memories and build your community as you move forward on your entrepreneurial journey. Let's do this!
Forefront Moment #1: Starbucks Breakfast With My Fashion Fairy Godmother
The sun was blinding me as I left the elevator on Thursday morning, but I knew she would be waiting for me. I stood there squinting for a moment looking for Clarissa Grace the fashion fairy godmother behind Waking Up in Paris. She had flown all the way from Australia and we were going to grab breakfast despite our massive jetlag. Eeee I was so excited!
I saw a woman sitting in one of the circular couches but from her silhouette – remember that blinding sun? – I ruled her out. I was looking for big curly hair and then I heard it.
A loud squeal of delight, combined with my name. Something like Eeeee-Diana-Eeeee! Soon after which I found myself in a hug! It was Clarissa…with her hair pulled up into a slick ponytail.
Side note: Forefront was all about moments like this. The opportunity to jump up and down and squeal like a teenager. Ok ok…I mean, to connect with people I work with on a daily basis but have never seen in person.
Looking fab despite the jet-lag!
Forefront Moment #2: The view from my hotel room.
Now if you stayed at the W Lakeshore Hotel then you probably had one of two experiences, as you looked out your hotel window.
If you had mine: You gasped in disbelief at the sheer beauty of what lay before your eyes. The sun rising pink and orange, the water, Navy Pier, people doing stand up paddle at 7am. Beautiful!
Fun fact: The hotel upgraded my room to a lake view when I checked in…without me even asking. Um…thank you!!
But not everyone experienced this, as Clarissa would soon share with me. After our fab Starbucks breakfast, where I might have raved about my view, she realised that she hadn't even looked outside yet.
When she got back to her room she emailed me a photo of her view. Not quite the same indeed!
Not quite the same. – Clarissa Grace
Forefront Moment #3: Renaming the Bliss Spa Lounge
I don’t know about you but Forefront isn’t Forefront without getting a mani pedi with a buddy. This year I was looking for someone to join me in the Bliss Spa lounge and Camille Virginia who helps women master the art of offline dating was my date.
That’s right my friends…Camille and I hung out in a little known paradise, where we got to recline on couches, nibble on snacks, drink fancy water and there was a fan too, all tucked away behind closed doors before our “technician” (ooo fancy) would come get us to do our nails.
Where were we? We weren't in a standard spa lounge…we were in “The pre-nailing room”. Haha!
Sadly there are no photos of said pre-nailing room, BUT you can see us both in our chairs, pre-nailing and showing off our fabulous nailing results.
Forefront Moment #4: Nick Wolny (nuff said)
If you’ve never met Nick Wolny, the guy that helps fitness and yoga studios grow, then you won’t quite understand what I’m about to tell you, but if you have met him, you'll be nodding along with me.
I adore Nick. Just being around him makes me so happy. He is infectious and has such a beautiful presence. I felt it when I met him in NYC at the first ever Forefront and I felt it again this year…even if he isn’t in Accelerator anymore (psss…you’ll always be an Accelerator-er in my heart dude).
This year, we grabbed a drink (with the ever so lovely Camille – check out those nails yo!) before Forefront kicked off. While they drank their fancy smokey drinks (yuck…I mean…umm interesting!) I enjoyed some sugary concoction without alcohol (meh).
Sidenote: Again…when going to an event…come early, stay late. Most of my one on one interaction with people happened before and after the official event (when I wasn't super tired) and they were some of the best parts!
It really was one of those moments that you’re never forget. The utter silliness, fun and laughing until your belly hurts kind of moments.
Nick even helped me capture the emotions that some ZTL students feel in Module one so I could create some MEMEs.
So. Much. Fun.
ZTL student progressing through Module 1: 1: Checking out idea mapping…ummm. 2. Realising that this is harder than they thought. 3. YOU WANT ME TO TALK TO PEOPLE!
Forefront Moment # 5: White Robes with Friends
I had 3 “white robe” moments and one included me spinning around my room like a weirdo to send my 5 year old and husband a video of myself. I'll spare you the dramatics …OR WILL I?
GIF it up a notch Diana!
Weeeeeee! White robes forever!
The second white robe moment, was when I hopping into a full elevator on Saturday night carrying my white robe, while Abe Wagner wore his. For those of you who didn’t meet Abe he’s the Senior Project Manager at IWT and he’s also an ex MMA fighter. See that big dude in the white robe below? Go scroll.
Back? Great. So imagine that big, tall dude in a white robe below…in a hotel elevator. Ha. Totally normal right?!
We'll, Abe and I exited the elevator and proceeded to Felicia Sphar’s hotel room (one of the other badass Accelerator coaches I work with)…apparently we were going to the same after-hours party. 🙂
Not only did we get to sample Abe’s delicious homemade brandy (Blueberry and Cherry), I got to be a witness a friend-wedding!
That's right. Sarah Jones, the woman behind Introverted Alpha, and Felicia got their white robes on and said their vows to each other. Friends forever!!
“I, Abe, pronounce you friend-married!”
Forefront Moment #6: Buttons
Working on the Accelerator program has allowed me to help so many amazing people and I love being a coach and managing the community.
I wanted to do something special for our students so with the design help of Marc and logistical help from Camille we made it happen! It was so fun to see our students wearing their buttons!
Accelerator Buttons all spread out on my bed!
Forefront Moment #7: Two of my besties
I also appreciate the Accelerator program and IWT so much because they introduced two wonderful people into my life, who are now two of my best friends; Marc Aarons of 80/20 Solutions and Primoz Bozic who helps experts, CEOs & rising stars build world class online businesses.
We keep in touch throughout the year (technology is fab!) but it’s always so great to see each other in person, grab a light breakfast (you know…steak and eggs) and help each other with whatever is going on in our businesses or our lives.
Forefront Moment #8: MCing Forefront
Ok folks…being an MC at Forefront was one of the coolest things I have ever done. There…I said it! Was I nervous? For the first 5 minutes or so, hell yes (if you recall I even admitted it when Marc and I first started talking).
I remember walking out on stage with Marc and not being able to really think. I was trying to concentrate on what I should be telling everyone, what Marc was saying and my script – (which Sean Blanda – the editor-in-chief of GrowthLab – helped us create…thank goodness for Sean!)-, but at the same time another part of me just wanted to have FUN up there.
You see…I knew almost half of the people in the room personally. Current and past students, people I had met from Forefront last year, and the entire IWT team. Seeing all of their faces looking up at us was so exciting.
So once we got a feel for it, Marc and I decided to go off script and roll with it; leading with fun…one of IWT’s new company values.
Forefront Moment #9: Dancing and rings backstage
In NYC there was an epic night where I learnt to Salsa for the very first time. It was so much fun. This year I didn’t make it out to any Salsa evenings but we did have our own Salsa party backstage. That's right.
Marc and Amber Beckett, one of the coolest volunteers at Forefront (and we had some badass volunteers!), got their dance on while we waiting for our next time on stage. But that’s not the only reason why Amber was hands down the coolest volunteer and stage manager.
You see, when I realised I hadn’t worn my special ring on Saturday, she jumped up and started taking off HER ring so that I could wear it.
Dude…now THAT is dedication.
Amber made everything backstage run so smoothly! You're amazing Amber!
Forefront Moment # 10: Spicy Cocktails
It's not every day that you get invited to a private hotel-room party where you'll be partaking in spicy cocktails. Last year in NYC Nagina Sethi Abdullah, wellness and body coach and founder of Masala Body threw a little gathering in her hotel-room and it was spice-tastic.
This year she planned to do the same thing, with the help of her sister Rachita Reddy, (Dr. Reddy that is…who runs a doctor's insider guide to weight-loss & reversing high blood pressure). You see…Rachita is super organized and she walked into the room with ziplock baggies of all the pre-cut peppers, ginger, spices and mint. It was amazing!
Nagina and Rachita whipping up some spicy cocktails! Look at the pre-cut baggies!
So here we are, 10 or so of us, getting ready to enjoy these drinks with bite, when someone knocks on the door. Long story short we were getting kicked out of the room. Something about a max of 4 people in your rooms after 10pm, but they said we could take the party down to the lobby.
We commandeered one of the big circle couches and after some negotiations from Nagina we were able to set up shop with our yummy drinks and fab company. What a night!
Forefront Moment # 11: Drybar
After a long day on Saturday all I wanted to do was sleep (can you feel me?!) BUT a girl’s gotta look good to go to a gala event right? So Jessica Phillippe the creator of Uptrovert and I hopped in an uber and hit up the drybar.
It was really nice to get some time to chill out and catch up (Jess is in Accelerator and was also my shopping buddy last year in NYC). There really is nothing quite like having your hair washed, dried and curled while you sit there doing…absolutely nothing.
Camille even joined in afterwards!
Me, Camille and Jess after having our hair did!
Forefront Moment #12: Flight Simulator
During the gala event, hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry, I finally got to experience what my father used to do on a daily basis. You see, he was a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force and he also used to train pilots in flight simulators.
So when I saw this activity I jumped on it, and I had a partner in crime, Tiffany Laurel the badass physiotherapist that helps other therapists charge more without the guilt. I took the controls while she took the guns and even though we might not have been a top gun (like my Dad was), we did have a blast.
Suggestion: Don’t wear a dress in a flight simulator. My skirt was all up in the air whenever we went upside down…and there just happened to be a camera taking our photos exactly when my skirt flew up (see above). Good times.
Blue steel? Haha. Damn I love you woman! 🙂
Forefront Moment #13: Shawn Achor
Picture it. You’re standing in the lobby of the W hotel and you look over at the elevators and see Shawn Achor walk towards you. What do you do? Do you introduce yourself or do you let him pass? I had to make that decision on Saturday morning.
I was hanging out by the elevators when Shawn came out. So I stepped forward, with a big smile on my face, put out my hand and said,
“Hi Shawn, it’s so nice to meet you. I’m Diana Tower and I’m one of the MCs for the event.”
Normally, I would have been nervous but I was at Forefront and felt pretty invincible. It's amazing how you feel when you surround yourself with ambitious ass-kickers!
Now…if you were at Forefront or you have seen Shawn’s Ted talk…you know how lovely and friendly he seems. We’ll I am thrilled to say that he is just like he appears on stage. He is quite possibly the nicest, warmest and friendliest person I’ve ever met.
We had a short conversation about his book, “The Happiness Advantage” before I needed to head to the venue to get ready, but I heard that he moved on to enjoy breakfast with some of our attendees that morning in the lobby!
I also may have hugged him backstage after his keynote and I may or may not have gotten a bit misty eyed.
Come on people. You know I’m a crier!
Forefront Moment #14: A private dinner
This was by far one of my favourite parts of Forefront. Being able to sit at a small table with some wonderful people on the last evening and actually getting to know them better was so lovely.
Frank Magnotti, the (more than just a) systems guy behind Amp Your Results and Camille hosted this awesome dinner. Not only did we enjoy some pretty fantastic sushi, I got to know Chris Out – the not only hella successful Managing partner/Lead growth hacker at Rockboost, but a truly lovely person as well. I finally got to connect with Tina Huynh too.
Not to mention that we got to celebrate Camille’s 2 year entrepre-versiary with a post dinner cake!
So much awesome at one table!
The night was then capped off with an impromptu coaching session from Frank Magnotti. Yes folks…he’s not just a systems man. He’s an amazing coach and he really helped me with a version of “fear of success” that was really holding me back. He helped so much, I actually forgot what the original issue was when we were all said and done.
BONUS – Forefront Moment #15: My Ramit Moment
That's right folks. I'm adding in a final moment that wasn't in my original post. I hesitated because well…to be honest I'm not sure at all, and as I read my post over (catching some typos and updating links) I realised that there was another person that made Forefront super special…Ramit Sethi himself.
This is my photo of Ramit (he's on stage in the background). I didn't grab a selfie with him. Doh!
Now, Ramit and I aren't BFFs and we certainly didn't curl up on any couches in white robes while drinking Brandy or a spicy cocktail, but I did get to spend a bit of time with him backstage and in the green room.
Truth be told, I've wanted to say thank you to Ramit for months…if not years. I can not begin to express how grateful I am for all that he has done for me and even more importantly, all that he has empowered and taught me to do for myself. Saying thank you doesn't feel like enough, but I still wanted to try to express it somehow.
So I did something that I haven't done in years. I drew him something.
Yes folks…I'm a closet artist and I've “shhh-ed” it for that past decade or so. But on the plane to Chicago I changed my story (just like Ramit talked about during his incredible keynote speech) and allowed myself to be the artist that I am.
But it didn't stop there…I drew something for him, Primoz, Marc and Felicia…my Accelerator team members and boy did it feel good.
I was kind of scared to give it to him, but when there was a quiet moment in the green room I grabbed it from my bag and said, “Hey Ramit…I made you something. Just wanted to say thank you.” and passed it over. “You did this? Wow!” Then he noticed that there were things hidden in the R and I pointed out some more of the hidden images, messages and words throughout it.
Can you find them all?
This moment was probably only 3 minutes long…but boy was it special. Finally, a chance for me to say thank you in my own way, and I'll continue to find more ways to say thank you. This post for example is also another thank you. My own way of sharing my experience at Forefront so that others might read it and come next year. 🙂
Now, why do these Forefront Moments matter, and what do they have to do with community?
All of these moments have one thing in common…they are centered around connecting with amazing people.
It wasn’t the food (though it was delicious) or the hotel (though it was fantastic) that made the weekend amazing.
It was the people…the community that comes together once a year to connect and grow.
I would not have ANY of these memories if not for the people in them. The warm, caring, interesting and fun people that I was surrounded by almost every moment from 7am until 2am from Friday to Sunday and then some.
Also note, that I only shared 14 moments today, but there are 100s more, that are so special to me!
Why Forefront matters?
Working from home in the south of Spain can get pretty lonely sometimes, but knowing that there are weirdo’s just like me, sprinkled all over the world makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. The fact that these weirdos all come together once a year takes-away that loneliness too.
I feel like I’m in this with other badasses just like me, rather than alone at my desk day in and day out.
And that’s why I’m sharing these Forefront moments with you…so that you can think about your own moments and make some more too. Maybe you didn’t go to Forefront and that's ok…you can still find ways to connect with amazing people moving forward.
Maybe you could host a meet-up in your area. Or perhaps you can go away for a weekend where you know a lot of other entrepreneurs live (NYC, London etc) and organise a get together or a special dinner.
Now some of you might be thinking that you don't have time to build relationships…you've got sales pages to write and products to launch but I'm here to tell you that relationships will always be there for you. Friends will be there to support you when you're not sure what to do and they also open up doors that you never even dreamed possible.
I challenge you to connect with other amazing people and build your own community; to help you build your business and a life that makes you happy. I also hope to see you at Forefront 2018!
As I am giving you a challenge, I wanted to give myself one as well.
My Challenge: I'm starting a Podcast!
That's right folks, I was able to speak with so many amazing people in person at Forefront and see some of my best friends again and it got me thinking.
- Maybe there is something I can do that would bring us together throughout the year.
- Maybe there is something that I could do to help you connect with some amazing people that I already know and call friends.
So I did something scary. I reached out to people and let them know that I would be starting a podcast and invited them to be a guest.
Do you know what happened?
Contrary to my fears of people saying no or that they would hate the idea, I have 22 people and counting who said YES. I'm even going to be recording my FIRST interview on Oct 20th with my first mystery guest (who may or may not be mentioned in this post!).
If you'd like to know when the podcast goes live and who that mysterious first guest is, be sure to sign up to my list and you'll be the first to know when all the fun goes live! I'll also send you the PDF version of my Ultimate guide on building a profitable online community for your clients.
What about you my friend? Do you have some fun moments from Forefront you'd like to share. I'm dying to hear them. I know I had so many moments with so many different people and I'd love to hear one of YOUR moments from Forefront in the comments below.
Come one now. Share one moment in the comments. I’d really love to hear it!