“The Advance”, which is what we call an annual tradition of friends and colleagues who gather together for four days over Memorial Day weekend, marked its 13th anniversary this past weekend. What initially began as a group of us simply attending the NCAA lacrosse championships over the years has evolved into a mastermind meeting dedicated to re-connection, reflection and renewal.
Many call this sort of gathering a “retreat.” I object to that term because retreat implies you’re moving backwards. We refer to it as an advance because each year major life decisions that propel us forward are made. Decisions such as whether to change careers, start a new business, run for office, fire an employee and get married have been shaped by feedback at the advance.
Every leader needs to do the same thing on an annual basis. You owe it to yourself to step away periodically for one big reason: to advance your business. You need outside perspectives from high performers in a variety of professions to serve as a catalyst for growth, otherwise you fall into a rut. Your busyness is the enemy of your business.
Think you’re too busy to “spend” time away from the office? It’s not spending or wasting time away from your business, it’s actually investing time in your business. You are stepping away to gain perspective by having a different set of eyes and ears serve as a sounding board. The entire purpose of the advance is to intentionally step away from the insanity that is the daily grind. It is about renewal.
It’s too expensive?
You may be thinking that this is too expensive a luxury to engage in. I would argue that you literally can’t afford not to do this. The real cost is in not taking time to advance. Can you really afford to stay in a rut or not get advice from trusted peers? When it comes to innovation in your profession, if you’re standing still and your competition isn’t then you’re essentially moving backwards (now that’s some real retreating).
Just like investing your time, traveling to a destination for an advance should not be viewed as an expense. It’s a financial investment in the vitality of both yourself and your company, because when you invest you get a return.
“FOMO” or fear of missing out. It’s not just a term reserved for millennials and their fear of missing something on social media if they’re not tethered to their phones 24-7. Many business leaders suffer from the same affliction. It just manifests itself in the form of emails, voicemails and memos. Shift your perspective and replace FOMO with VOMO (the value of missing out).
There is tremendous value in unplugging from technology and simply thinking or speaking with those who serve as your sounding board. It’s where a lot of great ideas are born.
Ever have an idea strike you while you were jogging or taking a shower? That’s the point. I’m guessing you weren’t running with your MacBook strapped to your chest and you certainly didn’t have your iPad, television or fax machine with you in the shower.
The VOMO also does another big thing. It removes the everyday complications of life. We create four days free of decision-making. Every detail has been prearranged: itinerary, meals, snacks, travel, lodging, entertainment and even wardrobe. Doing so allows us to focus our attention and decision-making power only on meaningful ideas and decisions.
How to get started:
“Inspirational things happen in inspirational places.”
- Location. Choose an attractive destination that fits your personality and meets your needs. We are all former college athletes and find high-performance environments motivating and stimulating to our creativity. So we travel to wherever the championship game is — it’s our built in entertainment.
- Timing. Select a specific time of year that best fits your schedules. Late May/early June works perfectly for all of us as our busy seasons have wound down.
- Commitment. For this to work, you need a firm, consistent commitment from your members. The only reason anyone has missed the advance is for a major life event such as a wedding, the birth of a child or a funeral. There is an emotional and financial investment that participants are eager to make because of the support and comradery.
To quote our facilitator, Carl Haas, “It works so well because it’s a shared experience with like-minded people you enjoy spending time with.” All reservations for the following year are made before we adjourn from the current advance.
Scheduling. It can’t be all business all the time, that would be self-defeating. Build in down-time for recreation and relaxation. For us, the games are played in the afternoon, which is our built in recreation and at the same time affords us the opportunity to meet in the mornings and continue our conversations in the evenings at dinner. You’d be amazed at the breakthroughs that can happen while breaking bread together over a meal.
Membership. If someone does not fit the culture of the advance, they are not invited to return. New members are accepted only by referral from a current member after being screened by the group. There are very clear expectations. Everyone contributes, everyone is on time, no one complains, and it’s an environment of open honest communication.
Accountability. After the advance, you need to create a system to hold each other accountable to your respective goals. An advance can only accelerate your results if there is an action plan you are held accountable to afterwards.
I speak for each group member when I say that I probably get more accomplished the month after the advance than any other month of the year. The clarity, direction and synergy our time together provides serves as a catalyst for personal and professional growth. Invest in yourself and your trusted peers by creating your own version of the advance.