I recently spent 4 days living in Kalu Yala, a small, self-sustaining town in the middle of the Panamanian jungle.
No phones. No internet. No contact with the outside world.
Just good people.
What made my time in the jungle even more special was getting to go with 130+ of my fellow Thousanders. We’re a group of movers and shakers from cities across the globe who want to make the world a better place one step at a time.
I joined after a friend in New York told me to meet some of the DC hub.
“They’re some cool people. You should check them out.”
Spoiler alert: it worked out.
I see and spend time with Thousanders from DC all the time, but this global summit gave me the chance to meet people from just about everywhere.
Here are some of my key takeaways after being stuck in the jungle with some truly incredible people (in no particular order).
1. Write more. This actually never came up as a topic of conversation. But I did write a lot of notes in my journal about books I wanted to read or comments people made that tickled me. I liked having those thoughts in a secure and tangible place, and the feeling of creating something out of nothing really is rewarding. So, more writing (whether it’s good or bad).
2. Start tracking my sleep. I’m trying Sleep Cycle and it’s brilliant. I’m looking forward to using it over the course of a few weeks to see what kind of sleep quality trends present themselves. We spend about a third of our lives asleep, so it seems like a no-brainer to learn to optimize that time.
3. Start experimenting with breathing exercises. We did a single Wim Hof breathing exercise at the summit and I was able to hold my breath for 2 minutes. I was having trouble holding my breath for 30 seconds while swimming just hours before. It also made me feel very calm and more present, and don’t we all need more of that?
4. Look people in the eyes when they’re talking. When you haven’t touched your phone for 4 days and it’s abruptly brought back into your life, you really realize the reflex you have 100x a day to grab for it, even when you have no real reason to. How many times have you been talking to a friend and looked down to scroll through your Instagram feed while they’re trying to talk to you? Put down your phone and actively listen when someone is talking — you’ll be surprised how much deeper you can go when the person talking is all that matters at that moment.
5. Listen: Tycho
6. Read books I can’t put down. I’ve been in and out of startups for a while now and I only used to read business books that I thought would directly help me grow a company and be a leading entrepreneur. I always had trouble finishing what I was reading — that really made me feel inadequate. After reading 200 pages of Ready Player One during my 4 hour flight to Panama (and finishing the book on the first day of the retreat), I’ve decided to read more science fiction to feed my curiosity and imagination. I was also gifted Wool by an amazing DJ and event producer at the summit and am reading it now. It’s a bit darker, but so far, so good.
7. Answer the 36 questions that lead to love with my fiance. We already love each other (a lot) — I just thought this would be a fun exercise. Anyway, there’s no harm in falling more in love with her 🙂
8. Read: Thinking, Fast and Slow
9. Go to Parts & Labor in Toronto and get a burger. Apparently they’re out of this world. My order: the P&L burger with sides of a Strub’s dill pickle and pepperoncini. Yum. Including a round trip flight from DC, an Uber to and from, and the meal itself, I’m looking at a cool $716. I’ll have to rethink this…
10. Stop asking people what they do. This is a question that gets thrown around a lot in DC, where the quality of your job tends to define how successful you are. I definitely accepted at our summit that what people do for work is only one layer of the onion. Substitute questions include what are your aspirations, what are your biggest dreams, what are you passionate about, and what are you looking forward to this year.
11. Do some research on ayahuasca. A great topic of discussion in the jungle was how to successfully manage transition (professional, personal, spiritual, etc). Experimenting with psychedelic drugs is becoming more commonplace, and many people use these experiences to help them become more emotionally stable. Definitely something I’d like to learn more about.
12. Listen: Will Curran
13. Find and eat more cranberry hibiscus. It’s delicious. You can even use this in a salad as a replacement for dressing. I tasted this in the Kalu Yala garden. They practice permaculture, a farming technique that mimics the patterns and relationships we find in nature and applies them to all aspects of human habitation (agriculture, ecological building, appropriate technology, education, economics, etc).
14. Read: Chimp’s Paradox
15. Find and eat more Miracle Fruit. I also ate this from the Kalu Yala garden, but had to give it it’s own bullet point. This fruit makes anything sour taste sweet. It contains miraculin, a molecule that binds to the tongue’s taste buds and causes the effect. Eating a Miracle Berry makes limes and lemons taste like Splenda. It’s wild. I will most definitely be buying more.
16. Set goals the right way. While doing some slack lining at the summit, we dived into goal setting. What really stood out to me was the idea of initially setting an audacious but achievable goal. Working towards and accomplishing that will allow you to set a second goal that you never would have dreamed you could do in the first place. Seems like a good formula for doing the impossible to me — our instructor (also a festival junkie) walked a highline 3000ft in the air after 2 years of slack lining, so that’s enough proof for me. I’d like to try to set one personal, one professional, and one physical goal for this year. I’d rather set and accomplish 3 big goals than set 10 and achieve none.
17. Read: Wicked Problems
18. Look into the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti. He was recommended to me by one of the most peaceful and mindful people I’ve met in a long time. This man I met at my retreat had completed enough spiritual training to become a monk, but decided to take another path; making spirituality more accessible for people across the world. We were neighbors at Kalu Yala (our tents were across from each other) and I gained a lot of respect for him, so I’ll be looking into Krishnamurti’s teachings to bring a little more peacefulness to my own life.
19. Be actively thankful. Everyone is thankful on the surface for the good in their lives. But few of us make the effort to thank those who helped us find true happiness. When was the last time you sent a hand written thank you note? Left a thank you message on your check for your waiter? Called and old friend and thanked them for what they did 10 years ago that changed your life? We have a far bigger impact on the world than we see — it’s time we do a little more to make ourselves aware of the massive effect we have on others and the world. Being more thankful is where we begin.
It’s funny — I’ve made all these points and I still feel like I’m missing 100 great takeaways. But this is a good start.
I don’t plan to tackle all these at once. One at a time will do.
Step by step, ferociously.
If you take one thing away from reading this, choose just one of these to dive into.
You never know — it may just change your life.
Big shoutout to my family. Love you crazies.
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