Phase2 recently hosted its annual retreat—otherwise known as P2Con—at the Westgate Resort in Park City, Utah.
This is the one time every year when the company, typically spread across the country, gathers together in the same place, allowing us all the opportunity to step outside our usual roles.
The first day is a wide-ranging series of short talks given voluntarily by Phase2 employees (in front of the entire company). These talks are typically emotional, humorous, and informative, but always meaningful and worthwhile.
The second day is broken out into multiple sessions where we're given the opportunity to learn more practical knowledge and skills from our colleagues.
The rest of the time is chock full of celebratory events, excursions, exercises, exaltations, etc. For us, simply put, it's a big deal.
Thus, having attended my first P2Con just the year before, I found myself walking away from the check-in desk at the resort, attempting to remain realistic in terms of expectations, while simultaneously preparing myself for what would undoubtedly be a life-changing experience. However, as I ventured into the depths of the Westgate searching for my room, I found my mind suddenly occupied by new thoughts and questions, such as "Where the hell am I?" and "I wish I had some breadcrumbs handy." For someone whose navigational skills are typically communicated via shrugs and vague directional gestures, this resort was a labyrinth. Wandering around, I began to suspect that Escher, Daedalus, Kubrick, and Danielewski each had a hand in its design and construction.
Eventually, I found my room. Eager to meet up with friends and colleagues, I deduced that the bar was probably a promising place to start. According to the sign outside my room, it was down the hall to the right. Easy enough, I thought. I walked down a small flight of stairs, passed by the spa and the yoga studio, slyly wondered what an "adult relaxation" pool was, continued walking, grew slightly concerned that the signs no longer mentioned the bar, walked some more, stumbled across some elevators, convinced myself that I had somehow made a wrong turn without actually turning, and then promptly ran out of hallway.
I assumed I was still in Utah, but I couldn't be certain.
Time to backtrack. Once again, I found myself near my room and that same (now scornful) sign. Before suffering some existential crisis, I found two employees of the resort and inquired as to whether the bar was a physical location or perhaps simply a state of mind? "Elementary, my dear Watson," one of them said coyly before informing me that I had to take the aforementioned elevators at the end of the hallway up to the ninth floor. Of course! I waved goodbye, retraced my steps, and rode the elevator up to where, lo and behold, I found the bar.
This was the first of many welcome misadventures within the resort.
I soon found that the safest way to navigate anywhere within the confines of those walls was to circle back around to the locations I knew best (e.g., the lobby) even if that meant going out of my way. Although familiar, it was neither the most efficient nor enjoyable way to get around. After my umpteenth traversal of these circuitous routes, I had a revelation: Step outside.
In doing so, I could take advantage of various reference points that were otherwise not visible from within, better understand the layout of the resort as a whole, and bypass the bewildering intersecting pathways in favor of a more direct route.
(Plus, the generic landscape art that repeated itself throughout the hallways came to life in the stunning vista that is the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.)
Over the next few days, I ventured outside more and more.
All the while, I was listening to my colleagues describe their experiences (at the resort and elsewhere): even discussing leaving jobs they hated—oftentimes with little or no safety net—because they realized those roles didn't meet their definition of success or happiness, or because they were compromising their own values in order to ascend one more rung up the corporate ladder.
I was listening to really smart people admit to suffering from "imposter syndrome" and how we might help others avoid similar pitfalls by embracing patience, understanding, and general decency.
I was listening to people recount emotional breakdowns and why we shouldn't feel ashamed or apologetic when we're picking up the pieces, since it's always better to lose your shit occasionally than walk around full of it, perpetually.
I was listening to people stress the importance of continuing to be inquisitive and tackling new challenges as an adult, and not being afraid to fail because we have one another's backs, always.
While listening to all of this, I realized that many people were talking about stepping outside—whether that be outside their comfort zone, themselves, the moment, or current circumstances.
And the best part was looking around and realizing that none of us were alone. Miraculously, after wandering the generic hallways (of corporate America), searching for signs and failing to find meaning, we all found one another somehow. We stepped outside. And now that we're outside, together, we have a better vantage point. We’re closer to understanding our place in the grand scheme of things. We know where we want to go and are constantly finding new and better ways to get there.
So if you find yourself or your organization retracing your steps, unsure of where to go or the best route to take, step outside.