With our last seminar of the year fast approaching, we asked Amanda Witman, Peak Prosperity's own customer service specialist, to attend the March seminar at Rowe and then share her experience publicly. Her first-hand account should help those considering attending get a good sense of what goes on and decide whether to participate in our next & final seminar of the year, which will be held at Kripalu in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts from July 19-21. — Adam
Have you ever wondered what happens at one of our Peak Prosperity weekend seminars? Every year, Chris and the Peak Prosperity team host two weekend-long retreats to explore topics related to the Crash Course, up close and personal. So what are these retreats like?
Both yearly seminars take place in the beautiful rolling hills of Western Massachusetts. The March seminar is held at the Rowe Conference Center in Rowe, MA, and the July seminar is held at Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA. Although I’ve been a member of the Peak Prosperity team for years, I attended my first weekend seminar just this past March at Rowe.
I was struck right away by what a beautiful setting Rowe has, with comfortable accommodations and fabulous food. After arriving and settling in, we had a nice meet-and-greet before dinner. Meals were one of the many enjoyable parts of the weekend. I was impressed by Rowe’s easygoing accommodation of alternative dietary needs, as well as their commitment to including locally sourced ingredients when possible. I made a conscious decision to try to sit with as many people as possible over the course of the weekend, and some of the conversations I had over meals were the true highlight of the conference for me.
We started the first evening with an introductory session where we shared our stories and reasons for participating. It was wonderful to meet folks who I’d encountered online but (like the majority of our members) hadn’t had the chance to put a face to. Later sessions were more intense. Adam, Becca, and Chris all spoke candidly and at length about their experiences encountering the material that led to the development of Peak Prosperity. The most comforting thing I get from hearing their stories is that they are just people like me, or you, or anyone here. It seemed to me that many attendees also found that reassuring.
Everyone starts somewhere, and it was illuminating to me to realize that this group spanned the full spectrum, from complete newcomers to our ideas to folks who have been striving for resilience and sustainability since long before the Crash Course was conceived. One of the unspoken themes of the weekend seemed to be we can all learn from each other.
The weekend was intense, with many hours spent in the seminar room and a highly focused agenda with just a small amount of free time at meals and for a short time on Saturday afternoon. How could it not be intense, with Chris, Adam, and Becca at the helm? Their writing here on the site is rich and packed full of salient points, and they are even more extraordinary live.
I’ve seen Chris’ presentation at various points through the years, most notably in 2005 when he presented “The End of Money” in the basement of our local community bank. At Rowe, Chris covered this basic material quickly but in great depth, and then took many of his ideas farther than I’ve ever heard him take them. This was not just a recap of the Crash Course video series or book; it was a broader, richer, updated synopsis that even I – a seasoned follower – found to be enlightening.
Chris also took a good amount of time to describe his own process in attempting to share this material with others over the years. He talked about what worked – and what didn’t. Many of us find it quite challenging that we can’t seem to get others to open themselves to hearing and heeding our insights about the future. We explored reasons why this is so. Chris and Becca shared what has worked for them, both in introducing others to this material and in keeping a healthy perspective on the outcome.
Becca’s presentation was especially relevant for those of us who have wondered what it must be like to be the spouse of someone with Chris Martenson’s beliefs and convictions. She told us of a time when Chris was just beginning to wake up to the idea that there was something irreversibly wrong with the economy. She spoke directly to the ‘reluctant spouses’ in the group, validating what they must be going through right at that moment, sitting at a conference with a spouse who by mainstream standards must be just a little more than crazy. And she spoke to their partners, as someone who can see both sides of the relationship. She talked of her transformation from a skeptic who didn’t understand her spouse’s passion to a partner in shared plans for a more resilient future for their family. Becca articulated her experiences with insightfulness, grace, and compassion for those who are going through something similar in their own relationships.
Adam spoke at length about the inner process that led from his leaving his former career at Yahoo! and joining forces with Chris here at Peak Prosperity. Like many of us, he reached a point where he was having moments of doubt about how well his career path lined up with his values and how it fit in with his lifelong goals. Adam recently released the book Finding Your Way To Your Authentic Career that will be helpful to those who are at this point in their personal growth, and he generously gave us an in-depth preview of its recommendations.
We were also treated to a presentation by one of our recommended financial advisors, Bill Cole, and his colleague, Justin Griffin, who spoke eloquently about how their investing strategies are different from most other such companies. Bill was an ‘early adopter’ of the Peak Prosperity perspective, and he offered us detailed insights into ways in which it’s possible to manage one’s money and secure, if not grow, one’s investment in today’s investing climate. Bill is a great resource and an all-around friendly guy, and it was great to have him on hand for the weekend to answer questions and talk with people about their individual investing needs.
Later in the weekend, we spent some sobering time talking about our fears, sorting ourselves into discussion groups based on self-identification. All of us have deep fears about the future, even those who have been mindful of the Peak Prosperity philosophy for quite awhile and who have proactively increased their personal and community resilience. Knowing that we are not alone, and that we are in fact in the presence and company of others who can relate to our deepest concerns, is a very powerful thing. Being able to be in a room surrounded by people who understand is one of the great benefits of this weekend seminar.
In addition to talking about how to take that first step when you’re feeling overwhelmed and disempowered by your new insights on the future, we also discussed what happens when you’ve been aware and prepping for a long time and you start to feel burned out. A surprising (or perhaps not-so-surprising) number of people in the group could relate, and the resulting discussion was both interesting and encouraging.
On Saturday night, a few of us gathered in our meeting space post-seminar for an impromptu late-night music jam. Many others stayed behind to listen. I won’t tell you who joined in or what we shared – you’ll have to bring your own instrument and find out when you attend! – but those participating came from varying backgrounds and levels of experience. I was reminded that, just as our common interest in music brought us together for that brief time despite our varying backgrounds and experience levels, the strength of a group lies at the very intersection of its members’ differences and similarities. It seems an apt metaphor for the incredible diversity and strength represented by the group as a whole that weekend.
It takes an exceptional group of people to come together to discuss these kinds of topics. The people at this seminar were diverse and impressive, and this is typical at our seminars. I was humbled by the courage of several conference attendees who were at the very beginning of their journeys. Some were what we lovingly call “reluctant spouses,” and some were folks who simply heard of the conference and felt called to attend, having never even encountered our website or any of our other material. Some were seasoned members of our online community, with a few who were recognized almost as celebrities as the result of their many written posts on the site. Some were very young – like the precocious 12-year-old who came all the way from Mexico with his dad and promised us he’d use what he learned to make a difference in the world. There was an energetic young couple on the brink of post-college life. There were middle-aged parents wanting to help ensure a good world for their kids to grow into, and folks who were approaching or already in retirement and concerned about their remaining years. There were even some people there who had attended a previous conference and came back again with family members, neighbors, or friends.
Naturally, I was impressed by those who been “prepping” for years in various ways, or who are longtime activists in their communities, or who have turned their professional focus over to supporting sustainable living for others. Several attendees shared impressive stories of the ways in which they have helped to significantly increase the resilience of their communities. But I was equally impressed by those who arrived on Friday night knowing only that they yearned to make a change in their lives, not yet sure what their first step might be. By Sunday afternoon, I am quite sure those folks had a plan of action and a sense of relief in knowing that they truly are not alone on this journey.
We hope you’ll consider joining us at Kripalu this summer or at a future Peak Prosperity conference. If you have questions about our weekend conferences, please ask! If you’ve been to Rowe, Kripalu, or any of our past conference weekends, how did that experience enhance your perspective on the topics we address here at Peak Prosperity? Please feel free to share your general stories of past conferences in the comments section below (respecting the privacy of other conference attendees, of course.)