What Richard Branson And 30 Amazing Entrepreneurs Taught Me In 7 Days on Necker Island

richard-branson-necker-island-marketing

richard branson necker islandIn May 2015, I spent 7 days with Richard Branson and 30 amazing entrepreneurs on Necker Island.

Take a look at the picture to the right. It just about sums up the trip.

Here was a group of 30 entrepreneurs, visionaries and business people, discussing how to be “changemakers and rulebreakers” on a global scale… and it was one giant party.

Even Richard, arguably one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs on the planet and with a reported net worth of 4.8 billion USD in 2015, got down. As you can see, Richard donned his AirAsia stewardess outfit for the Up, Up, and Away party (there was a different themed party every night).

In this post, I want to dive into some of my takeaways from my week on the island and begin a discussion on going big.

I want to begin by revealing that…

This trip almost most didn’t happen for me.

Great spot for doing business. Great spot for doing business.

Here’s how it went down.

In February 2015, I met Brian Lim to record a podcast for The McMethod Email Marketing Podcast. I’d heard a bit about Brian from a mutual friend. He’d been to Singularity University and was building satellites. I wanted to interview him about going big.

After we finished recording, Brian told me he was going to Necker Island in May 2015.

At the end of our call, I joked that “I’ll see you on Necker in a few years”.

I honestly did not believe I would ever get there this year.

Brian’s response?

“John, I expect to see you there THIS year.”

“Ha ha ha… whaddda you mean?”, I chuckled nervously.

Brian told me that if I sent over my resume and LinkedIn profile, he’d pass them over to Fiona, the organiser, and we could see what she said.

He told me it was $16,000 for the week, plus the cost of getting to the island. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I told him I did and told myself I’d figure something out.

And then?

I didn’t hear anything for a month.

I thought it was game over. I wasn’t good enough for the trip. They’d found someone more suitable.

But because I believe that the followup is everything, I shot Brian an email to ask if he’d heard from Fiona.

A couple days later, Fiona emails me and says she wants to talk.

45 minutes later, I’m invited to Necker Island.

Fiona sends me the information, including payment information. $8,000 USD, or 50%, to secure my spot, with the balance due in 2 weeks.

I didn’t tell Fiona… but at the time, $8,000 USD was just about all I had in savings.

I wasn’t sure if I could make another $8,000 USD for the remainder… let alone pay my business and personal expenses during the same time period.

I decided to take a leaf out of Branson’s book.

“Screw it. Let’s do it.”

The rooftop spa. Apparently, the location where the idea for Virgin Galactic was born. The rooftop spa. Apparently, the location where the idea for Virgin Galactic was born.

Worst case scenario?

I’d be calling my mum to borrow money for food in a few weeks.

Best case scenario?

I’d change the world and make billions in the process.

See, my thinking was that a trip like this, to meet Branson and 30 other amazing entrepreneurs, could be rocket fuel for my own mindset and attitude.

I believed that if I could make it… my life would never be the same again.

Now, I made it to the island… but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

I sent Fiona the $8,000 USD deposit and emptied my bank account.

Then I got busy with making the remaining $8,000 USD within 2 weeks.

I did as many sales calls as I could.

I emailed my list as much as I thought I could without burning them dry.

I set up cold email campaigns to as many different lists of people as possible.

I did webinars, podcasts and even hired a new coach.

But after 2 weeks of 14-16 hour days (including weekends)…

I had nothing.

The man himself. Right before being thrown in the pool. The man himself. Right before being thrown in the pool.

I emailed Fiona to say that I was having “cashflow problems” and that I needed an extra week.

She sounded worried but graciously gave me another week.

The week was tough.

I was annoyed and frustrated at myself for not figuring it out… for failing… and for spending all the money I had on the slim chance of meeting Richard Branson…

Maybe it was a bad idea.

Maybe I’d made a mistake.

I was a mess that week.

Instead of working… I passed out on the couch and forget about it all. I binge watched House of Cards. I slept in every day for a week straight.

On the verge of quitting, I reached out to Brian for help.

Brian got on Skype with me to discuss the situation. I was half-hoping that he’d tell me I should probably give up and save the money. But Brian called me on my shit.

Brian said, “Look John, when you’re doing anything big and meaningful, you’re going to face challenges. Most people crumble under challenge. They give in, just like you want to give in. But here’s something you should know. The temptation to quit is greatest right when you’re about to succeed. You can make this. I know you can. But you need to buck up and make it happen.”

That was my turning moment.

I was about to quit…

…but after that conversation, my fire was renewed.

Lo and behold… it began to come together.

I closed a deal for $5k.

Then another for $5k…

Then a deal for $10k.

Then a deal for $24k.

(Learn more about copywriting and deals here: What Is Copywriting?)

I’d done it.

Necker was happening.

I was back in action.

Now, the reason I tell this story is to highlight something I discovered on the island.

When I first arrived on Necker, I was intimidated and anxious. I think I hid it well, but at the time, I felt totally out of my league.

Here are people who are literally changing the world… from building homes in the third world, to drones that explore the sea, to satellites that read the chemical makeup of the earth’s surface…

…and here I am with a small marketing agency… a lifestyle business.

I have a great lifestyle, but I’m not changing the world with my email marketing.

For the first few days, I wasn’t sure what I had to offer. I was hungrily soaking up every little piece of wisdom I could glean from everyone, but I wasn’t yet sure if I had anything to offer them…

How wrong I was!

Once I got out of my head, and began to connect to everyone on the island, I discovered that what brought us together, and made us kindred spirits, wasn’t the amount of money in our bank accounts, or our net worth, or how many companies we’d built and sold, or how many customers we had…

…but about our vision, ambition and desire to change the world.

What connected us was not external but internal… our passion to make a difference on the biggest scale possible.

So – here’s the takeaway:

If you want to change the world and play a bigger game, what matters most is not how much money you have, how many companies you’ve sold, or how many venture capitalists you know… but your passion, drive and enthusiasm.

I’m not saying that skill and expertise aren’t important.

They are.

But if you have enough passion, drive and enthusiasm… you’ll do whatever it takes to achieve your vision, including learning whatever you need to learn to make it happen.

This leads to my next big takeaway:

If you want to go big, the only thing you need to do is decide to go big.

After meeting Richard Branson and everyone else on the island, I noticed that the only discernable similarity between everyone there was the fact that they had DECIDED to go big.

Some had lots of education. Some didn’t.

Some had built and sold companies. Some hadn’t.

The core differentiator between this people was that they decided to change the world.

This realization forced me to face the fact that I had a script in my head that said something like…

“I have to do X before I can do Y”.

I have to build my marketing agency before I can build satellites.

I have to achieve success with a small idea before I can achieve success with a big idea.

I have to prove myself in a small way before I can achieve success in a big way.

I have to make $X before I can build satellites, or drones, or space ships.

Before I went to Necker, this script was invisible. I knew I wanted to go big at some point in life, but I kept telling myself that I would do it in a few years. I thought I had to build my current company and make a few million that way first… and THEN go bigger. I thought I didn’t have the authority, or track record, or confidence, to go big.

But after Necker, this script is in clear view.

It wasn't all business. Costume parties every night. This was the Up, Up and Away theme. It wasn’t all business. Costume parties every night. This was the Up, Up and Away theme.

Now –

I don’t mean to discount the need for hard work, or money, or confidence, in the pursuit of big things. If you’ve built and sold companies, or you know VCs, or you have a great reputation in the space industry, or you have a PHD in computer engineering, you’ll have certain advantages.

My point is that what ultimately matters is not resources but one’s belief, ambition and vision. Nail that part of the equation and you can figure out the rest along the way.

If you’re a skeptic, then you might want to interject here and talk about the millions of people living below the poverty line who don’t have the same opportunities… regardless of how much belief, ambition and vision they have.

You’re absolutely right.

This article isn’t for starving kids in Africa… it’s for the people who are reading this… people who probably have everything they need to change the world, except the self-belief that they can actually do it.

If you’re reading this, you speak English, the most prevalent language in the world, and the language that affords the most opportunities.

Plus, if you’re on my website, a marketing website, reading about business, and Necker Island, there’s a good chance you come from an affluent society, or at least an affluent family, and therefore you have access to more opportunities than 99.999% of people on the planet.

This leads us to the next lesson from Necker Island:

You and I have a responsibility to change the world.

The Temple House. I wonder how many world leaders have sat in this room and brainstormed how to solve the world's greatest challenges. The Temple House. I wonder how many world leaders have sat in this room and brainstormed how to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

This isn’t about doing it because it’s fun.. or because Steve Jobs said so.. but because you and I have access to more wealth and abundance than most people currently living.

Question is –

What are we going to spend that potential on?

Are we going to spend our lives living small, having a nice little family, a secure job, save a little money and enjoy a nice retirement?

Or are we going to use our lives to carry humanity into the future? To impact millions, if not billions, of people around the world?

What will our legacy be?

Sure, this language is all very grandiose, and some people don’t like to think this way… but if you come from a Western country, and you speak English, you could literally change the world, just like Steve Jobs, or anyone else, has.

This video sums it up for me (from Blake Brinker, one of the wonderful people I met on Necker):

I now believe we all CAN change the world. And if we CAN do something so great, then we owe it to each other to go and do it.

If you had the ability to cure aids with a click of your fingers, you would be immoral, unethical and evil if you didn’t do it.

Well, we all have untapped ability and potential, and we can access it if we decide to, so if we don’t… if we don’t at least try… we’re letting not just ourselves down… we’re letting current and future humanity down.

The problem is, we all have a voice inside us that says we can’t do this stuff… we can’t help develop the third world… we can’t develop a device to create clean drinking water… we can’t, we can’t, we can’t…

…but it’s a LIE.

We have far more power than any of us know.

But guess what happens when we each start tapping into our power?

Our friends and family pull us back from the edge… back from that moment of self-discovery.

This happens at every level.

Remember when you decided to quit your job to start a business and how everyone told you that you were out of your mind?

We laugh at those moments now, but that same “negative thinking” happens at people at all levels in business.

I’ve seen ambitious business people, people who talk about their desire to go bigger, and well-meaning entrepreneurs tell them to think smaller… that they should focus on going small before going big… that they’re just being idealists…

I bet that some people will comment on this post and tell me how most people should stay small… how not everyone can go big… how we need to stop being grandiose and focus on Adsense, Adwords, Ecommerce or productized-service businesses.

I’ve seen it happen before.

Sometimes, I bet that’s true.

But I think we need more idealists.

More people with the balls to go bigger.

Because the more people that think bigger and live bigger, the faster we’ll solve the biggest challenges that are facing humanity.

The more people that pitch in to help the cause, the faster we’ll get there.

So that’s the next lesson:

When you decide to go big, there will always be naysayers and some of them will be the people you least expect. Entrepreneurs who started by bucking the status quo but have now lost their vision. They’re now content to stay small.

When not partying with Richard, playing life-sized chess, or doing business.... we were kitesurfing, wakeboarding, or any of a myriad of other watersports. When not partying with Richard, playing life-sized chess, or doing business…. we were kitesurfing, wakeboarding, or any of a myriad of other watersports.

If you want to go big, and if you have the vision, don’t let it go.

Because when you go down that road, you become an example to others.

You show everyone else that the only thing that matters is the decision to go big and help humanity:

β€œOur deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering where to begin…

There’s no simple answer.

I don’t even know exactly what direction I’ll be going in… but I know I want to do something big.

I’m reminded of something someone said while on Necker:

“There are thousands of ‘big ideas’ floating out there, in ‘the ether’ perhaps, that are just waiting for someone to put their hand up and say that they’re going to solve that one. We don’t need more ideas. We need more willing hands.”

And so, that leads me to my conclusion, and my plans moving forward.

How I plan to go big and change the world

I discovered on the island that one of the most important things in this game is who you know. People use the “it’s all about who you know” idea as an excuse, but in 2015, it shouldn’t stop us.

With email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and plenty of other websites, anyone can contact anyone in the digital age, so there is no excuse.

What happens when you meet more people?

It’s not about the opportunities that people will tell you about… but about idea sex.

Idea sex is what happens when you meet a few people with different ideas. Each idea finds its way into your brain, and begins having sex with the other ideas in your brain. Each idea that you add to your brain, you increase your ability to produce good ideas. Over time, your brain starts producing amazing ideas.

So, if you want to change the world, start by meeting people who are doing it and living it.

You don’t need to go to Necker Island to do it. That’s just what I did.

Here’s what I’ll be doing in the next month or two as a result:

Going to SF, NYC, Nashville, and several other places across the US, with the goal of talking to as many people as possible who are involved in this space, and following up on a few opportunities.

I believe that this is the first step for me, and for many. Through those conversations, something is bound to come up out of it… whether it’s co-founding a company, joining an existing one, or something that neither of us can imagine.

All we need to know is the next step.

So –

Do you want to change the world?

If so, what’s your next step? Please post below.

John McIntyre

P.S. Going big doesn’t have to be boring.

I used to think that building a lifestyle business was the only way to live an exciting life.

But the island was a non-stop party (as you saw from the pic with Richard Branson).

Don’t put off “going big” because you think you’ll need to work too much, or you won’t get to travel.

You’ll probably have more fun and it’ll definitely be a lot more satisfying.

P.P.S. If you want to discuss anything mentioned here in private, email me (john at dropdeadcopy dot com)

The island is a hot bed of animal life. Iguanas, pink flamingos, one of the world's largest Lemur populations (they're almost extinct), giant tortoises and more. The island is a hot bed of animal life. Iguanas, pink flamingos, one of the world’s largest Lemur populations (they’re almost extinct), giant tortoises and more.

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Bret Thomson

Brilliant post John! Great reminder that our success is determined by managing our daily thoughts… And having the balls to think big regardless! Thanks for sharing brither- and keep us all posted on your amazing journey man!

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Dan Andrews

awesome post John!!! can’t wait to hear about it in person

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Damian Thompson

You can make excuses or you can make it happen.

Life and the way you live it is up to you.

ALL businesses are lifestyle businesses, just some people choose shittier lives.

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    John McIntyre

    That’s a good way to put it.

    The whole point of the 4HWW, or the whole LD movement, is to take back control over our lives and do what WE want to do. We tend to forget that.

    Reply
Vicky Fraser

Great post John. It dragged me down the page by my hair and wouldn’t let me go. It arrived in my inbox at exactly the right time, too… The last couple of days have been a proper struggle and it’s just reminded me that we CHOOSE how we react to stuff and what to do next. And giving up isn’t an option if you want to change stuff.

I’m not usually in this frame of mind, so it’s time to pull my head out of my butt.

Massive congrats on getting yourself to Necker Island, it sounds like a fantastic opportunity.

Thanks πŸ™‚

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Travis

Great post John, a lot of takeaways and even more questions.

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Rachel Mazza

Awesome post JMac! I really needed it this week, thanks for the reminder to dream big and never settle for ‘getting by’.
Glad you had an awesome time on Necker πŸ™‚

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Grant Weherley

Fucking brilliant man, and I agree with every word of it. I’m curious to hear more about your next steps after such massive inspiration and motivation from this experience. I totally understand having relentless ambition to do something big and “change the world” but not having a super clear path for it. However I imagine you’ve got a couple next steps in mind and it’s clearer for you than me – so is it gonna be space, 3-D printing, healthcare?

Anyways…let’s fucking do this shit and change the world!

[Disclaimer: all cursing in this comment meant as purely in the context of excitement. No feelings were hurt in the writing of this message]

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    John McIntyre

    Fuck yeah! lol.

    I’m not sure exactly what direction I’m going in. I’ve stopped trying to define it in concrete terms, and instead, I’m working on refining my vision and making it as huge as possible. It’ll be something along the lines of space, 3d printing, healthcare, or some other “massive impact” type business.

    I’ll be in the US next month to scout out opportunities.

    Reply
DanielMcclure

Great post, thanks for sharing. Have been thinking a lot about this recently. Picked up the “Bold” book as well which seems to talk along similar lines. Might be worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

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    John McIntyre

    Thanks Daniel! I read Abundance 3 years ago and loved it. Read Bold earlier this year. Bold was the reason I reached out to Brian Lim to discuss Singularity University.

    Honestly, didn’t like Bold as much as Abundance. Bold is good in the first half, but dies in the second half when it comes a technical guide for launching crowdfunding campaigns.

    Reply
Blake Brinker

You are great John. More power to you in your mission to leave a lasting impact on the world…every step makes up the path… #neckerchangemakers

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Vernon Foster II

Amazing piece John! Thank you for sharing this experience. Very powerful.

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Victoria Chemko

Thanks for the motivating post, John – it comes at a great time for me as well! I’ve been there, not feeling as if I “deserve” to be amongst a particular group of people. And also where I’ve felt that if I wanted to go big, it would impact my lifestyle, where I’ve been able to travel and run my business from all over the world over the last 5 yeas. I now know aiming to grow and go big to have a larger scale impact won’t negatively affect my current great lifestyle, but will just enhance it however I decide to make it happen! Hope to make it to Necker Island sometime soon as well – thanks again for the inspiration.

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David Anderson

John – awesome story! I’m experiencing the same kind of fears with a retreat I can’t afford this weekend – yet I went for it anyways. Your story is a great reminder that we need to do what scares us!

As far as doing big things, my goal is to make sure any entrepreneur I ever cross or hires me will never worry about going broke through my sales training and consulting. I think anyone that has the balls to quit their job and become a great entrepreneur, should get paid for it and grow even more.

By helping passionate, world-changing entrepreneurs – they will be able to make a bigger, more positive impact.

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Ben Hoban

Thanks for investing the money to bring us that piece of inspiration John. That’s a fucking awesome piece of fire-up that’ll be getting some re-reads when enthusiasm is waning.

Look forward to seeing the dent you introduce to the universe!

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Cam Collins

John…I got goosebumps reading your post. So happy for ya brotha. Great example of how perseverance and passion can fuel ones drive to accomplish anything. I am making my 14 year old read this over the weekend. Rock on!

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kaaist

This article really struck a cord with me! A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on Necker Island and I’ve always wanted to go. I love that you just figured it out and made it happen. You are an inspiration!

I’m trying to change the world by helping people become more self-directed and helping them learn better using all the amazing opportunities the Internet offers!

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Matt Gelgota

Strong stuff, John. There’s definitely the tendency to give advice that ‘works.’ In other words, advice that is ‘safe.’ You undoubtably got the same kind of advice from friends and family when starting out. Now your circle of friends includes a lot of entrepreneurs, many of whom are kicking ass.

Nonetheless, whenever people who care about your success give you advice they will inevitably try to give ‘good’ advice, not potentially damaging advice with a small chance of an incredible life-changing upside. Have they lost a step? Nah. They’re just too close to you to see the big picture.

Getting past ‘good advice’ is a never-ending game. At the moment the clouds have parted and you’re seeing deeper into the cosmos than usual. This post is you shouting “Stop staring at your feet. Look up, you guys!” Thanks for that. But those clouds will return, in spite of all the “Fuck yeahs!” in the comments (daps Grant).

There’s definitely a time and place for all the hard-nosed hustle talk that goes on but you’ve got to leave a little room for woo too. Since email is kind of opaque, I’ve created a Slack group roomforwoo.slack.com. Anyone can join. Add your email here or DM me on Twitter @mattgelgota.

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Matt Gelgota

Strong stuff, John. There’s definitely the tendency to give advice that ‘works.’ In other words, advice that is ‘safe.’ You undoubtably got the same kind of advice from friends and family when starting out. Now your circle of friends includes a lot of entrepreneurs, many of whom are kicking ass.

Nonetheless, whenever people who care about your success give you advice they will inevitably try to give ‘good’ advice, not potentially damaging advice with a small chance of an incredible life-changing upside. Have they lost a step? Nah. They’re just too close to you to see the big picture.

Getting past ‘good advice’ is a never-ending game. At the moment the clouds have parted and you’re seeing deeper into the cosmos than usual. This post is you shouting “Stop staring at your feet. Look up, you guys!” Thanks for that. But those clouds will return, in spite of all the “Fuck yeahs!” in the comments (daps Grant).

There’s definitely a time and place for all the hard-nosed hustle talk that goes on but you’ve got to leave a little room for woo too. Since email is kind of opaque, I’ve created a Slack group roomforwoo.slack.com. Anyone can join. Add your email here or DM me on Twitter @mattgelgota:disqus .

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    John McIntyre

    Great comment Matt! You’re on the money here.

    I’m honestly terrified of losing the buzz that inspired this article. It’s a gift… this fear… because it motivates me to follow through on what the vision is. To keep it alive. And to work on solidifying this new perspective on the world.

    Cool idea for a Slack group.

    Reply
      Matt Gelgota

      This article put me in action mode. Thanks for showing up in Slack. Wasn’t sure if I’d be in there alone but we’ve got a few in there now. Let’s keep the convo rolling.

      Reply
Ray John Agregado

Awesome Read! Saw this post over at an FB group.
Hope I could gather my strength and energy to also emulate what you have done in terms of hitting your target.

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debbie_h2o

I want to start having idea sex!

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Wild Bangarang

Great article John ! and here’s to all the idea sex we can handle – Adam http://www.wildbangarang.com

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Steve

Arrived in time to strap on the new and improved next jet-pack. WELL shared John … make it a wellthy day! Will be reaching out to Necker Island before the end of the year.

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Dave Doyle

Wow – what an experience – and I don’t mean your trip to Necker Island – I mean me reading the story of you going to Necker Island!

I’m proud of you for making the decision, following through on the decision, and for telling the story…
I am grateful for reading it and feeling connected by it…
I am thankful for the moments of pure clarity and shivers down my spine as I read it…
I am excited for what is to come.

Thank you John. πŸ™‚

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Etienne Juneau

Great post.

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jaydwil

This is really awesome. I especially love the fact that you didn’t have the money and just went for it. So much of my best decisions came when I put that kind of pressure on myself. You’ve got me thinking about getting myself to Necker Island next year!

When are you coming to SF? Would love the opportunity to meet you.

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Sarah

Wow, talk about a serendipitous Google search – I don’t know how else to explain how I found your post! Thank you for sharing your experience and all of those much needed ‘knocks upside the head’, if you know what I mean.

If you’re ever in Chicago – send me a shout [email protected]

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