Sam Plavins (centre) and group at Alt Summit 2024 in Palm Springs, California.

My first Alt Summit experience.

(AKA: Introversion, Saying YES + Professional Overthinking)

The Gifting Line-up at Alt Summit 2024 in Palm Springs, California.

It sounded like a freight train barrelling down a hallway and I was already sweating profusely. How do you hide pit stains on a white shirt? You don’t. Neat! The louder it got, the more my head spun. This line-up was Next Level.

Picture some thousand female entrepreneurs all vying for the top swag at Alt Summit’s legendary ‘Gifting Reception.’ We snaked around the outside edge of the event rooms, down two flights of stairs extending the entirety of another hallway and out the doors to the pool area. Not quite akin to the throngs of eager shoppers outside a Best Buy on Black Friday, but almost.

It. Was. Cray!! My inner introvert almost said f*** it. But in true Sam fashion, FOMO took over. So I got in, grabbed some free shit, then got the hell out. I’m now the proud owner of an electric flosser!

Fighting the Beast (read: introversion)

For the longest time, I’d misunderstood the whole extraversion / introversion thing. Quite frankly, I’d assumed I was of the EXTRA varietal on account of my zero shyness. But then I’d get confused when my first instinct with networking events was to back away to the farthest corner table. Ha! It would take leaving my career, walking 800 kilometres across Spain and a pandemic for me to get a grip and rightfully proclaim my INTROversion. 

Are you feeling me?

I need my space. Like, I really really need my space. Restoring myself at Alt Summit looked like the sanctity of a flamingo-pink and neon-green room with the comfort of a Thai Beef Salad and some brain-numbing Netflix. (Pro-tip: Lindsay Lohan’s My Irish Wish is about as brain-numbing as it gets. And yes, I did.)  Yup. That’s the formula when undertaking conference vibes for the first time in 5 years. 

Funnily enough, I almost didn’t go owing to three things which I will happily keep real for you:

1) I’d applied to speak and heard crickets, so yeah, I was pouting,
2) The idea of large swaths of people gives me the willies, and
3) I’m still working on my shit and didn’t want to have to FAKE IT. (Eww.)

As it turned out, getting my Canadian butt to Palm Springs for my first Alt Summit turned out to be a GOOD THING (please use Martha Stewart’s voice à-la the ’90s). I quickly discovered that I’m not alone in my Figuring It All Out Era, that others struggle with overstimulation slash introverted tendencies and BONUS: the speakers did no better job than I would have. (Thanks for allowing me that shameless pat on the back.)

Truly. I mean, the conference freaking rocked. And it takes a LOT to impress me. 

Some Things I Said YES To

I said YES to a literal ‘virtual stranger’—we met on the ‘Gram—who knocked on my door that first night for some company. To be straight with you, I’d been eating my Thai Beef Salad with my fingers on account of a miscommunication with the Uber guy. (Yes: I was too lazy slash tired slash in dread of all the people having invaded the Saguaro hotel that I indeed resorted to an advanced form of sloth; no offense to sloths.)

When Maria came in, though, I just owned it. And she immediately confessed her feelings of WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING. In short, we trauma-bonded over our mutual Imposter Syndrome and traded stories of daughters with OCD. It was the BEST! Hence, Maria became my new Alt Summit Bestie. I followed her around and when we got tired of each other, we said so. Then we’d reunite at some later hour for a swapping of workshop learnings and where the nearest coffee was. 

I said YES to hosting a Meet-UP for a group I coined “MidLife ReInventors.” I thought FER SURE other aliens were walking among us with the same existential second-guessing I’d started in my forties. Then, when I took my spot in the designated pool area, home-made glitter sign bellowing (gently) for all in that category to come hither, I PRAYED someone would sit down. Please, God. Just let ONE WOMAN join me. Don’t humiliate me now on this, the last day. 

Sure enough, over they came, one by one, thankful to find their merry band of fellow ReInventors.

We all went around the table, introducing ourselves, sharing where we were at in our so-called ReInventions and yada, yada, yada, it’s getting real and getting personal, FAST. One woman recently left her marriage and was bound and determined to learn how to swipe right on Bumble. Another had had a stroke not too long ago and had to relearn how to walk. Someone else found the world of being a sole-preneur lonely and isolating. On and on we went. I had found my people. We bonded immediately and swapped IG handles. 

Sam Plavins (centre) and other attendees at the Alt Summit in Palm Springs, California.

Some Things I Learned

You know how it gets when you go to one of these things… You’re inundated with all the inspiring ideas only to realize that it will take learning, money, patience and possibly the help of other people to implement them. I’m lucky if I can find one or two practical things that either shift my mindset, or save me the one thing I never seem to have enough of: time! 

But for this go-around, I’ve collected a long-winded NOTE in my iPhone chock FULL of learnings. Here are a few that spoke volumes to me:

  • The passive aggressive “No Thank You” when receiving online hate
  • Look at the Acknowledgements in a book to peep who the agent is!
  • The importance of creating ritual around our creativity
  • Ask yourself, “are you willing to go first?”
  • That collaboration is often the answer
  • Even the most successful humans struggle with fear
  • Women are nurturing, amazing, accepting and open!

Of course, I learned far more than that, but those are some nuggets with not too much context that still might resonate with you. A real highlight for me was meeting a travel icon I’ve followed for years. I swallowed my hesitation and asked her for a selfie. Unsurprisingly, Jessica and I share similar values and became kindred spirits for the few hours we had together. If you’re unfamiliar with her family’s company, Worldtowning, you should definitely check it out.

Jessica Sueiro and Sam Plavins at the Alt Summit 2024 in Palm Springs, California.

Professional Overthinking.

The badge I picked up during Alt’s Gifting Party said everything: PROFESSIONAL OVERTHINKER. Ummm, how did they know?!

Since losing my dad (and go-to for all things advice) 18 months ago, I’ve been in a chronic state of “Do I? or Don’t I.” Let me tell you, it sucks LARGE. I used to pride myself on my decisiveness and would even write about its power and place in life. 

Now, though, I seem to have lost my footing. I know that learning to trust myself is a work in progress, but it’s annoying because I already have an insanely long list of things I’m working on. Puuullleeeeaaazeee, no.

In a classic state of overthinking, on arrival at Alt Summit I began to question the shoes I’d brought. Understand I’m a hiker girl who no longer has a schnazzy looking wardrobe, and as it stands, I spent money I didn’t have trying to complete the look of Successful Sam. Alt Summit has a rep for ladies dressing in colourful and fashionable frocks. 

D’oh!

My wardrobe is mostly all black. And, I prefer slacks thankyouverymuch. Anyhoosie, once I’d scoped the layout of the hotel I realized very quickly my black and gold STILETTOS (yes, you read that right) were not very practical nor were my high-top runners going to necessarily fit in. I then proceeded to find the nearest TJ Maxx and panic-purchased two pairs of pink, wicker sandals. Comfortable? Hellz no. Cute? Not really. 

What was I thinking?! I mean, come on! I never even wore them. You can see I just stuck with the high tops and honestly WHATEVS. Nobody cared. 

The thing with overthinking is it can paralyze you. And standing still is not in my nature, hence this whole Catch 22. 

I will say that starting and owning a new business is RIFE with overthinking and it did make me feel seen to know that so many others were carrying this burden as well. I mean, so much so, that they made a goddamn badge for it! 

If anyone has any good ideas here, please let me know. Otherwise, I shall continue to work on self-trust and promise to pass along any kernels of wisdom that may or may not come from my bumblings.

Sam Plavins' "Professional Overthinker" badge.

Well, I should go and tend to all the things. I’ll definitely give Alt Summit another whirl. The handful of real, meaningful conversations I had will stay with me forever (hugs to Hope, Jessica, Alyssa, Maria, Elizabeth, Laura, Sophia, Audrey, Janie, Debbie, Kara, Janna ❤️).

With love 💃,

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