Thursday, October 10, 2013

TCYP Annual Conference Recap

Last week, I joined around 50 young professionals in the TC area for a fun-filled day we like to call the TCYP Annual Conference! This year the TCYPs decided to do something a little "out-of-the-hotel-conference-room" and into the great northern Michigan outdoors. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly good time and a beautiful place to spend the day (even if it was chilly and a bit rainy).

This year's conference took place at the Leelanau Outdoor Center, which is a camp during the summer and acts as a company/school retreat facility in the fall and winter. It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful things there are in our area that I've never seen or experienced before, and the Leelanau Outdoor Center (lovingly dubbed "LOC") is one of those places. The whole property took my breath away, and it made me want to be a kid at summer camp all over again. Luckily, that is essentially what I got to do: play games and have fun with total strangers who end up being my friends at the end of the day, all while playing outside and stepping away from technology. I'm always game for that.

The morning started off with a hot (delicious) breakfast and gave us the chance to meet with some new friends and reconnect with old friends. Everyone gathered in the great house, which was nice because it kept us out of the rain during the worst of it.

After breakfast, we listened to Bill Marsh Jr. give the keynote address. I found Bill's presentation to be insightful, beneficial, and relevant to my life and where I am in my career. He talked about personal branding, and how to view yourself as a brand where people come to expect certain things from you as an individual just as we expect certain things from other brands we use. What do you stand for? How do you present yourself to people? Do you deliver a consistent high-quality product to everyone you work with, so that they know what to expect when they work with you? It made me think about who I am, how I want to be perceived by the world, and what I need to change to get what I really want out of life (and also spend more time pinning down what I really want out of life. As he put it, the steps are very straight-forward and easy to grasp but are difficult to think about and put into place. I am working each day to take what he said into consideration for my life as both an individual and as a professional.

After all that sitting and focusing, it was time to head outside and start moving! We were broken up into groups and set off to do some team-building and communicating activities, which were really fun and very challenging. For instance, I was blindfolded while my team tried to guide me to swing over to a wooden platform 12 feet away. Oh, yeah, and only 2 members of my 10-person team could talk. It was intimidating, but I learned to work together with these total strangers and trust in them to help the whole team succeed. We also did a balancing-beam-type activity (shown above) where we needed to move from the little square platforms and move the beams to get our whole team across to the other side...without talking to each other. Pretty nuts!

It was great learning more about my team members and working together to accomplish something even though we didn't know each other at all when the morning started. We established a sense of companionship and teamwork through our body language, physical actions, and attentiveness to each other without being allowed to talk to each other for 90% of the activities. I didn't realize how tricky or rewarding it would be, but I definitely noticed the growth in our group and how much more relaxed and comfortable we were with each other when we were finished.

The LOC is located right on the coast of Lake Michigan, so I was ecstatic that we were able to go down to the beach before lunch. I mean, just look at that beautiful water! Even on a cloudy, rainy, chilly day...I am still so calmed and yet exhilarated by the power and magnitude of Lake Michigan.

After another delicious and satisfying meal, we were off to some more fun! Rock climbing, canoeing, a high ropes course,, I really do want to go back to summer camp!!

I chose to do the climbing wall and the zipline, and I was pumped about both my choices. I realized two-thirds up one of the climbing walls that I was pretty uncomfortable up there and maybe a bit scared of heights, so I came back down. But, I gave the "harder" wall a chance and made it all the way to the top with the help of one of the LOC counselors and my fellow YPs cheering me on. I was very proud! Everyone did a great job. I had to go over and see what the ropes course crew was up to, though, because it looked like one sweet ropes course.


We also got to ride the 250' zipline through the forest, which is ALWAYS fun. Still, I think it's even more fun when you're with a fantastic group of YPs and you're trying to shoot a ball into a basketball hoop situated halfway down the course. Just sayin'.

Our day concluded with a hike up to Pyramid Point. If you live in the TC area and you've still never had your breath knocked out of you from the view at the top of Pyramid Point, you absolutely positively MUST GO. It is one of the most fantastic views in the whole area, and it's a very secluded is not as popular as some of the other sights in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which makes it feel even more intimate and personal. Like I said, even on a "bleh" kind of day, there is something magical about this place we are lucky to call home.

Warren Call, 2013 TCYP Chair, trying to convince everyone to run to the bottom of the sand dune...or something.

Our group had diminished some by the end of the day (I heard that some canoes flipped over the in water...ouch), but I still had the opportunity to meet new YPs I didn't get to see during the rest of the day and connect with some fantastic people. Oh, and did I mention that Pyramid Point is amazing?

Overall, the conference exceeded my already-high expectations. I met some truly fantastic and inspirational people, and I felt that I grew as an individual and as a professional. I was challenged, I tackled new activities, and I was able to make some real connections with professionals who are my age and live in my town. There is a great strength and comfort that comes with being around like-minded people who are ambitious, intelligent, passionate about what they do, and in love with this region we all call home. I was so glad I was able to be a part of this day and learn so much from so many people. It was a wonderful experience, and I already can't wait until next year!

Did you attend the TCYP Annual Conference? What did you think about it? Please share your feedback and thoughts in the comments below!

- Mo

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