About a month ago my Dad called, and left a message that went something like this:
So and so’s, sisters, partner works for Richard Branson, and they think you would be a great fit for this event coming up on his private island. Am I allowed to pass along her phone number to you?
My Dad is pretty out of the loop, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible. He has a cell phone, but he doesn’t know how to use it. I think it sits in a drawer in his office. He’s the kind of guy that would rather be surfing. His most frequently visited URL is surfline.com. He is so far removed from anything, that has to do with anything other than food, surfing and home, I definitely thought there must be some sort of mis-understanding.
But, as it turns out, there was no misunderstanding. He was right. I had been invited to come serenede the Virgin Unite leadership conference: Igniting Change hosted by Sir Richard Branson, on his private island, Necker Island.
This is the kind of thing that’s on your bucket list, and you didn’t even know it.
I returned the call, cleared my schedule, and as I reviewed the itinerary and speaker biography’s, there was a part of me that was a bit nervous. I gathered this would be similar to that of a TED conference. The individuals attending this conference, were to be some of the most succesful business people in the world.
I was immediately humbled and then thought to myself, what do I have to offer here? I am just a girl from San Diego who taught herself how to play guitar and who writes from her heart. I’m mostly intrigued by relationship, love, good stories, and anything that has to do with beating the odds. Lately, I have taken on being extrememly transparent. Transparency, turned out to be the word of the week, and also one of the most imporant ingredients for success.
I also remember that since the beginning of this journey, I have always paved my own way. I’ve been doing things backwards since day one. I learned to finger pick before I could strum. I booked my first show, before I’d even sang into a microphone. I went on my first tour, before I ever made a CD. These things didnt always make sense at the time, but they worked for me, and they made sense in my head. I have always believed in jumping in, even if i didnt know what I was jumping into. Follow your gut, and let the universe take care of the rest. It has never failed. Even when I thought it failed, it was just the universe’s way of guiding me down the right path.
Now that the universe had presented me this amazing opportunity, I thought it would best to pick up some of Richard’s books. I started with ‘Screw it, lets do it” and then went on to ‘Loosing my Virginity”. As I made my way, chapter through chapter, I felt like I had more in common with this man than knew. I begin to get really excited. Especially when I read this excert from Losing My Virginity:
“We wanted Virgin Records shop to be a place where people could meet and listen to records together; somewhere where they weren’t simply encouraged to dash in, buy the record, and leave. We wanted them to stay longer, chat to the staff, and really get into which records they were going to buy. People take music far more seriously than many other things in life. It is part of the way they define themselves, like the cars they drive, the films they watch, and the clothes they wear. Teenagers spend more time listening to music, talking about their favorite bands and choosing records than almost anything else.”
I had to stop and realize for a moment, at the end of the day, the beginning of his journey started with a love for music. Coincidentally, I have been signed to Virgin Records in 2004. Even though he sold the company years ago, there was a part of me that really wanted to shine and represent what the Virgin brand stands for.
Arriving to the island is surreal.
The water is a piercing shade of blue, and the air temperature is like butter. Its hard to believe you are going to a leadership conference, or for anything other than a vacation.
I was greeted with champagne and a big smile from Marco one of the Necker Island staff members, I was a bit confused. I am not used to business and a good time (which is encouraged the whole time) going hand and hand. I mean I do play music for a living, but still. I was taught to do your work, and then let loose. Not one before the other, or both at the same time. But that is what Richard is all about. Getting shit done. And having fun. That is a pretty fine line to walk, but he does it better than anyone I haver ever met. He is living proof that work doesnt need to be this treacherous, torturous hard journey, in order to be successful. Besides, Whatever you are doing: YOU SHOULD BE DOING IT BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT!!!
In the morning’s we jumped right in to the speaker presentations, while our afternoons were free to do whatever. There are tons of things to do on the island; paddle boarding, sailing, tennis, feeding the lemurs, checking out the flamingos, taking a walk around the island, swimming in the sea or simply relaxing by the pool.
One day we sailed to lunch. Richard known for being a wee bit competative, wanted to beat the other boats and also wanted all the ladies on board as he did it. Halfway to the other end of the island, the wind decided to take us elsewhere, and then we realized we were taking on water. In light of losing and maybe getting stuck on the reef, in a very playful manner, he tossed one of the gals over board…we all had a good laugh..and then I was next, overboard I went!
As he sailed off with the rest of the crew, pretending to leave me, I floated there in the sea. Bobbing up and down, I turned onto my back, and starred up at the sky. Wow, I thought. There really is no other place I would rather be. I was practically born in the ocean, I didnt mind floating about the middle of it for the rest of the afternoon. They eventually came back to get me. And we had a good laugh.
One the 3rd day, I stand up paddled boarded across to this little white sand island. I guess after the last hurricane, the storm moved so much sand around, this little island formed. Richard tried to plant real trees on it, but they kept blowing over, so there are 2 fake palm trees that live there, and a lot of beautiful red coral. I left a note in the sand with the coral, that reads: THANK YOU. I wonder when someone will find it? I layed down in the sand, again, eyes to the sky, taking it all in. I flipped over on my belly and started doing my voice warm ups. In the middle of it, I burst out laughing. Here I was rolling arond in the sand, in my bikini, doing my vocal warm ups on my own little island.
Since I was just there to sing, I suppose I wasnt really required to go to the talks, but why on earth would anybody pass up the opportunity? At the end of the day, I do run a business. It’s called my intergrity. It has always been important for me to be a good role model for the future generations and to inspire and encourage anyone who has ever had a dream, a goal or a wish. Ani Difranco and Jack Johnson were that for me. I never thought I would be writing and perforning music for a living, and I suppose that is why it has taken me almost 10 years of doing this, to finally except that this is what I do! This trip turned out to be in perfect alignment with the kind of company I want to surround myself with.
These illusions we have, as to how to get things done, being successful, rules we are supposed to follow, they are just that; an illusion. And as i grow my business, I want to remain in the playful, creative space. I love jumping out of the box, I dislike boundaries. And when you tell me I can’t? I’ll show you that I can.
All of the people I met on this trip, are doing just that. Re-thinking and re-shaping the way they do business. ‘Screwing business as usual’, as Richard would say. They are redefining the can’s and can’ts. And honestly, I have never been surrounded by such a hard working group of extremely successful individuals, who look so happy, healthy, youthful and vibrant! I think when you are that tuned in, doing exactly what you want to be doing, everything else in your life flourishes.
Some of my highlights from the trip:
Jochin Zeitz, the CEO of Puma, shared with us how he has totally transformed and restructured Puma based on the 4 keys: Fair, Honest, Positive & Creative. The compass that can keep you true to a vision of a better world. He shared with us all the ways Puma is moving forward to become a more sustainable, environmentally friendly company. The materials they use, how they are sourced and the ‘true cost’ of their products.
Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, who started Ben & Jerry’s ice cream out of a van over 30 years ago. Their approach is simple: You support your community and they support you. They also shared a story about when their business started growing, and the traditional business model didnt really resonate with them, a friend said to them, ‘Why dont you change it? Make it your own.’ It had never occured to them they could write the story any way they wanted.
One of my favorite people of the trip was Paul van Zyl. He’s a go getter for sure, and one hell of a dancer! A human rights protector, executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co-founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and now has added: Founder of the luxery clothing brand Maiyet, to his resume. Maiyet sources people from countries all over the world, to create quality luxurious items, while supporting the people and communities where these trades and art originated from.
You know me, I love food and I love products with purpose, so immediately I was super drawn to the success of selling ice cream out of a van while listening to your favorite jams (Hello! Taco truck anyone?) Equally, I was ecstatic to learn that Puma will be coming out with a biodegradable shoe very soon, and even more excited to know that my next red carpet dress will be one with a story, purpose and positive impact.
The one speaker that absolutely blew me away though was Bryan Stevenson. Bryan is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. He has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. His presentation was so damn inspiring, I got the chills and cried all at the same time. We were all crying. He is a brilliant speaker, and one of the nicest humans on the planet. You can check out his recent TED talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html
As the days went on, I began to feel less nervous. I started to feel like I had more in common with everyone there. Everyone was out to do good. They all had this sort of, “Take responsibility. Less talking. More doing.” approach. Nothing was off limits.
On Thursday night, Richard did a little Q&A before dinner, and after that it was time for me to play. As I tuned up, Richard came up and put his arm around me and gave me one hell of an introduction (I’m still in awe). I shared some songs, new and old, and I spoke from my heart. At the end of the night, everyone got a signed copy of the last CD, Hello…x.
For some reason I’ve always had this thought in my head that people dont want to hear the slower songs. I always put this pressure on myself to keep the energy up and moving along, cracking jokes and playing the more upbeat stuff. When will I learn? The deeper, more meaningful songs are the ones that people connect with the most! Of everything I played, the tunes that really got everyone were the ones I told the background stories on, that were written out of truth, vulnerability, honesty and hope.
At the root of our existence we are driven by 2 things: Love and truth. We all want to be loved, and we all want love in its most honest form. Inevitably, these are 2 things that tend to cause conflict in our lives. Because we are so influenced by everything else, and who we are supposed to be, and what we are supposed to be doing.
At the beginning of this trip, when we all introduced ourselves, we were asked to answer 2 questions:
1.) What is something that is not in your Bio?
2.) What have you been most inspired by in the last year?
Of course, I had to share my love for Tacos! And, the one thing that has inspired me this year? Letting go of attachment. Letting go of what I thought life was supposed to look like, and truly surrendering to the possibility of everything.
And that is how this trip happened. I truly just surrendered. When I first arrived, I thought to myself, ‘How the hell did I end up here?’ But then I realized, I have as much to offer as anyone else. I have made a living out of being true to myself.
At the end of the day, music found me. And now that I know its the love of my life, now that I have taken responsibility for it, I am so ready to use it as a platform for positivity and inspiration. I think I have always done that, but I am ready to step it up. It sort of reminds me of that saying, you cant help anyone else, until you help yourself.
From this incredible opportunity, I have walked away with a better understanding of what I resonate with, what I stand for and where I want to help. I have some really creative ideas and unique opportunities brewing, and I cant wait to share!
Life is whatever you want it to be, anything goes. So pave your own way. Speak from your heart. And do what makes YOU happy.
That my friends, is the key to success.
Loving life and loving you.