Renaissance Week-End is phenomenal!

February 24, 2008

I had the pleasure of attending Renaissance Week-End (www.renaissanceweekend.org) over President’s Day Week-End. Renaissance Week-End is a gathering of interesting people from all disciplines who basically meet to talk about everything and anything in a structured environment. I attended fascinating sessions on topics ranging from love to astronomy!

This was my first Renaissance Week-End and I was impressed by the quality of the people there – deans of famous schools, former governors, extremely successful businessmen… – all of whom were doing something interesting. A hedge fund guy who had made his money shorting the subprime market was sponsoring a bill to help homeowners; someone else was helping reform the British school system – there were essentially as many worthy causes being furthered as participants!

It’s interesting how in many ways it felt like school – I moderated a panel, spoke on 3 panels and had to make a 2 minute recommendation to the presidential candidates in front of the audience (250 people or so at this event) – and this was very typical of what everyone was signed up for based on their interests and backgrounds. As for sessions I attended, they were uniformly interesting!

The structure worked very well: we had sessions from 8 am to 3 pm or so, the afternoon off, and sessions from 7 pm to around midnight. Given that the event took place in lovely Santa Barbara, I used to time off to explore the gorgeous little town (especially the court house), bike alongside the ocean and most importantly beat the local tennis pro 🙂

It’s not often that I get to be both one the youngest and least accomplished person in the room and it was humbling and illuminating! I hope to become friends with many of the people I met. One interesting socio-demographic comment: the most common traits of all the participants were that almost all of them were still married after 30+ years, had kids and were openly religious. Most also came from humble origins and a surprisingly large number had been orphans.

I went to the event with one of my best friends which only made the trip better. I had the time of my life catching up, walking around the property, talking about life and giving each other brain teasers! It made me realize how much I had missed her. It’s amazing how happy and meaningful our friendships are and yet how much we take them for granted! I know this is going to sound cliché, but we really need to make time for our friends. We keep saying we should see each other again soon, but never do. So go ahead and make that call to catch up or even better schedule a trip together!

On a somewhat related note, there were two memorable lines from the event. The first one was from a drunk cleaner (who was not a part of the conference) hanging out on the terrace of the hotel who captured the essence of many of the discussions by “eloquently” saying: “If you have a foot in the past and a foot in the future, you are pissing on the present!”

The conference on love also yielded a memorable line as one of the participants who was making the point that you must love yourself to be able to love others memorably said: “You are the person your dog thinks you are!”

I will be back!

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