What we learned at camp: key takeaways from Fireside Conference

Going to camp as an adult is like going to camp as a kid, but with more booze and bigger epiphanies. We spent three days at Fireside Conference and learned a lot.

If you’ve ever been to sleepaway camp you’re all too familiar with the different stages of enthusiasm that are experienced leading up to, during, and after your time away. When you first sign up for camp your excitement is distracting; you can’t believe you have to wait months before you actually get to partake in all the fun, but you bide your time. As the first day of camp approaches your trepidation increases tenfold. Suddenly leaving your friends at home and being with strangers, living in close quarters, and dealing with trust activities seems unbearable and lame as hell, but there’s no turning back now – you’re locked in. As you make your way up to camp the dread seems to hang in limbo, you’re just waiting to be proven right, but also hoping you’re pleasantly surprised. The moment you pull up, the memories of the incredible time spent at camp flood your mind and your apprehension dissipates. You can’t wait to ease into that laissez-faire camp lifestyle, where you spend all day with your friends, enjoying the outdoors, and indulging in quiet moments of introspection. Our Fireside experience read the same way.

For those of us who had never been, we were keen to see what all the fuss was about. However, as the conference drew nearer, the thought of leaving the city behind (and on the TIFF opening weekend, no less) put a huge damper on our level of excitement. But speaking as a former n00b to Fireside, I can now say that the fun and value of the time spent with 400 bright minds (including most of the Eighty-Eight team) at Camp Walden far exceeded my expectations. The fun, inspirational insights, and midnight snack chicken fingers were endless. Each of us arrived home on the Sunday regaling tales of the new bonds, the striking realizations, and the incriminating (albeit hilarious) booze-soaked moments we had made. Each Eighty-Eighter at Fireside was open enough to share their major takeaways from the weekend. Here’s what they had to say about the weekend in Bancroft we’ll never forget:

Erin Bury, Managing Director

Singer-songwriter Peter Katz talked about how appearances can be deceiving, and how we all need to share our struggles. He shared his own struggles about how he sometimes played to crowds of only two people, and slept on strangers’ floors, and kept waiting for a big break that never came. He compared that to the path of an entrepreneur, since whether you’re a struggling artist who people think is crazy successful because of a Juno nomination, or an entrepreneur who everyone thinks is on the rise but who is secretly struggling behind the scenes, the public perception is always different than the reality. His message – and my key takeaway – is that you never know the struggle that someone faces behind the scenes, and we as entrepreneurs need to be more open about the challenges, and not just the successes.

Gabriella Rackoff, Creative Director

Mine is from the BRILLIANT Jeff Goldenberg and his tale of Borrowell. As he told the story of growing the company, I noticed that it was all about constantly evaluating what was working and adjusting the strategy. They never allowed themselves to be too determined to follow a particular path to a predetermined destination. He specifically mentioned the zoom pivot – narrowing in on one aspect of your strategy that’s working really well; multiply your success by focusing on that one thing and stop wasting energy on the rest.

Fatima Zaidi, VP of Business Development

Keep Andrea from chicken nuggets. Oh, and disconnecting for a day can result in forming stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Cory Ingwersen, Art Director

My one key takeaway is about timing, and how it can have such a large impact on a business or an idea. One of the common themes that was mentioned in a few of the talks was this idea of ‘good timing’ and how it can have either a positive or negative effect on whatever result you are looking to achieve. Good timing is critical in both the professional world, and in your personal life.

Morgan Craig, Senior PR Manager

Fireside missed connection: There were 400 entrepreneurs, startup founders, and investors at Camp Walden, but I found you. You were dressed like Steve Urkel and had dance moves like Usher. I don’t know where you came from or if you were even supposed to be there but you showed up at the CIT- B1 campfire, playing guitar and singing Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ with an Irish lilt. My colleagues are still convinced your accent is fake. Fireside, you’re fuckin’ lovely.

Kaitlyn Ward, PR Account Manager

My takeaway would be about embracing the uncomfortable. After only three weeks on the Eighty-Eight team it was pretty intimidating to spend a weekend with everyone in a cabin. It’s one thing to power through a day at the office in a new environment, but it’s completely different to be in the middle of the woods, without a phone screen to look into when you’re nervous or uncomfortable. Fireside forced me to be present and connect with my new team, regardless of how uncomfortable it was at first.

Jamie Gillingham, PR Account Manager

Never go to bed before poutine.

Brittany Giles, Digital Marketing Manager

A common theme that really stuck with me was resilience. The head of Camp Walden talked about the importance of resilience and how camp is about making things uncomfortable and getting through that. Kids are thrown into situations that aren’t what they’re used to and they learn how to adapt and cope with the situation. Resilience is such a key thing for entrepreneurs, startups, and really just everyone – whether you’re enduring the elements at in the woods or an excruciating lineup for the latest “pay with your face” iPhone.

Amanda Speers, PR Account Coordinator

Don’t underestimate the power of genuine connection. Although we were tempted to only talk to our teammates #nonewfriends, stepping outside of your comfort zone and making an effort to truly listen and find common ground with people you meet will add value to every interaction. Experiences like Fireside gives attendees the opportunity to connect with people with different backgrounds and experiences in a format that is more relaxed than a traditional conference.

Andrea Pace, Digital Marketing Coordinator

When I got home from Fireside the phrase that stood out in my mind, and the concept that had the most impact on me was that of resilience. When I think back on the most defining moments of my life thus far, they arose from hard times or discomfort. I didn’t really realize that the way in which I bounced back spoke to my resilience and character, and offered me a new perspective on those experiences. More so, this weekend taught me to remain resilient despite road bumps, detours, or the sometimes difficult task of finding your passion. Rather than becoming discouraged, frustrated, or impatient with the way things unfold (whether it’s in your personal life or your career), embracing those trials, remaining open and adapting will define what happens next. That and if you’re dancing on a table and/or performing pilates on the dance floor, it may be time to call it a night.