looking back, looking forward

Tomorrow our planning team gets together for a planning retreat! I'm so excited to work with this team. Each of them is an incredibly talented photographer, great at communication and organization, full of innovative ideas (plus some practicality to bring me back to earth), and most importantly, a great friend to me.

Inspire 2013 marked a big change for me personally in "Inspire" as Matt and I decided to shift our roles in the planning and production of Inspire. We've leaned heavily on an amazing team of volunteer studio owners for the first several years of our events. We felt that we'd grown Inspire as much as we could without impacting our Grazier Photography clients and responsibilities. As we went into the 2013 planning season, we decided that in order for Inspire to continue to grow and flourish in new directions, and to allow the project to be ushered forward by our team, we needed to distribute ownership of this project to our team-members. So Matt stepped down from planning duties, and the rest of the team and I formed Inspire Photo Retreats LLC. I knew that logistically this would be a smart move, but I had no idea how much new energy this would bring to our event! I think that the new sense of ownership and responsibility brought our planning team members up to a new pace that I hadn't really thought possible! (considering that they already put their hearts and souls the first three years!) This was mostly invisible at Inspire to anyone but ourselves, but for us there was a remarkable and exciting new energy in the air, and we definitely attribute this in part to our new team organization.

In producing 2013 I realized that some of our best successes happened by way of letting go. Letting go can be hard right!??

The first "letting go" moment was obviously the shift in Inspire "ownership" to our planning team members. The other huge a-ha moment for me happened when I observed the quality and level of leadership and expertise that our instructors brought this year. It became more clear to me than ever that the more we do to inspire and enable them as instructors, then step back, the more unique and exciting our curriculum will become. For the whole group of our Inspire 2013 instructors, they approach teaching as a craft. And they are experts at this craft. At one point towards the end of the conference I told people that our instructors are all talented chefs - we threw raw ingredients at them in the form of attendees, space, and ideas, and they created a masterpiece. The Inspire experience was cohesive yet individualized for each person there. I attribute this to the skill and craft and generosity with which our teachers approached their courses.

There is always a free fall moment for me in Inspire: it starts after breakfast on that first day, and ends partway through those first classes. This free fall is the transition period where all of organizational ropes that my planning team members and I have been holding onto are shifted into the hands of our instructors and the big magical organism that is the "Inspire community". During this period after breakfast the whole community hasn't quite gelled (and I guarantee it DOES gel by the end of that first day); all our attendees are anxious about where classes will be, what the instructors will push them to do, what they will learn, whether they're prepared or experienced enough to be there… For our attendees it's definitely an exciting and nervous "buzzing in the belly" feeling, and I feel this buzzing anxiety too! During the first 20 minutes or so of these first class sections, one can find me anxiously tiptoeing around the halls, peeking into each class, eavesdropping, and looking for stragglers. This year, after I did my wandering, I settled into David Murray's class, and then Michael Donnor's class. By the end of these two courses, it was clear to me that our instructors were a stellar crew, and it was also crystal-clear that our community was already rock-solid. What an amazing feeling.

So the third "letting go" moment for me at Inspire 2013 happened when I simply sat back and savored and watched everyone else savoring the community that transpired. This shouldn't be a surprise. We expect community to emerge. A huge reason that we run Inspire is because we love community. I love community, thrive on building it. One of my great passions is to create an opportunity for a group of people to come together and experience something together, find commonalities, and move forward in their lives with a whole new web of relationships and resources. This web of interconnected relationships and resources is the definition of community. We deliberately make a lot of decisions about our schedule, space, and course instructors in order to foster community. But the actual culture and experience that emerges is always a surprise. My favorite part of Inspire is to observe these connections, special moments, and memes that emerge as highlights that define our community.

Thank you to EVERYONE who was at Inspire. You all contributed to this safe space where so many of us could stretch and grow in all the various ways that we needed to this particular week.

Which speakers do you want us to bring to Inspire 2014? We are seeking visionaries, dreamers, educators, orators, experts who will share their ideas with generosity. charisma, and humility. Our mission is to bring new ideas and insights to our community - in areas of Business, Craft, and Artistic Vision. Please submit your recommendations here.

~ Enna Grazier