By Rich Simon I’m only just now coming down into the real world from post-Symposium euphoria—a powerful, but mostly benign, emotional disorder that temporarily interferes with logical thought that reaches epidemic proportions in our offices after our annual conference each spring. But, as I recapture some of my cognitive facilities, it does occur to me that for many of us, coming to a vitalizing communal experience like the Networker Symposium induces a pronounced state of altered consciousness. For contrast, just think about what our non-conference lives—our so-called “normal” lives—are like these days.
Most of us spend our days in our own little private bubbles, working in quiet offices, seeing—at most—a few members of a family, or a couple, or a modest assemblage of well-behaved participants in group therapy. We may also have our own private office at home, where we can be alone together with our dearest companion—our computer. Even when we do public things, we often feel alone. The “lonely crowd” is an apt description—even if we wanted to make friends with, say, the person sitting next to us on the bus or standing in line at the check-out counter, it is widely considered the worst possible faux pas to actually try it. In today’s world, we spend so much of our time by ourselves that it can make you wonder if the existence of 7 billion other people on the globe isn’t just an unsubstantiated rumor.
And yet, at this year’s Symposium, 3,000 of us were packed cheek to jowl, shoulder to shoulder, buttock to buttock alongside people most of whom we’d never seen before. But what distinguishes the Symposium is that you’re not only allowed to connect with complete strangers, you’re practically required to! In fact, I’ll give a free Symposium pass next year to anybody who will solemnly swear that he or she could actually walk ten feet down a Omni Shoreham corridor or into a workshop or across the lobby without getting into some kind of conversation with fellow attendees.
Why so much conversation? Part of it is an atmosphere of collegiality and festivity, a shared perception that the Symposium is the one time of year when it’s OK to put aside the poker-faced restraints of our ordinary professional demeanor, celebrate our profession, and have a really good time. But, in addition to the party atmosphere, is the fact that there is so much happening and so much to discuss—a faculty of over 100 of the field’s best thinkers and presenters exploring every conceivable clinical topic in over 130 workshops and other events.
There are so many mesmerizing public moments—eloquent presentations, new approaches being unveiled, controversies being debated, demonstrations of clinical masters at work—to fuel conversation and reflection. Take for example, Tara Brach’s keynote speech, “Deliberate Practice and the Inner Life”. Simply click on the video below to watch a portion of her speech.
To sample other keynote speakers from Symposium 2013 click here to view Susan Johnson, William Doherty, and Gary Small.
For an even fuller experience of this year’s Symposium, you can purchase a complete set of recordings at a $100 discount. Just be sure to use Priority Code 713-0407 at checkout. For more information and clips from more Symposium sessions, click here.