Breaking Convention: the HATCH Experience is like No Other

I peeked at the maps of Bozeman, Montana and Yellowstone by a golden-haired lady sitting at the Information Stand. I had just landed here at 8,000 ft. elevation and my jaw rested lower having just glowered at the mountainous expanse out the airport windows. 

The HATCH team was late, I’d assumed. I kept the sole escalator within eyeshot the entire time, as this was the pickup point as per the e-mail instructions by the ‘HATCH Guide’. Anyone who lingered there stepped into a staring contest with me which I would promptly forfeit upon determining that they were not my HATCH missionaries. My friend and HATCH alumnus, Will, had prompted me to ‘embrace the mystery.’ Instead, I hugged my knees and thumbed through the trail of e-mails looking for clues for why I was sitting solo here in Montana, hundreds of miles away from anyone or anything I knew. 

My phone rang. An incoming smattering of numbers.

“Alison. This is Jordan.” 

“Hi Jordan...”

“We weren’t expecting you for another day.”

Horrified I checked the dates on the website. I was early. A warm humiliation swelled and rose like vomit from my stomach to throat. I croaked out a laugh. “Looks like you just got yourself an extra volunteer.”

The head honcho and our ‘Guide’, happened to be Yarrow Kraner, the founder of HATCH Experience. He was vivacious as he was vague in his e-mail to the attendees. The signature below included the title, ‘Creative Alchemist,’ and I soon would learn what this meant.

I hitched a ride from Jason, one of thirty fellow volunteers who was making his way past the airport and arrived at the state-of-the-art Moonlight Basin Lodge in Big Sky, Montana. We arrived to find Aaron, one of the production assistants wiping the ‘slobber’ off his back windshield. Apparently, there was a teenage black bear that had gotten curious as to what this experience was all about. He wasn’t the only one.

BEHIND THE SEEN

Silks, glowing orbs, blue banners erected, speakers, wires, flattened cardboard with 3D structure sketches, and fierce kinetic energy buzzed about the lodge, which we had completely taken over. Smiles auto-sparked as I locked eyes with passersby. Though I was an invited guest, I felt privileged to be able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the ‘unhatching’ of HATCH. It was a hive of activity and excitement.

Every detail was curated, from the guest list to the branded dry-bag gift bags, to which I adhered stickers to each colorful luggage tag. Of the many treasures that were tucked inside, the ‘ARCHIVES’ journal was especially sacred. Beautifully hardbound and printed, it carried its keeper chronologically through the programming and post-experience; its pages peppered with quotes from HATCH attendees. 

This year’s invited guests consisted of 80% newcomers and 20% alumni were diverse in nearly every way — age and professional backgrounds or areas of study. It is, however, in no way random. All the guests have, as Yarrow shares, a “shared intention: to ‘hatch’ a better world.” In the five strides to the back of the buffet line on Day 1, for example, I had passed an award-winning documentary film-maker; a ride-sharing app founder; the CEO of Burning Man; and a 14-year old slam poet, whose lyrical rant on “White Boy Privilege” gained the attention of millions on YouTube.

Even the moments of mass misunderstanding somehow felt like crafted confusion. John Quigley of Spectral Q spoke and showed images of his arial photography where he ‘paints with people’ forming images and words with participants for causes ranging from the Paris attacks to climate change. We were then instructed to board buses, unclear of the destination or what we were getting into, although time would reveal, for me, at least, the ‘C’ position in ‘HATCH’ taken from a drone camera hovering above the mountain tops.

Oh, yes, there was method to this madness. It’s one of the first of cultivating creativity, according to Brent Bushnell, CEO of Two Bit Circus, an experience lab and maker space in LA. He led the team responsible for creating a viral Rube-Goldberg-inspired OK Go music video, This Too Shall Pass. Creativity, if not expressed in your profession or hobbies have a way of showing themselves in self-destructive behaviors. Fortunately for Brent, an engineer by training, both creation and destruction were both part of what made his job enthralling everyday. Like his fellow speakers, Brent knew not too long before his eager audience that he would be presenting, and this was just par for the discourse.

4 RULES TO CULTIVATE CREATIVITY (according to Brent Bushnell)

RULE #1 — Random Input

Fill your collective unconscious with unexpected stimuli. ‘Conference crashing’ is a great way to do this. As is going with the flow when the circumstances shift from expectations.

RULE #2 — Take Notes

Paying attention and keeping a notebook with you everywhere to capture ideas as they strike keeps the portal open to receive more inspiration.

RULE #3 — Be Cross-Disciplinary

Mind-meld with those from different professional and personal backgrounds to allow different perspectives when creative problem-solving. 

RULE #4 — Mentor

You receive as much if not more than you give when you share your expertise with a young person. Learning what is valuable from a protege and continuously having to answer questions about the meaningfulness of your work will beget more work worth making.

The latter-most rule is a key component in the HATCH mission:

To connect and catalyze a community of pivotal creative leaders from diverse disciplines, industries, and perspectives to address global issues, mentor, and inspire.

MENTOR ‘SHIPS’

Mentorship is also one of the multipliers in its equation, and I believe it is at its tipping point. Every year for the past thirteen years, Yarrow Kraner has been bringing together thought leaders, both venerated and in-the-making. “HATCH began as much more of a festival,” Yarrow states, “rallying public awareness through high exposure, marketing, etc., yet over the years we’ve really put a discerning lens on what it is that we do that can’t be found anywhere else. It is the intimacy and curation of not just presenters, but participants. Instead of packing a room with 500, we cut it off at 150.” 

One-hundred fifty is significant as it is known as the Dunbar number — the maximum number of stable relationships that humans can manage and maintain. Historically, when armies and tribes exceeded that figure, they would split. And HATCH is no exception. Recently, HATCH broke ground by launching in South America at the site of Kalu Yala, the sustainable town that HATCH alumnus, Jimmy Stice, is building out on a 7,000 acre valley outside Panama City, Panama.

For those, like Jimmy and Yarrow, that are in the midst of building their life’s purpose ship and steering it clearly towards its destination, HATCH is like a gust of wind behind its sails. I watched in awe as fitness and business-building powerhouse, Anne Malhum stood on the final day and gave a tear-jerking testimonial about her experience and proceeded to live fundraise for HATCH onstage. She urged guests, whose acceptance of an invitation required no financial obligation, to support Yarrow himself. Within minutes, guests stood pledging enough funds for Yarrow’s salary, so that he could devote himself full-time to the HATCH initiative, currently run as a non-profit and completely volunteer-driven.

I sat applauding those who stood pledging thousands to sustain the future of HATCH, and also reminiscing at the action-packed week. We were all chosen to be in that room, and for those that didn’t yet know where their ship was headed, we at least know we had something to ‘ship’. As for me, I might not yet be able to write a big check yet, but I can write. And I plan to further develop my side (multi)passion project, Polyama Project, which aims to help multi-passionate people feel more confident and clear about their various pursuits. Many HATCHers were self-proclaimed polyamas, themselves, which gave me a whole pool of accountability partners to spar with and further validated my mission to serve them.

Returning to Austin and my life post-HATCH, I found myself powering through the feedback form to help improve future events. However, I stopped dead in my typing tracks at the blinking cursor in the text box beneath the request to recommend just two people to extend a HATCH invitation. So many of my inspiring community conspirators and friendtors (friends + mentors) would be amazing candidates. I want to open it up to a broader audience so that we can continue to curate the next generation of creative leaders looking to make an impact in innovative ways. Is this you, too? Are you building something to help make the world a better place? Is there a feeling inside you that lurches forward when you hear the term “trailblazer,” “thought-leader,” or “creative catalyst”?

If you are interested in participating, donating, or learning more, visit hatchexperience.org. 

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