A reflection on the meaning and lasting impact of HATCH from Lee Allentuck, Founder of Raising Nerd.
“What am I doing in this van?”
I remember asking myself this very question as I boarded an overcrowded van that cold Montana afternoon. The sheer audacity I had to believe that I deserved to be among so many accomplished and talented people. A professor from a top-tier design school who was using design to better our educational system. A black teacher from Atlanta riding along with his white teenage student who were devoted to bringing light to race issues in white America. And a neuroscientist who, through the pain and suffering of his own heartbreaking tragedy, was studying the brain to decode violence and how to prevent further tragedies in our society. What on earth was I doing in this van?
But I would quickly come to realize, that even with all that they had accomplished, these find people were asking that very same question about themselves.
Throughout my life, I have been to great many “inspirational” conferences. Some were designed to make you think differently. Some were meant to inspire action. But attending the Hatch Experience would have a greater impact on me than any of those retreats because it’s not a gimmick or a trend. It’s real.
Hatch invites you to be a part of something bigger than just your own cause. In just one extended weekend (4 days), Hatch has all of the elements of a great movie or novel – fear, humility, comedy, sadness, joy, and inspiration. Not to mention the people. The amazing and wonderful people that unconditionally accepted you to be a part of this unique and courageous family.
Before attending, I was warned by a good friend and Hatch alumni that it will literally “change your f’n life.” I underestimated those words completely. For some time, I had been looking for purpose. My family life is fantastic, with a wife and two kids that I am thankful for every single moment of my day. But beyond that, I was feeling the soul-crushing stress of a job that I hated and a lackluster career that was going nowhere. I fell victim to the myth of Corporate America and I had had enough. I needed more than just a paycheck free corporate swag. I needed to get out.
For the last two years, I had been trying to do just that. I kicked-off Raising Nerd, a brand devoted to inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and creatives that will someday change the world. This was something that I loved and truly believed in. But Raising Nerd had stalled, giving way to my “real job’s” demands. I loved the idea of Raising Nerd, but I was simply treading water versus stepping up and making this a part of my big plan to change the world. In one weekend, Hatch changed that!
Being sucked into the deep-end of the swimming pool with all of these highly motivated and talented people will do that to someone, especially when that someone was looking for any excuse to dive right in.
The first thing that you’re asked at this tranquil Montana location is to put your guard down, let the inspiration in and take risks. That’s hard to do for a great many people, including me. But as I sat with one Hatcher after another, I quickly accepted this idea of vulnerability. There was no judging — just acceptance and love. There were no egos — just connecting on an even level to support each other.
To say that Hatch was simply a weekend retreat doesn’t even scratch the surface. In fact, I found that the further away I get from that cold Montana weekend, the more active I had become within this great network. I only got a chance to meet a small handful of the 170 attendees at Hatch, but my Hatch family grows every day, connected by our mission of becoming everyday superheroes.
So, where does this leave me? What was the outcome for this middle-aged, mid-tier manager from a Danish toy company? Did I just return to my uninspiring job, leaving that Montana mountain weekend as a distant memory? The answer is an astounding “No.”
Two weeks after Hatch, I decided that change was in order. And just like a great movie, I walked into my boss’ office and said that I’m out. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and Hatch gave me the courage to do it. Immediately, I felt all of that stress fall off my shoulders. I left my corporate world behind to pursue a more valued career, my real purpose. And it’s not just one thing, it’s a great many things that give me great value and pride. From building Raising Nerd into a global brand to mentoring young start-up companies to even serving on several bold Hatch projects – including one that will save the oceans. And my Hatch family is there with me every step of the way. Offering help, encouragement and love.
In just a short-time within this special network, I’ve made lifelong friends that I connect with every day – supporting and leaning on each other to fulfill each of our own dreams that will impact the world around us.
So, when I think back to that pivotal moment, driving through the beautiful Montana mountains and getting to know those special people, I now finally realize just exactly why I was in that van. #BecauseOfHatch.