The Origins Of HI Lab
At some point after the failure of the “black plastic” version of the Eureka Room, I was meeting with a coach trying to decide what was next for my work. We determined that I really enjoyed the forced time off from Big Weekend Calendars. For a few months out of the year, there’s never much to do. The season has wrapped up for the prior season and it’s too early to start the next season.
As someone with workaholic tendencies this forced break was always welcome. So, we reasoned, if I opened a brick and mortar Eureka Room that would mean the end to the months long breaks. If I wanted that, I’d have to find people to run it while I was away. And I know that it’s really really hard to be “away” when you’re the owner.
So we landed on the idea of a weekend event. I would bring the spirit of Mindfultainment into a one or two day event for around a couple hundred people and offer maybe 4-6 rooms of sessions, each lasting a couple hours.
What kinds of sessions? The overarching concept was to make the mindfulness and positive psychology practices that I find so valuable more accessible to people who are usually put off by woo-woo and self-improvement type stuff. To do this, I reasoned, we could have a mix of more serious programming and then some lighter stuff to loosen people up and create a more relaxed and playful atmosphere (vs the typically quiet and stoic atmosphere of yoga studios and ashrams and sitting at home reading self-improvement books by yourself).
So I needed to generate a list of potential sessions.
I already had a lot of ideas from self-improvement books I have read, but I went out and got even more books and tried to find ideas from them as well. I also met with friends who had an interest in these sorts of practices or just liked to brainstorm.
Once I found some sessions that I thought would work, I brought generous friends to my house and we tested them out, usually 4-5 mini-sessions combined into a couple hours.
After working the ideas over, I settled on three different categories of programs. Attendees would be able to mix and match according to their whim. The categories were:
Traditional: meditation, visualization, affirmation, mindfulness
Science-Based: journaling gratitude, best possible self, what went well
Experimental: laughter yoga, barnyard chanting, kitten coral, screaming box
Perhaps you are wondering what a screaming box is. Or how many kittens would be in the kitten coral. Or what on god’s earth those things have to do with meditation and mindfulness.
Well, a screaming box is a small box you put on your head and scream into; I was thinking “as many kittens as I can get”; and I don’t really know what they have to do with meditation and mindfulness, these were just the fun light-hearted sessions.
I guess assumed putting a small box on your head and screaming into would be fun.
Other, rejected session ideas included “yurts”, “anti-gravity”, “busking”, and “people going around giving compliments”.
For those of you that have read about the Mindfultainment phase of The Eureka Room, you know the weird-serious hybrid experience was a quixotic goal of mine for quite a while.
See the full list of sessions that were brainstormed here.
Planning and Developing Happiness Interactive Lab
The amount of effort I put into developing Happiness Interactive Lab was massive. I easily put 500 hours into it (and, spoiler alert: it never materialized).
In addition to working on session ideas and content, I had to do all the regular event planning stuff: shopping around for a venue, deciding dates, setting a budget, figuring out game-day logistics, scheduling sessions.
And staffing. I needed facilitators.
Who was going to run the screaming box? Who’s got a lot of kittens I can borrow?
I talked to yogis, professors, friends, business leaders and entertainers. Some were interested, most were confused. They needed a better understanding of what it was going to be.
Enter: the website.
I decided that an awesome website would start attracting facilitators, attendees and also legitimize and clarify this vitally important weekend of wonder. Once people could see the vision as clearly as I thought I did, they would be lining up to get on board!
The website has since been taken down but I still have a few draft video ads for the event which in many ways exemplify both the tone and challenges of the event.
I just watched them for the first time in a few years. And whew. They are somewhere between mortifying and amazing.
Alongside images of books written by well-respected academics and I had images of Homer Simpson and loads of kittens. I have to turn the sound down because these are the first voiceovers I’d ever done and they are awful.
Would you like to see those draft videos? You’re in luck.
Here’s the first draft I made. Ugh. Cringe. Ugh.
Here’s a draft where I tried a different tact. Still cringey for sure. But in hindsight I can see a few moments of what the Eureka Room eventually became:
Shelving The Event
Sadly but probably fortunately the event was shelved. I don’t know what would have happened if the event had happened. Would people have shown up? What would their expectations have been? I think it would have been a wonderful experiment, though I suspect it would have been a lot of failure with a few great discoveries. Maybe someday when I have more money to throw at a high risk idea. Or if I happen upon a few dozen kittens that want to be a part of something special and questionable.
A few lessons learned:
- I spent too much time perfecting the look when I should have focused solely on the content until I got the content down. I ended up editing the look to perfection each time I changed the content, which wasted a lot of time.
- The same issues with Mindfultainment.
- Doing a one-weekend event is a one-shot deal, even more so than the calendars. With the calendars I at least have a few months to try different approaches to sales and marketing.
- I ultimately decided that I really wanted to do the Brick and Mortar version.