For sixteen year old Marie Messier, one of the thoughts going through her head was that she was meditating beside Luke Nosek, one of Pay Pal’s co-founders.
The Chattanooga teen was an attendee at the Thiel Foundation Summit in San Francisco, where motivation, visionary young people get to learn from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country. The website describes it as “‘model UN for tech geeks’ and a ‘cross between a scientific conference and homecoming party.”’
Marie traveled with several other members of the Chattanooga Thiel Community, a chapter of the larger global movement to empower ambitious young people to chase their dreams, as well as meet and collaborate with other motivated youth. Marie said of her experience, “I was constantly surrounded by incredibly impressive, well-spoken individuals overflowing with knowledge on the tech industry, start-up culture, non-profits, and life.”
One of the qualities that makes the Thiel Summit so unique is the focus of the programing. Attendees toured Bay area businesses and nonprofits and enjoyed speeches, breakout sessions, and panel discussions led by startup leaders like Kacy Qua of Qualifyor and Patrick Collison of Stripe. Rather than preparing teens and early twenty-somethings for the traditional business landscape, they are giving these young people the tools they need to redefine the world of work and create new ways of doing business.
At the Summit, there are no lectures on the importance of a professional social media presence or proper table manners. Instead, the schedule was full of inspiring topics like Gayle Young of Wikimedia’s keynote address on work/life balance and leading “an unscripted life.” Attendees heard and participated in discussions on forward-thinking topics like mindfulness, meditation, self-care, the art of listening, and how to create strong relationships with coworkers and business partners.
These business skills are only just starting to spill out of startups and Silicon Valley and that many adults are seeking out at conferences like Wisdom 2.0 and through Ariana Huffington’s Third Metric movement. The Thiel community is getting a head start preparing for the workplace and work philosophy of the future. Another Chattanooga attendee and Lamp Post Group intern Mae Stuart described the Summit’s unique approach, “Take a group of the world’s finest entrepreneurs, ask them about success, and listen. They don’t talk about markets or pitches or business principles. They talk about life principles.”
Whatever fields of study and professional ambitions the attendees choose to pursue, they returned from the Summit with tools and advice they can use to excel in any field. All three young women commented on the Thiel Summit’s emphasis on personal character. Marie described the Summit as having “a stess-free culture of sincerity.” One of Mae’s biggest takeaways was that “Above all else, kindness counts.”
With the next generation of entrepreneurs and thought leaders learning these lessons at such a young age, we can only imagine how radically different work culture will become. We couldn’t be more excited that these young women were able to attend, and brought back a whole new perspective with them. There’s no doubt they will be amazing things both here in Chattanooga and beyond.