Connor Kozlov: Life Lessons Learned From Co-Founding A Festival

In March I co-founded and organized a festival around a concept that is dear to my heart. Through the help of a friend, we created the PLAY Acro Festival that included playful activities like AcroYoga, slacklining, and a host of others. People camped over the course of the weekend and dozens recounted life-changing experiences throughout.

And I’m not a part of it anymore. As shocking as it might be, there were many things I’ve learned from co-founding the festival. Many of them would have been virtually unrecognizable before the effort and event, but I am happy to have them now.

1. Dealing with stress

Live events are one of the most stressful things one can do. There is a reason event management is considered one of the most stressful industries behind lawyers and doctors. Throughout the experience, I had to constantly look at the causes for stress in my life and what I was doing to relieve them.

Over and over again, I found that organizing a festival was enough of a challenge in itself, but I had to do everything without any money. I later found out that simple event management software would have made my life 10 times easier, but we were too cash strapped to pay for anything.

In essence, it was stress plus stress, which was too much for me to handle. Despite the meditation, morning walks, and a host of other stress-reducing practices, I have now vowed to never undergo a project that combines stress plus stress in any situation.

2. Organizing people

As surprised friends and family ask why I quit the festival, I explain the many skills I acquired throughout the process. One of these skills was organizing people and the necessary tact that comes with that.

Communication is so important and it is necessary to both empathize and help people with their needs and desires while at the same time being clear and firm in my boundaries. A great tool over the course of this experience was “Radical Honesty” by Brad Blanton, which helped me to recognize and acknowledge my feelings to others.

3. Respecting boundaries

As mentioned above, respecting boundaries was a key part of the festival process. I was so exhausted after the first and second day that I had to retire to the comfort of my friend’s hammock and separate myself from the festivities.

People beckoned for my attention, desired my presence, and needed by help, but on all accounts I had to respect my boundaries and be done with the human interaction for the day. It is something that I have brought into my relationship today to great effect for us both.

4. Nothing goes according to plan

One thing that every live event specialist knows is that nothing goes according to plan. There are few situations that go off without a hitch especially when the event was outdoors and subject to the elements. In many instances, we got lucky, but there were plenty of things that went wrong (or at least not according to plan).

Adapting was a huge part of our success and continues to be a large part of my mentality to this day.

5. Ask for help

To that end, when things were going outside the bounds of our plan, we had to be willing to ask for help. I got more than comfortable asking people for help whether that be in the form of their time, expertise, or even just last minute moral support.

What keeps us from asking for help is a sense that others will not like us as a result. If we come across as needy or weak, they will shy away from spending time with us and we will lose our friends, our relationships, and die alone. The reality is, if we humbly ask for help when we need it, most people are willing to oblige. Those who aren’t may not be the type of people to spend time with anyway.

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