A few weeks ago I had the privilege of spending 3 days in Silverthorne, Colorado with 12 other amazing fathers. Here’s the recap –
This event was a Front Row Dads retreat. Typically, these retreats are larger gatherings of roughly 40 men, but this was a unique first-of-it-kind smaller retreat. The smaller gathering was primarily due to COVID-19 and its impact on travel, since the retreat was originally planned to be in Austin with more attendees. That said, the last minute adaptation ended up being a huge success.
We were graciously hosted at an awesome 8-bedroom mountain house in Silverthorne, Colorado. This house provided an ideal escape from society with everything we needed to unplug and be fully present with each other. Some of the amenities included:
- Exclusion from other people / neighbors
- Huge wrap-around deck facing the mountains
- Open living room for huddles and convos
- Indoor lap pool + sauna
- Outdoor jacuzzi
- And much more…
It was the perfect place to spread out and relax with little distraction. Well done, Jon and Rachael 🙂
This retreat provided a more flexible and natural format given the group size. @Jon laid out a general itinerary for each day, which we followed with minor adjustments. Some of the key highlights included –
Fitness and exercise were a strong part of this retreat. We got two mornings of beach volleyball in, starting with a game right away on day 1 to kick things off. Volleyball has become the FRD sport of choice at retreats, which always builds strong morale and camaraderie. It was a pretty unique setting with mountains in the background as well.
On day two I got an early morning run in around the house. I love taking runs in the mountains at elevation. They spike my heart rate and remind me of running through the woods as a child. Shortly after I joined @Casey in the house weight room for a nice workout. We had a great conversation around adoption, which came at an apropos time given the recent miscarriage I just wrote about. These are the “real” conversations we have at retreats like this (more on that below).
Later that day I received some schooling on the basketball courts by @Tim and @Mike in a couple games of 21 and King of the court. This was a great reminder that it’s time to get back into some ball once COVID dies down!
On day 3 the group took an epic hike up Spruce Creek Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado. This hike lasted about 5 hours total and offered a true “Colorado” experience with forest trails, lakes, an active waterfall and light mountain ascent.
We enjoyed some quiet time at the top of the mountain with amazing views and time away from distractions. This provided time to meditate, write and clear our minds. Many of us took time to write a letter to a loved one. @Tim took time to sleep 😉
Shortly after the group took a bone-chilling plunge into one of the lakes, which was definitely around 30-40 degrees! Jon led the way in, and then one after another we slowly dipped into what felt like an ice bath. It was invigorating to say the least. A healthy reminder that our body needs this “shock to the system” every now and then.
Overall, this hike was an amazing part of the retreat for me. And that’s coming from someone who lives in Colorado and hikes weekly! I say this because it was yet another example of how being in nature can offer so much to us, especially during our pandemic state. For me, it was an experience of healing, rejuvenation and bonding. Three things that come at a much needed time given everything else in motion.
A huge part of Front Row Dads retreats are the conversations. These aren’t your typical conference style talks either. These are deep and meaningful discussions around topics that matter. We leave it all out on the table. Some men open up and let their guard down with tears and emotion that isn’t easy to express in every day life.
As men, it’s harder for us to naturally have these conversations. So I’m always grateful for the time and energy we invest here.
The quality of conversation at this specific retreat was unparalleled to anything I’ve ever encountered. From the curated group discussions in the living room to the one-on-one chats during the hike, each and every conversation was intimate and valuable. Additionally, we had a great segment on conscious leadership led by @Tim.
For anyone unfamiliar with conscious leadership, this is POWERFUL stuff. Tim led us through some frameworks and coaching he’s been learning while sharing some powerful self reflections around fear and emotion. I was also fortunate to have a couple side convos with him that helped me personally realize a couple deep “fear rooted” belief systems I need to work on. So thank you for that gift, Tim 🙂
The overall experience of this retreat was summed up in our final group conversation with one word – Brotherhood. That’s what you leave with when heading home from a FRD retreat, a stronger sense of brotherhood. I made some new relationships and strengthened existing ones. I know these men better and am grateful for the ideas, stories and emotions they shared with me.
Now it’s time to bring some of the things I learned back into my family. That’s the beautiful part of a FRD retreat. We all show up and pour in, then we all head home and pour out. As Jon would say, sometimes we need to retreat from our families in order to show up even strong for them. This is the 2nd time I’ll be heading home from a retreat inspired and charged to become an even better family man.
In true FRD fashion I want to close this blog post with some #props to all of the men who showed up, and showed up big at this event:
Props to TJ Larkin for attending his first retreat and sustaining through a groin injury in high spirits. I’m also grateful for some of the tips – Daily Dad and the Love Box!
Props to Isaac Stegman for also attending his first retreat and engaging with us despite being an introvert. It takes courage to be present and vulnerable in a setting like this. I honor you for showing up and having a few discussions with me.
Props to Stathis Edel for being so selfless and wise. Your help leading the hike was a form of true leadership. You also said something profound around business that is now implanted in my mind forever – “Stop scaling if it’s taking away from family time.” That one is gonna be on my wall for a while.
Props to Scott Groves for always brining humor and candor to the situation. Not only do you consistently create great moments of joy/laughter, but you open up and leave everything out there. You step up and ask the questions the most of us are thinking, but not ready to share. I admire you for that. Keep being you. And get out of L.A. asap! 😉
Props to Mike McCarthy for being a gracious host and hike leader. Your presence always instills natural confidence. I’m also grateful to have heard your father’s story over dinner and learned about how you plan to navigate complex situations like that.
Props to Justin Donald for giving me some healthy things to challenge and think about. I’ve already started saying “yes” more to my kids’ requests, and the dividends are already showing up. I also came home with some new business direction, which our conversations influenced.
Props to Mike Wagner for being one of the most engaged guys I know. You show up and dive right in, from home-schooling to business-family integration. You also ask some of the best questions, which spark some of the greatest discussions. I appreciate you always being present.
Props to Casey Weade for being a homie twice now and giving me the [specific] advice I needed to hear at this retreat. It’s not easy to call a brother out… but you did so in a graceful and meaningful way. I’ve taken that to heart and will likely be showing up at the next retreat with a different story for you! 😉
Props to Mike Higgins for several things. First, for driving from Wisconsin to join us! That shows true commitment in itself. Second, for being one of the best listeners and contributors I’ve conversed with. I feel how present you are when we talk, and I appreciate that. And third, for the humble reminder on how much work my hoop game needs! Joking aside, I appreciate the deep conversations we had and look forward to a stronger friendship as we grow.
Props to Tim Nikolaev for pouring out and setting an example at this retreat. Your wisdom in conscious leadership is making waves and changing lives. The recommendation of that book and concepts we explored this time around are fundamental to how I evolve as a father, husband and overall human. You inspire me to think at a deeper level and I’m coming home with a goal of “feeling” more into my emotions. I came in to this retreat needing a bit of healing… which you helped me find. Thank you for that.
And of course, you can’t avoid giving props to the FRD godfather himself – Mr. Jon Vroman. I think it goes without saying that every man in the brotherhood is grateful for what you wake up and do on a daily basis. However, what you bring to these retreats is a whole new level. Your intention around everything from the planning to the retreat agenda makes it a truly memorable experience. You also set the example of what it means to be a FRD brother. Thank you for being vulnerable with us. Thank you for making time for this. And thank you for elevating a topic and mission that so many of us fathers need in our lives. I’m so grateful to have access to this group and two retreats now.
Last but certainly not least, we have to give major #PROPS to Ms. Rachael. She’s the one who actually does all the work in the brotherhood while Jon sits on podcasts! :laughing
For real though – we’re fortunate to have you around, Rachael. Your involvement in FRD is making an impact and we see you! Thank you for making this event one to remember!!
I honestly write these posts for myself, and for my children to read one day in the future. I’m not very aggressive with promoting Front Row Dads online. That said, I will say this –
If you’re an entrepreneurial father who struggles in any way, you will get immense value by joining the brotherhood. It’s the premier mastermind for high-performing fathers who are committed to putting family first. Some of you aren’t there yet… I get it. I was like you years ago – grinding and making that money. But I can say now with 100% clarity that I’m living my best life. This wouldn’t be possible without Front Row Dads.
Ali is the creator of this site. He is a father, husband, serial entrepreneur, software engineer and last but not least - a relentless life learner. He adds Siracha to 90% of the food he consumes.
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