- Honest Review of The Break Fellowship: Insights from Spring 2023 Experience
I am sharing my honest thoughts about The Break Fellowship I experienced in May - June 2023. I aim for this post to be a helpful resource for those planning to join the program or anyone contemplating similar fellowship opportunities.
Some of you might read a post with a critical title called "The Break Fellowship - Unethical marketing sponsored by tax-payers money". This post is written by another participant who, like me, attended the program in Spain during the same timeframe but in a different location and cohort.
I got this post in my cohort's WhatsApp group, and it gained rapid traction. I won't lie; my first reaction to the article was, "So much ranting.. almost feel like you got invited to a once-in-lifetime Micheline dinner for free and still manage to complain that the water is not sparkling enough."
Nonetheless, I value the honesty; she acknowledged her perspective is personal and highlighted that many other participants had a highly positive experience. The same goes for my post. I write it based solely on my experience with the organiser, Open Orbi as the host, and the HC15 cohort.
I'll start by sharing my background, giving you insight into where I'm coming from. Next, I'll delve into The Breaks program, and finally, I'll wrap things up with my suggestions.
I am an aspie, nonbinary queer individual of colour who is comfortable with my female embodiment—born and raised in Indonesia, my upbringing began just above the poverty line; however, my parents' efforts gradually improved our circumstances to a lower to middle-class status during my teenage years. After moving to the Netherlands at 17 on a scholarship, I graduated in music. I fell in love with code when I was 20 and have been writing code ever since.
Today, I am the founder of Venopi, a versatile platform that makes event planning enjoyable by connecting you with great venues and event suppliers.
My Break Fellowship experience
The Break is a fellowship program designed for women (or anyone identified as a woman) entrepreneurs aiming to cultivate a global network of entrepreneurs. The goal is to foster mutual support and elevate the entire community within the network.
My onboarding experience flowed seamlessly. I fondly recall my interview with Maria Solano, where we connected effortlessly. She provided a clear overview of the program, even outlining potential challenges we might face during the retreat. I could sense their sincere efforts, and the program's complexity requires us to stay flexible due to the unpredictable factors involved. It was clear that the program's outcomes would differ among individuals, emphasising the importance of one's ability to navigate various situations.
Upon receiving the official acceptance from The Break, I pondered, "Alright, Ivana, what do you truly aim to achieve through this program?" My response encompassed the desire to forge valuable connections that would enhance my business's sales and empower me with the capability to work remotely from anywhere.
I pondered further: "Even if the outcome were entirely different, would you still embark on this journey?" I often pose such opposing scenario questions to gauge my enthusiasm, inspired by the 90% Rule in Essentialism, where I assign a score to a key decision criterion. If it's below 90%, I simply eject the option. I responded with a resounding "Yes" because I recognise the immense value of human connections – a chance I aim to seize.
To me, cultivating a single meaningful relationship holds a value that surpasses the €7K investment by tenfold.
And so, I embarked on the journey!
I will start with the online training and mentoring sessions. My experience was a mix of positive and average sessions. Frankly, based on my experience attending many webinars and conferences (mostly in tech), very few also left a remarkable impact. This is because we're in an era of abundant information; you can find anything yourselves if you ask the right questions. In my view, the online training and mentoring sessions primarily served the purpose of allowing participants to familiarise themselves with each other while also offering a glimpse into the program's essence.
While there's room for improvement, undoubtedly, The Break's most remarkable and invaluable aspect shone through during the in-person retreat.
As I set foot in Madrid for the retreat, a wave of nervousness washed over me, triggered by the bustling crowds and numerous new faces around me. Overall the organisers did an excellent job with the opening and closing events in Madrid; However, as an introvert, I found myself out of my comfort zone in large crowds, which isn't my preferred environment.
When we reached Open Orbi, my HC15 group was warmly greeted with hugs, goodie bags, and tasty vegan paella (Thank you, Open Orbi ). Right away, I felt comfortable and safe in the environment, reassuring me that everything would be fine. I thought, "Well, Ivana, even in the worst-case scenario, you could spend the entire month meditating in this serene environment." 🤷🏻
As an aspie, I love structure & pattern, so in the first week, I took the initiative to have one-on-one sessions with everyone. My intention was to get to know everyone on a personal level. Surprisingly, I discovered this wasn't common among my cohort. Based on my experience, I highly recommend this approach to anyone participating in a fellowship program.
Another strategy I employed was integrating my personal routine into my daily life. First, I woke up as early as it made sense to the group (I didn't maintain my 4 AM wake-up time because I adjusted my schedule to synchronise with the group). I embarked on a two-hour nature walk daily, establishing a comforting sense of familiarity. If you are heading to Open Orbi, feel free to reach out if you want to know my route.
Next, I integrated my fitness routine by joining a local gym, where I work out around five days a week alongside three fellow breakers.
The uncomfortable situations
Let's get real and talk about the uncomfortable situations. Personally, there were instances when I felt uneasy due to my snoring (sorry, Justyna 🙇🏻). Secondly, there were days when we had internet connection issues, but the host did their best to solve the problem.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that we encountered a situation in the cohort where one individual exhibited noticeable detachment. This escalated to the extent that no one was willing to share a room with her. To prevent any conflicts, a solution was found by providing her with a separate dome. I am proud of how we handled the situation. The group was willing to share a four-person room with five people and accepted that some of us didn't experience the beautiful dome. This decision was made to maintain harmony and prevent any potential discord.
I don't sugarcoat, so truthfully: everything else unfolded remarkably. The group's dynamics, the Open Orbi crew (including Genaro, of course), the immersion in nature, the deep connections, the memorable karaoke and portal nights, the shared dinners... These moments were undeniably some of the most beautiful experiences in my life.
When we said goodbye to Open Orbi, I grappled with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, there was anticipation about returning to my familiar environment. On the other, it felt like a piece of me was being pulled away. Without getting too sentimental, I felt heartbroken, realising that everything would have changed when I woke up the following day.
So, do I regret being a part of The Break for the past three-ish weeks?
I embarked on this journey with a simple hope: if I could forge just one strong connection with someone, it would make the entire experience worthwhile.
Today, I can proudly say I've formed at least 13 meaningful connections with incredible individuals. These connections would have been impossible without the Break Fellowship paving the way. My business is growing, we are forming an alliance, and the best part is the robust support system we've established among ourselves.
So, when it comes to The Break Fellowship, you're free to label it as you wish – whether that's "a cult," "a gift from the universe," "a wake-up call," or any other term that resonates. I view The Break as an actual break – a unique opportunity to create mutual support and lift the entire community within the network. The potential is in our hands to shape it into whatever suits us best.
I want to end this chapter with this beautiful quote:
You can be the master of your fate, and you can be the captain of your soul, but you have to realise that life is coming from you and not at you. And that takes time."
My tips & suggestions
To sum up, here are a few tips I'd suggest:
- Before saying "yes" to joining the program, establish a clear intention for what you hope to achieve from the experience. Then, apply the 90% rule to evaluate your decision.
- Maintain open communication and embrace everything as they are – people, situations, or challenges like no running water or internet. When (yes, when) uncomfortable situations arise, approach them objectively and collaborate as a group to find solutions.
Here are some valuable activities from the in-person fellowship program that I recommend exploring:
- Initiate 1-on-1 Conversations: Set up individual sessions with each cohort member during the initial week. The objective is simple: genuinely get to know them by listening to their stories. Aim for an 80% focus on personal questions and 20% on work-related inquiries. Some suggested questions include: Where did you grow up? What was your upbringing like? Who are the significant individuals in your life? How do you typically spend your leisure time? What led you to embark on your entrepreneurial journey? And why did you choose this path?
- Merge Your Routine: Adapt your established routine to your new environment. In my case, this involved my morning walk, gym sessions, and bedtime reading. Integrating familiar routines can provide a comforting sense of continuity amidst change.
- Always make time to join the dinner table (or anything social that involves everyone being in the same space): I skipped a few times due to tiredness and deeply regretted it. Seriously.
Important Considerations to Keep in Mind
(Because I want everyone to thrive in life. Happier people = better world)
In my view, the organisers of different fellowship programs genuinely aim for the success of their participants and strive to ensure smooth operations. It's important to acknowledge that mistakes are inevitable, given our human nature.
If you have a pre-existing mental condition, have experienced trauma, or consider yourself to be unique, I strongly recommend employing the 90% rule to evaluate your decision thoughtfully. Even if you've already committed, stay alert for any signs of concern, and if you notice them, be ready to step back. Maintaining control over your life is essential, as neglecting to do so can result in wasting not only your own time but also others. Time holds the utmost value in our lives.
Should you encounter multiple warning signs during the onboarding process, take a moment to visualise the worst-case scenario: "Imagine if everything turned out to be the exact opposite of what I wished for, would I still choose to proceed?" If you're uncertain with a 50-50 chance, it might be wise to walk away. However, if you're confident with a 90-10 outlook, embrace the entire outcome (both positive and negative). You're fully aware that your decision to proceed was deliberate and conscious.
Planning ahead is pivotal; it equips you with the strength to exit if challenges arise, as you've prepared for such a possibility. It's tough but achievable. Learn to differentiate between actual threats (like real danger, someone going to shoot you if you walk out) and your thoughts, which might not be accurate.
Remember, life is a singular journey. Even if you believe in reincarnation, most of us only live and are conscious of this specific version of life once. Therefore, remain conscious and embrace all aspects of the journey—both positive and negative—taking ownership of them. Avoid placing blame on others, even if you believe they are responsible. Refraining from assigning blame allows you to retain control over your emotions, preserving your personal empowerment.
As a closing...
As a closing, to The Break Fellowship organiser, this program has truly made my life better. I'm so grateful for this opportunity. As I move forward, I'm excited to continue the mission by passing the torch to the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
To Open Orbi, my heartfelt gratitude for extending such a warm welcome and granting us the privilege to relish your remarkable space. Your land is truly divine.
Lastly, to my HC15 group: Thank you for sharing your life and precious time with me. I am looking forward to our next adventures. To the infinity and beyond!