When was the last time you really looked at someone in the eyes? Or allowed yourself to embrace vulnerability? Or practiced gifting unconditionally?

I am at a breathtaking eco-friendly retreat center and community called Puerta A La Vida in Costa Rica near a seaside town on the Pacific Coast. Crickets chirping, howler monkeys roaring, butterflies galore. Everything is alive. Welcome to the jungle.


In this setting, I had conversations with people I probably would have never otherwise met in my life. Over lunch, I chatted with a young organ transplant doctor about his daily experience witnessing life after death. At a workshop, I met a woman who has successfully climbed the US corporate ladder and one day decided to quit to figure out who she really was. I eye-gazed with a TV show host. I did AcroYoga with a young lady who is combating climate change.  I was moved by a couple’s story of battling cancer and finding love.

This is ECHO. A unique 72-hour gathering in Costa Rica “where TED Talks meet Burning Man.”  But what do these very diverse individuals have in common? From getting to know people throughout the weekend, I would say an enthusiasm for life, a thirst for authentic communication, and a deep calling to leave the world better than we found it. Here are some things I learned from a few days with beautiful strangers.

Top 10 Takeaways from ECHO

  • Do What Sounds Like Fun

    Make a list of what sounds like fun and do it! If you spend your life doing just that, you will never have regrets. This advice comes from Kate Maloney, PhD and successful entrepreneur who did the first talk of the gathering. The founders of The Happy Start-Up School, also speakers at ECHO, encourage “a dose of entrepreneurial happiness”. If we’re not happy, what’s the point?

  • Have No Judgement

    Do you know those inner voices of judgement and fear? They kick in almost unconsciously. We all have them, but they inhibit us from showing up as our best selves. I took a workshop with Carla Pérez, author of El Secreto de lo Femenino. She emphasized that drama, coming from our judgement and belief system, is the number one cause for problems in relationships. Try noticing these voices and letting them go.

  • Listen Deeply

    How many times have you listened to somebody without really listening? Practice active listening. When somebody seeks advice or tells you about their day, give them your full attention and try to find a point of connection. Eye contact, presence and empathy. Giancarlo Pucci’s workshop on Theory U encouraged thinking from the heart.

  • If You’re Making It By Faking It, Stop

    On the outside, everything may seem perfect, but on the inside we may be miserable. Priscilla Chaves, social innovation entrepreneur and speaker at ECHO and TedXPuraVida found herself in that situation. Don’t be your own impostor.

  • Be the Person You Are Waiting For

    Are you yearning for change or wishing things would be different? Be that person and do what you are dreaming of. Don’t wait. You have everything you need.

  • Find Your Passion

    The organ transplant doctor I mentioned earlier, José André Madrigal, talked about his “moment” in life when everything clicked. He found his passion: changing lives through saving lives. This has become his life mission, rather than work. He stated,”If you find what you love doing, you won’t work a single day in your life.”

  • Learn From Your Mentors

    Honor elders, teachers, and individuals who have achieved what you are working towards. Musician and Grammy-award winning composer, Henri Scars Struck mentioned in his talk at ECHO that mentors have saved his life. Mentors can lead us on the right path through their wisdom and knowledge.

  • Transformation Has No Price

    Where the inspirational talks took place at ECHO.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of Burning Man, or maybe you have attended transformational events and festivals. 20-year Burner, blogger and motivational speaker John Halcyon told me that yes, it takes a lot of energy, capital and resources to make these events happen, but the transformation people experience at events like Burning Man or ECHO is priceless.

  • Love

    Love deeply and unconditionally. Give without expecting to receive. Love yourself. Love others. Love the Earth. It’s what makes us human.

  • Take Action

    ECHO encourages people to take action. Transformational gatherings are like a pause in life to replenish with new ideas and energy. What action steps will you take? Have you been to a gathering that has changed the way you see life?

    Tree-planting to conclude the gathering.