Visiting Montenegro around Spark.Me

Montenegro; travel; spark.me; matt lambert

At the end of the month, May 28-29, one of the region’s best business and innovation conference will kick off! Spark.me brings energy and excitement within an inspirational context and environment. Spark.me pushes attendees to dream big going after goals and objectives once thought out of reach. While Spark.me offers the inspiration for entrepreneurs and startups to get moving, the organizers bring presenters who will help existing businesses pivot into a different era. A rugged coastline set among the mountains serves as the backdrop for the conference offering another level of intrigue making it a mistake not to attend the conference and explore while visiting Montenegro. Here are some suggestions on what to experience while processing the immense amount of content from Spark.me.

The Basics:

Cetinje and Lovćen

Lovcen, Montenegro

Only 20 minutes away, Cetinje was once the royal capital of Montenegro, and today, is considered to be the cultural capital. The small city/town offers a view of the art, culture, and history of the country through its streets, museums, and churches. This inspirational perspective climaxes in Lovćen National Park just outside of the town. A drive up a curvy, narrow road will take you to Mt. Lovćen, the resting place of Njegoš, the national hero credited with unifying the clans of Montenegro. His mausoleum provides the perfect view overlooking the mountains while contemplating the ideas gleaned from Spark.me. Even plan your next team meeting here.

Kotor and the Old Road from Lovćen

Kotor, Montenegro

If deciding to visit, Cetinje and Lovćen, consider taking the Old Road from Lovćen down to Kotor for the views. The road is full turns and twists so be careful if carsickness is a problem. Kotor is a UNESCO heritage that has been featured for its old town surrounded by magnificent walls, hilltop fortress, and iconic setting tucked within the Bay of Kotor. A day spent in Kotor is definitely worth the time along with a scenic drive around the bay exploring the towns of Risan and Perast.

Durmitor

Montenegro Experience, Diskors Projekt

Durmitor is a must for those venturing through Montenegro. While attending Spark, the mountainous North is a perfect choice for a getaway, and time of reflection. It has been deemed the most beautiful mountain range of Montenegro. Along with the mountains, the glacial Black Lake rests in the top of the range surrounded by a black pine forest.

Off the Beaten Path:

Lake Skadar

Skadar Lake Montenegro

Lake Skadar is one of the most restful places in Montenegro. After enjoying the beaches, move inland to explore this wild wonder. The lake lies between Montenegro and Albania, and is the Balkans largest lake. Mostly undisturbed, the lake has been fortunate to avoid developments that would compromise its beauty. Check out Undiscovered Montenegro or Boat Milica for the perfect day on the lake.

Stari Bar and Ulcinj

Stari Bar

The old town of Bar lies slightly inland overlooking today’s Bar. Old Bar lies at the foot of Mount Rumija, and is a throwback to former time of coastal Montenegro. About a 30 minute drive from Bar, Ulcinj provides another take of older settlements of Montenegro. The old fortified town of Ulcinj stands tall on the Adriatic waters, and claims to a be an inspiration for a portion of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Sandy inlets dot the coastline around Ulcinj. The town also claims the largest sand beach in Montenegro, Velika Plaža. Traveling down the coast after Spark from Budva to Stari Bar and Ulcinj is a pleasant way to end a Montenegro vacation.

Mountains of the North

Who-is-gonna-to-kill-us-in-balkans-36

For the traveler looking to get off the coast for something lesser know, look to the mountains of the North. Besides Durmitor, Bjelasica and Prokletije offer adventure and relaxation away from the normal vacation spots. I recommend checking out Meanderbug for offerings and suggestions for your travels around the North. Spark.me challenges the attendees to dream big and there are few better places to do this than venturing through these rugged landscapes. Little towns such as Kolašin, Mojkavac, and Bijelo Polje circle around Bjelasica providing a variety of hiking and bike paths. Prokletije provides an even lesser explored mountain with more intrigue as it has been named the Cursed Mountains. The North of Montenegro will not disappoint anyone looking to experience the culture and adventure Montenegro has to offer.

While visiting Montenegro before or after Spark.me look for places that inspire. Visit the basics, but do not shy away from going off the beaten path. Use the spirit of the Spark.me to guide your travel and help you prepare or process all that is offered through the speakers, networking opportunities, and seeing the work of others.

Why I want to attend Spark.me 2017

spark.me 2017 why I want to attend

Spark.me 2017 is headed this way quickly. The annual conference is already shaping up to be another stellar affair with a speaker line-up sure to deliver. Spark.me is a conference about emerging and innovative business models, disruptive tech, digital marketing strategies, and transformative initiatives. With a pristine location just outside of Budva, Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea, there are no valid reasons to skip Spark 2017. However, some still need reasons to come.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Right now, it is easy to scroll through Facebook or any other feed and find countless “motivational” speakers that try to get people amped up to go do something. Anything. While motivation may be necessary at times, I find it lacks substance that will push forward day after day when the grinding is the hardest.

The majority of what I take away from Spark.me is inspiration. Inspiration feeds on what is already beating deep down within us, and gets triggered to burst forward and outward. The stories shared at Spark.me, those sitting around you, and those who take the stage offer inspiration to make the decisions and actions that have been hiding deep within you. The substance of real examples and the information being dispersed do not push you to a pipe dream belonging to someone else. Instead, they provide practical and applicable steps to accomplish goals while overcoming real challenges.

Spark-Me-Brian-Solis

Interactions with the Speakers

While Spark.me may not be biggest conference regionally, the organizers created a venue to allow attendees to get up close to world class speakers/practitioners. They are not only speakers. These are people who are currently leading changes in their fields and expertise. And the intimacy of the venue produces the perfect environment to interact, engage, and learn. This would be my third year at Spark, and I cannot wait to see the list of speakers continue to unfold.

What I have found helpful in leading up to the conference, is reaching out to the those who are especially interesting or inspiring. I did this over the last two years and received quite a bit of openness for future projects. Spark.me is the first opportunity that I had to connect in easy and natural ways with those who graced the stage. BTW, reaching out prior to Spark also landed me some excellent coffee thanks to Jovana and Frank!

Beyond the Speakers

Spark.me is so much more than the speakers, venue, and other things that usually stand at the forefront. When you sit down in your seat, look at the people around you and introduce yourself. Go to lunch and roll up on someone to introduce yourself. Meet the media companies present, the bloggers, and whoever else. NETWORK.

Spark.me is the perfect place to network. Again, not overly crowded where networking can be intimidating, but also large enough to strengthen your network internationally. Start expanding the brand, and possibly learn new skills or meet the person that will help overcome specific challenges being faced.

These are my top 3 reasons for why i want to attend Spark.me 2017. Do not hesitate. Pick up your tickets hereWhy do you want to participate this year? And when will we meet for coffee? 🙂

Past talks and posts from Spark.me are linked below:

Chris Fabian and Innovation Solving World Problems 

How to address change

Reflections from 2015

As a bonus, here are some ways to explore Montenegro when visiting for Spark.me.

photo credits: Jennifer Buxton visit www.RealPoshMom.com to chat travel, food, fashion, and work.

Moving Abroad: First Steps For Success

Moving Abroad; Matt Lambert; Success

The thought of moving abroad has always been a part of my dreams. Living life in what was the “normal” context was not appealing. The feeling was so strong that even when I was dating, I would ask their feelings to adventure through life outside of the U.S. However, living abroad does not come without challenges, and a mental struggle that will force many people back to the U.S. (or their country of origin). The expat life is not for the weak heart.

As I reflect on 4 years of living abroad, and doing business in a foreign country, here are some suggestions that I wish someone had given me.

Make connections before arrival.

This was the single most important advice that no one ever gave me. As you settle on where you will move and the business that you will conduct, begin making connections with others working the same or similar fields. Local groups exist which will be a valuable support network, and offer a way for one to begin automatically giving back to their host culture. Too many times, this gets overlooked, or people think they will grow their network upon arrival. However, this can be a slow process depending on the culture. Research and find out who the influencers and more interactive people in the community where you will move, and reach out to meet as soon as you arrive. Making connections before arrival will speed up trust building a relationship prior to setting foot in a country.

Social media is your friend.

 

Before leaving the U.S., I was warned of the “dangers” of being too active on social media when trying to adjust to a new life and culture. It would cause me to be too homesick, worsen culture shock, etc. For me, this was not the case. Social media can be and should be your friend for building your network, meeting new people outside of your normal context, and keeping up with current events that are not available because of language barriers. A majority of the people I meet come via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I have been able to meet government officials because of one tweet. Relationships for me have started long before meeting someone for the first coffee or business meeting because of the interaction through social channels. Active and genuine engagement are important for social media and the personality that is put out there, but this is a later post.

Begin learning the language before departure.

Another valuable insight that did not get mentioned. Learning the language is important, and usually gets emphasized upon arriving in a new country. However, one can start prior to arrival. For most, hearing the language is a struggle. Before leaving for your new home, take time each day to listen to music, radio, or stories in the host culture’s language. This will begin tuning the ear to the new sounds. Most linguists say it can take up to 6 months of just listening before one truly hears the unique sounds. This is an easy task to complete each day while driving, working, cooking, etc. that will pay off in the long run. Also, learning simple phrases and introductory conversations is easily accessible online. There is no reason to wait. Start the learning process before departure.

Learn new skills. Adopt new hobbies.

I am an advocate for life long learning. Many people will pigeonhole themselves based on their degree or background. Never stop learning. Moving abroad is the perfect context to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill that has been sitting in the back of the mind. We are never truly defined by our past, and should look to move forward in our careers and activities. The internet makes acquiring new skills such as coding, marketing, along with other the skills highly accessible. Again, social media, will open opportunities to learn about local clubs and hobbies that peak our interest. For me, it was cycling, blogging, and photography. These have been two things that have introduced me to new people, and given me another creative outlet. Do not be afraid to try something new and stretch yourself.

Humility goes a long way.

a lesson continually learned: humility. Sometimes approaching a new culture can bring a sense of pride as if the one entering has something to teach their host. The opposite is actually more accurate. The one entering has much to learn from their host. Enter the new culture with humility willing to ask those you meet for help. A space of humility creates trust and builds friendships faster and stronger than acting in the reverse. Maybe this one was told to me, but I was not humble enough to receive it. 😉

These are some suggestions for moving abroad. Some things can be done to help the transition process. Those mentioned have been what has impacted me the most. If you live abroad, where do you live? And What lessons have you learned?

3 Lessons of Leadership

3 lessons; leadership; Matt Lambert

While doing a bit of reflecting, I began thinking on the different areas of leadership that I have held. And how fulfilling these roles brought responsibility for the success of myself, my family, co-workers, a organization, or maybe a group of friends. In most cases, all or some of these were bound together. Here are three lessons/principles that I feel summarize not only my experience, but some of the greatest successes and failures of leaders that I have admired, or at least gleaned understanding.

Diskors Projekt - BE

BE

At the moment, I am a bit consumed with this little, yet significant word. In any case, a leader must “BE.” A leader must BE himself. A leader must BE present in the situation, organization, crisis, etc. A leader must simply “BE.”

Too many times, leaders can become sidetracked by their position or title and fail at any of the above examples or countless others. Many times, I have witnessed leaders who fail at the first because they do not know who they are. Therefore they fail at being themselves which is usually why the position of leader was acquired. The reality remains that if a leader fails at being who they have been made to be, it is only a matter of time before other stressors are evident: unrealistic expectations, taking on tasks that are not a good fit, poor vision, etc. All of which can be curbed to a great degree when a leader knows their own person, and chooses to BE that person.

BUILD

Leaders must be able to build around themselves. This means understanding personal weaknesses, and building a team that will meet those weaknesses. This also requires a leader to be secure enough to admit faults and recognize that others excel in these areas. Too many times, leaders try to cover their failures and weaknesses at the fear of being “exposed” as a fraud. A true leader will understand these faults and recognize them as strengths within others looking to build the best possible team.

Not only does a leader build a team, but they also build an environment in which the team functions. The trustworthy leader facilitates and orchestrates the environment in which the team will flourish. This is not unchecked freedom, but accountability balanced with room for errors which can bring growth. Significant growth if the right environment has been built. LEaders bear this weight. It is tough, but that is why they are leaders.

Diskors Projekt

EMPOWER

Leaders empower those around them. Plain and simple. If someone is not exercising empowerment, they are more of a manager or authoritarian rather than a leader. Leaders set people free to excel and create in ways and areas in which the leader may not be able to do. This is tied into the security of the one leading. In my experiences, those who are most insecure are the ones most controlling and authoritarian. The adverse has been true as well. Those who I have found to be most inspiring as leaders were the ones empowering me to be who I was made to be, and even helping me get there.

A leader who encourages their team member(s) to grow can be empowering. The leader who says, “Yes. Now let me help you get there,” is truly empowering and moving not only the individual forward, but the team is moving forward. It is not enough to “inspire” people to do what we want them to do. This can easily become manipulation. But leaders must inspire and empower people to become what they are passionate about and driven toward.

A leader who can be, build, and empower is a leader worth following. He is also a leader who is usually willing to follow when it is necessary.

What lessons or principles on leadership could you share?

Boat Milica: A family story of resilience on Skadar Lake

Boat Milica; Skadar Lake; Matt Lambert

On a cooler than normal day last spring with a bit of overcast and wind, my family along with a visiting friend decided to do something that we had not done in the two years of living in Montenegro, take a boat tour around Skadar Lake National Park. After asking our friends from Undiscovered Montenegro, Ben and Emma, they recommended Boat Milica. Within a few hours, we were off for our 3 hour tour around the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.

Skadar

We arrived in Virpazar about 30 minutes outside of Podgorica to begin the tour around the lake which included seeing the local wildlife and monasteries. It is easy to tell from the pictures that the tour itself was amazing. The vibrant greens signaling the newness of the season created the perfect backdrops for the old, stone monasteries being restored. As we went around, our guide, Ksenija, was exceptional at pointing out the intricacies of the lake, its history, and wildlife. After a quick dip in the lake by our friend, we returned from our tour with a new appreciation for Montenegro’s wild beauty which happens to be only a short drive from us.

While the tour was memorable and the service provided is highly recommended, it is the story of the Boat Milica which really draws me in, and causes an even greater appreciation for their business. The family Dabanovic is from Virpazar knowing the lake intimately. During the economic downturn around 2011, the Jelena guided her family to do something different to survive. They started Boat Milica.

captain Skadar Lake

As a family, they divided responsibilities and took to creating their business building it slowly. The daughters learned new languages to specifically help with foreign tourists, they built their wooden boat in the shop of an old master in Podgorica, and Andrija began guiding tours. Andrija grew up on the lake and is familiar with al the ins and outs. The stories, legends, history, and diversity all get proper treatment during the tour. And Jelena became the only woman in Virpazar to own and operate a boat tour showing off Skadar Lake

The family worked together and have been successful together. Even in the face of some struggles, they have proven resilient and creative to help one another and their town by attracting tourists to this natural resource hidden in the interior of Montenegro.

The Dabanovic story is one of resilience in the face of difficulty. It is exemplary of what it takes to be resourceful and succeed. The family found support among themselves continually encouraging each other to do better and achieve their goals.

Innovation, Tech, And Solving World Problems

Matt Lambert; Spark.me; Solving world problems

In just under two weeks, Spark.Me will kick off. In preparing for it,  listening to the talks from 2015 and previous years is an excellent way to observe what the conference is about and set expectations. For other ways to prepare, I suggest you check out RealPoshMom’s article here.

Spark provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups to rethink their ideas, systems, and industries to develop their product. One talk from 2015 stands out as a way to use innovation and tech for other purposes aside from building your startup, or in conjunction with your startup. Chris Fabian from UNICEF gave a talk on the growth of tech in solving world problems, and the importance of investing in localized development that can scale up and be applied on larger levels.

Why is localized development so important?  

To Fabian, locally developed platforms help form solutions in context to the challenges that are being faced. It is an advantage over existing platforms that have already been significantly developed across the world. Local development puts the solution in a language and context that local people can understand. Of course, this does not discredit the strides that existing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have used in meeting crisis situations. However, Fabian used two examples of Ebola outbreak and the Nepal earthquake to demonstrate how solutions developed on the ground of these disasters proved more beneficial for the response.

Startups and solving world problems

One of the better discussions that is raised during the talk happens in the Q and A. Chris talks sustainability, and startups looking to do do good. In a conversation that usually involves pursuing money or creating a social model, Chris pushes businesses to think differently offering that most businesses are looking to do good in the world. Startups have the freedom to solve a specific challenge or crisis while building a business model that will make money through a proper exit strategy or transforming the product to meet similar challenges in a different context.

Chris also pushes startups and companies to enter a new relationship with existing power structures and working between different groups. He does this by pointing back to UNICEF’s 9 principles for innovation and tech development. These principles, no matter how obvious, represent the existing change occurring across business lines and development in crisis areas. In the end, Chris looks to leverage the value and innovation of the startup community for solving world problems, and doing so in a way which invests in the local and global markets.

Check out the full talk below. Look ahead for Spark.me at the end of the month with an openness to challenge your own ideas for startups.