A Not-So-Secret Society: The Thriver’s Guide to The Gathering

Nicholas Jones Company Culture, Marketing

I am compelled to write because the experience is calling me to get it out before it explodes. The experience was that impactful. It was that internal. It was The Gathering.

Let’s be clear, this is not a review; it is a reflection. Even the best reviews suffer latent judgment and never escape the gravity of subjectivity. Truly valuable human experiences are personal, individual, and always diminished by a “review”. No, you deserve your own experience and so think of this more as an invitation to create it for yourself.

But in this reflection, I am going to look forward rather than back. After all, it is only ourselves, reflected in the future that can pull us forward. Only then do we see our place and find a compelling purpose to get up and create tomorrow.

In the end, even the smallest drop of creative energy will give you more wings than the biggest cup of caffeine any barista could throw at you.

What is The Gathering?

The inspired vision for a confluence of courageous brand leaders, open-minders and malleable marketers, the ones who know that they have nothing figured out and everything to gain from that starting point. That is The Gathering.

On the surface, a thousand-strong gather in a stone mountain lodge that’s 130 years old, to collectively celebrate and create the future of brand-making in the world.

I know what you are thinking… sounds a lot like a secret Hotel Bilderberg summit or a shady Bohemian Grove ritual. There is even the familiar “all-seeing eye”, VIP’s flying in from around the world and inner sanctums…

But the eye is not on top of the pyramid and there are no secrets here.

The Gathering brazenly calls for “the Crazy Ones” and organically pulls for the heart-centred. Yes, as an event, it is highly strategized, cleverly planned, and well executed.

But the magic and the richness lies beyond the polished collaterals, the seductive media production, and overall, a really impressive and obsessively detailed production quality.

The Gathering is all that and more. It is more because it is not just that - like most conferences.

And for 2018, it is over.

So, here is an offering, in anticipation of you considering The Gathering in 2019, and by not giving away much of anything about what it is and why it works, but trusting that you will find yourself there.

There is no “How-to-Do ‘The Gathering’” because you have to create that for yourself but these are the markers, the grounds of being that might deepen and enrich your experience, and make it yours to treasure:


Try saying thank you before you receive anything and see what shows up. This wisdom has been around for thousands of years and was only recently reversed and enforced as etiquette.

Open your heart daily and make some room for gifts. They will be delivered in The Gathering, and your capacity for receiving them will only be limited by the size of your own personal swag bag.


Be in the time and space you occupy. All of you, every cell, in every conversation and engagement. Do not let your attention leak back to your work or into social (media) circles or even a notebook.

The Universe is talking all the time but you will miss it if you are not listening. The diamonds are there but just like mining, you have to watch every shovelful to catch the sparkle before the gravel is heaped on a pile. And forgotten.


…and the net will appear. You cannot fall and you cannot fail at The Gathering; there is so much buoyant and supportive energy that you can afford to let go. Let go of control, let go of attachment and let go of networking.

Set your intention and then go swimming and let the current take you where you need to be. You will be surprised how easily you will meet the people you need to meet when you let go of making meetings happen.


If necessity is the mother of invention, then consider that you still won’t listen to her if you are not humble. You will meet extraordinary people: leaders, creators, thinkers and innovators. Allow yourself to be humbled but do not get enamoured.

The Gathering is not a cult of celebrity; it is a celebration of the extraordinary by ordinary people. You are one. That is the source of your power so do not let any comparisons disempower you or ego-driven selfies rob you of being fully available to relearning everything you know.


Energy follows intention. It is the most abstract concept, the most invisible quantum and the underlying structure of our entire reality.

There is a palpable energy to that many people gathering inside the same uplifting conversation but do not settle for that. You can find that at hockey games and concerts. 

Go deeper and follow the threads of creative energy, weavings from synergy and tapestries fraying at the edges. More threads breaking the frame, seeking new possibilities unimagined.


If you think of The Gathering as a forest to harvest, you will end up building a timber cabin in the middle of nowhere. Cozy but not connected. Think “re-source” to get the root of this idea (and your root).

Being informed is great until that information is no longer relevant. Being sourced is what gives you, your brand and your business… life.

Much like a spring discovered in that same forest, you will always be able to go back to it, again and again, each time renewed.


Look to the 14th century root word, enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.)”, Latin inspirare "blow into, breathe upon," figuratively "inspire, excite, inflame," and Greek pnein, "influence or animate with an idea or purpose”.

There is not much more to say except that the pristine, crisp mountain air in the Rockies where The Gathering sits, is also worth breathing in.


Fresh ideas are abundant when we give up already knowing the answer. A beginner’s mind, nestled into a humble vessel, will afford so many new solutions (to problems you never knew you had) and new paradigms (to create worthwhile problems from).

The Gathering naturally incubates new thoughts and directions. So fertilize the ground with wildly stupid questions and let your uncomfortable vulnerability fuel courageous explorations into uncertainty.


Don’t miss the party. Every conference has one and again, you might have had your fill of rubber chicken dinners and birthday clown MC’s. This party is not about the party. It is about celebration and launching the future. What’s done is done and accomplishments deserve recognition, certainly a good icing on the cake.

But the real value is in setting the stage for the next wave of Oscar-worthy brand performances, to inspire action when we are unleashed back into the world, gathering our experience forward, our own treasure-filled hearts open to sharing with others.

A Sourceful Summary

The last word is not mine. It is yours to write. This was my first Gathering and I hope that I am able to renew the usually non-renewable resource of objectivity, and re-source myself next time, and the next time.

Comparisons can be fatal. We do not evolve by rating or reviewing to see if we have improved. It is a process and The Gathering is something that unfolds in circles, not a destination to reach (and another lanyard to collect).

For thousands of years, our upright walking species has always gathered to create anything meaningful. There is usually a fire in the centre. It is always warm and inviting.

But the power of the collective is not sourced by the fire; the fire is the light we recognize in each other, and The Gathering is about shining that light together in the mountains.

The Gathering is an annual convergence of brand voices staged in February, and hosted for the fifth consecutive year, in Banff, Alberta, Canada. It was co-founded by Ryan Gill of CULT, the marketing engagement agency, whose team continues to direct and manage the event.

About the Author

Nicholas Jones


Nicholas Jones is a Corporate Shaman in Calgary, Alberta. He's an arc in the inner circle of a brand building agency, Brand is Truth, and part of a widening circle in the new sharing economy, called Communo. He works as a brand strategist and creative director, grounded in source mission and vision, core values, team culture and leadership, to ensure alignment, balance and integration wholly through brand expression.

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