Wonder What They’re Doing on Captiva?

I kind of feel like a kid that stayed home while the rest of his friends headed off to summer camp at Lake Winnigapahaha. I just know they’re having more fun than I am.

To really drive it home, my friend Ken Fadner, the publisher at MediaPost, sent me a picture the other day of the launch of the Search Insider Summit on wonderful Captiva Island. “Missing you” was Ken’s postscript.

Awww… I miss you too Ken!

You’ll forgive me if I feel rather possessive of the Search Insider Summit. For the last several of them, I’ve been the Programming Chair and Emcee. Last year, I handed the reins over to the very capable team at MediaPost, but I still feel like I’m missing my left arm. In the past few weeks, as the event was drawing nearer, I even had “phantom” pains. I’d jolt upright, worrying about a keynote cancelling or irresolvable scheduling conflicts, only to remember that it’s now someone else’s worry.

I had to give this year’s event a miss due to scheduling conflicts, but I also felt that for myself, and the event, it was probably time to explore new territory. I was proud of what we had accomplished the Summit. I still believe it is a one of a kind search event: smart, strategic and small enough to be intimately social. The MediaPost team always does an incredible job matching the onstage content with plenty of opportunities to have fun and meet other attendees.

I also loved the event because for two weeks each year, it plugged me into the industry in a way that I just haven’t found elsewhere. I could reconnect with people who are just damned smart and spend a good amount of time thinking about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. That, perhaps more than anything else, is what I miss the most.

I’ve had the opportunity in the last year or so to start thinking about what my life will be “post-search.” That was another reason why I decided to step down from the Summit stage. I was recently at a conference where a speaker asked every one to raise their hand if they’d been in this industry for “at least a year.” Almost every hand when up.

Then he said, “At least 3 years.” Several hands went down.

“At least 5 years.” About a third of the hands stayed up.

“At least 10 years.” I was one of three hands that stayed up. The speaker mercifully stopped there, but it was at that point I realized I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. Yeesh! 20 years is a long time to be doing anything, let alone something as dynamic and exhausting as search. I’ve loved every minute of it, but still, that’s a hell of a lot of minutes. Somewhere around 6 million by my reckoning, allowing a little down time for sleeping.

So, I’ll be thinking of you all in Captiva. I’ll be wondering what you’re talking about, over the refreshments consumed on Sunset Beach. I’ll miss the insights, both professional and otherwise, that seemed to happen on the dolphin & dinner cruise. And I’ll miss connecting with the smartest group of Search Insiders I know of.

Have fun!

Orig­i­nally pub­lished in Mediapost’s Search Insider April 26, 2012