The Value of Slack: Lessons from a Staffer About Festival Scheduling

There are loads of beautiful metaphors in rock climbing, but the value of slack is paramount. Here, a staffer shares some lessons for Festival scheduling.

Summer evenings spent in the rock gym climbing with my mom were some of the best evenings that I can remember growing up. In some of the greatest mom-incentivizing of all time, I was allowed a whole pizza all to myself after ringing the bell at the top of a route. To this day, pizza feels like summer and accomplishment and unconditional love.

I don’t remember the nuanced techniques of climbing—as there are many—but I do remember that I loved belaying. The person doing the belaying is the person on the ground who helps to keep the climber safe, by communicating with them and anticipating their needs. But what I love about belaying isn’t just the act itself, but the metaphor of it. The same skills required of the belayer are some of my favorite to hone in daily life: Though there are many variables, one thing is certain—Some slack is a must when belaying an active climber. If the rope is too taut, it won’t be possible to climb.

To climb higher, that is, you need a little bit of room to stretch and grow.

The Lessons of Slack for Wanderlusters

As the Ticketing Manager for Wanderlust, I see the need for these lessons All. The. Time. Folks come into the Compass, fresh-faced and excited for the weekend, with schedules packed to the brim. When you pack your day to the brim with tasks in everyday life, you inevitably end up with an overflow that carries into the next day and halts the flow of progress. What if the train was late, the task was more complicated than anticipated, or someone held you up with conversation? You can’t plan the delays in your day but you can plan to expect them.

Wanderlust is no different. Planning for not just hold-ups but allowing for some down time as well gives you not only the most successful, efficient day—but also enjoyable. A schedule built with no slack time leaves no room for down time; time to download the information being presented.

I believe that the theory of 100-Percent Utilization is a myth, contrary to what some management styles tout. We are not machines; we can’t process information non-stop. Even your computer, when it is forced to run at 100-percent utilization, slows to a halt and drops information along the way. The 100-Percent Utilization myth leaves no room for absorption, no room for critical theory or discussion (i.e. no room for growth) not to mention it is a catalyst for anxiety.

How This Manifests at Wanderlust

One of the most meaningful moments from our Wellspring event last year was not even in a class or a lecture. I was making one of my many treks between the box office and the production office at around 9am. Classes had begun a few hours prior and I noticed someone sitting alone in a lovely courtyard area, surrounded by tables of friends laughing and a few people who seemed to be on conference calls.

On my first walk past they were smiling intently over their Wellspring journal, which they seemed to be pouring thoughts into faster than their wrist could carry the pen. A few minutes later, on my next pass, they were sitting cross-legged in their chair smiling at the sun as it shone through the leaves of the trees that canopied the courtyard.

The sight of this hit me with an unexpected force.

This person was absorbing, truly absorbing the moment and I had a feeling that what they were taking away from their morning was far more meaningful because they allowed themselves the time to absorb it.

I have thought back to this moment many, many times since then. Unfortunately, I often think of it when I have already stretched myself too thin, but it has become a lovely memory. A memory that calls me back to what is important: That I am giving myself time to truly experience this life. Especially the best bits of this life, the ones that lead to happiness and growth.

The Takeaway

We urge you to keep this in mind when you are curating your schedules for our summer events. We want you (all of you!) to take away as much as possible from these Festivals and that means giving yourself time and space to absorb the wonderful sessions we offer, maybe even the ones you didn’t expect to go to. (You never know when someone you meet will pull you into a class that could change your life!)

It is a beautiful challenge for us to provide opportunities that appeal to thousands of wellness seekers. This means, unfortunately, that not everyone can make it to every class. We hope that you are able to schedule your ‘absolute must’ sessions, and are left at the end of the event with full hearts, full journals, new friends, minds that are processing wonderful new ideas and a laundry list of speakers to follow, podcasts to listen to and sessions to book at our future events.

Belay ON, friends.

erika bioErika Murphy is a remote staff member of Wanderlust’s Ticketing & Guest Services team. With 15 years of experience in teaching and customer relations, she’s quick to lend an ear, understanding that the quickest path to a solution is usually found in discovering the root of the problem. Based in the US Virgin Islands, you can undoubtedly find her immersed in nature, be it land or sea (above or below.)