Hi, my name is Clay Manley and in May 2020, I attended Vito La Fata and Anna Renderer’s business-building retreat called ‘Vision in the Vineyards.’
DISCLAIMER: These are my unfiltered notes, revealing why I went, what it was like, and what I learned from the experience.
If you’re skeptical, curious, or on the fence, this is for you.
Breathe, I tell myself, as a mixture of excitement and nervousness swirl in my head.
It’s 1pm Friday. The sun beats down on the sleepy streets of wine country, as I slowly approach the gates of the La Fata estate.
My car comes to a crawl and I spot Vito tending to the oasis-like infinity pool overlooking an acre of young vines.
We exchange pleasantries and embark on the grand tour. Little does he know I’m already acquainted. Anxiety had me scour the web for every picture of this place I’d temporarily be calling home weeks before I arrived.
The next morning I slip away to the edge of the pool, journal in hand.
A casual journaler at best, I wonder if I will have any breakthroughs. My gut tells me I’m more likely to get distracted by the sights and sounds of this unfamiliar escape.
But inspiration hits...
And as I relieve yesterday’s events, I sketch 3 visuals that could be something — or nothing. Unsure if I’ve uncovered a pile of gold or a pile of dirt, it’s time for the brain trust of the weekend to get back to it on the veranda.
The whiteboards are out and ready. Our notes — penned in various vibrant colors — survived the night of wine-fueled cornhole. And with an uneasy confidence, I step up to the board and take a swing.
As I talk through my chicken-scratch, Anna’s reaction tells me we struck gold.
We wrap up the day with tri-tip and red, uncorking our first bottle a few minutes after 4pm.
It’s a celebration.
We went from clutter to clarity in a few short hours. And from there, it was pedal to metal.
Yesterday was like turning the keys to the ignition. We didn’t hit the gas pedal, but a mess of magic — unbeknownst to me — made it to the whiteboard. From the casual get-to-know-you convos to the structureless brainstorm sessions, I had just enough to sleep on…
...and between the food-for-thought my brain devoured overnight and the early morning journal sesh, we were on track for a big day.
Just 36 hours ago, all I had was a sloppy google doc I’d been chipping away at for weeks. It’s limited evolution serving as a nagging reminder that I needed some serious help mapping out my plan.
Now I have a complete course in there, from start to finish. And I’m crystal clear on the next steps that await.
Amid the celebration, I drift into self-reflection: Why did I come here? What compelled me to take the plunge? Where am I?
For the first time, the answer’s clear: I’m here because I was stuck. And my gut did it’s job; hinting that I couldn’t do this thing alone. It had been pointing me in the right direction for quite some time; 50 miles north of San Diego for this epiphanous moment and experience.
As we cheers, the nagging self-doubt I’d been battling for months feels worlds away. I am confident.
I have something I can teach (which is the core of my online business). Something that feels genuine to me (so there’s no smoke-blowing). And something I can be uber proud of (because I’m going to have to put myself out there).
Of course, I also have something all 3 of us are convinced can make some serious coin too.
Mission (almost) accomplished.
The cherry on top comes as we pour the last drop of bottle numero uno. We finally land the course name. “The Content Selling Machine”, Vito announces — 2 parts cool, 1 part cocky.
He knew he’d struck gold.
I wake up groggy after my 2nd — and final — night in the land of La Fata…
....perhaps it was the wine, but more likely the insomnia.
I can’t pin down what I’m feeling, but a concoction of stomach butterflies, alcohol-included headache, and motivation of another kind had my head spinning from midnight on.
I’m remarkably passionate about my craft, but a nudge from Vito reminded me there’s another level: obsession.
So I passed the wee hours of the morning discovering living legends and modern gurus I’d never heard of (for some odd reason) in the space I play. The folks I’d need to learn from and compete with to make my dreams reality.
By 3am, I'd joined newsletters in the teens. Stealing inspiration between swigs of water and sleepy sighs. And realizing I’d skipped a handful of steps over the years jumping from start-ups to billion-dollar companies.
For as good as I thought I was, this vision in the vineyard was that I’m only scratching the surface.
That nudge alone was worth 10x the price of admission.
I give Lucca his umpteenth fist bump after 2.5 days of “on-demand” practice and head homeward bound.
What will my wife think?
Who do I call first?
Is my brain melted or re-energized?
What just happened!?
Perhaps I unlocked a new level of consciousness over the weekend. Or perhaps my brain cells are hibernating after stringing together hours of pondering, discussing, thinking, and writing.
But I’d be lying if I said I’m mentally drained. That’s not quite it. Emotionally, I’m fried.
I bounce between introvert and extrovert by the hour and my time at V in V gave me no new clarity there.
But it did give me a gift I could not have ripped open alone...
I peeled off the first layer when I committed to come. Scheduling a date alone, gave me instant urgency, motivation, and deadlines — fueling the late nights and early mornings of prep work while balancing a 50-hour+ work week.
Once on the estate, we tore away at the remaining wrapping paper. The whiteboard sessions and in-depth discussions gave me extreme clarity, a killer plan, and a paved path to climb out of the quicksand of confusion and hesitation.
And as we finish up, I’m reminded the wine gave me a headache.
But the experience — which is what this was — not a weekend, event, retreat, or escape…
…the experience, served up an intoxicating elixir of belief.
I can do this.
But will I?
We mined the gold, now it's up to me to cash it in.
The unknown has always terrified me. And I had no idea what to expect as I dropped my bags in the La Fata casita.
I imagine you may be feeling the same. I plowed through the gamut of emotions the week leading up to my arrival. One moment skeptical, the next stressed, then excited, anxious, nervous, you name it…
...and I feel that same strange blend of emotions now. Days later, as I begin implementing what I learned and carefully constructing my future life.
But there’s stronger emotions that weren’t there before: Unwavering belief, confidence, and conviction to name a few.
The truth is I’m now living my vision in the vineyard…
Looking back on my weekend in wine country, below are a variety of nuggets I learned from Vito and Anna (in no particular order):
Be obsessed. A casual conversation with Vito rewired my brain from passionate to obsessed. I soaked up more new knowledge about my expertise in the week following my visit than I had in my 10-year career. The word “obsessed’ is now stuck to my every brain cell like super glue.
Inspiration is unpredictable. Was it the pool? The whiteboards? The hot-air balloons floating on a postcard-like pale blue background? I’ll never know. But 60 minutes of poolside journaling as the sun rose above the valley was the breakthrough to nailing my course curriculum and constructing the ‘Content Selling Machine.’ Magic struck. And I doubt I could recreate such sorcery from my bedroom, balcony, or backyard.
Audit your inner circle. Shame on me for stating the obvious, but I couldn’t do it without Vito and Anna (and they couldn’t do it without me). The pushing and pulling unleashed the best in me. And the collaboration transformed thoughts and ideas into something much larger. You are who you surround yourself with; my short time with those 2 made me multiply.
Building your online biz doesn’t have to feel like forever. Could I have nailed a course curriculum on my own? Maybe. The knowledge is in my head, after all. But it wasn’t coming out. I was hemming and hawing between hesitation and confusion every time I so much as thought about piecing together my master plan...
...And eventually, I got fed up. I’m not going to waste the best years of my life wishing for something more as cubicles, meetings, politics, and corporate-speak suck at my soul. This experience put me on the fast track to freedom. We accomplished, in a few short days, what I believe would have taken me months (or longer) on my own.
A lucrative online course curriculum at my fingertips. We defined what I can deliver to earn money, freedom, and (hopefully) happiness. Vito and Anna unpacked my brain in a way I never could, reminded me of my worth, and put me in the driver’s seat of my life. It may sound sensationalized, but I don't mince feelings. I now know exactly what the ‘Content Selling Machine’ looks like — and how to construct it. So yeah, they delivered on the weekend’s deliverable (and then some).
The pace. If you skipped down here, thumb your way back up. You’ll get an instant feel for pace and absorb crucial details about the experience. I loved that we didn’t move too slow nor too fast. I’m sure each Visionary's experience is unique, but I’m happy with what we accomplished and how we went about it (seemingly working both hard and smart). No burnout, no boredom, and no BS.
No walking-on-coals crap. Speaking of no BS; When I think of live events, I picture Tony Robbins ushering a group of barefoot, overzealous ‘believers’ across flaming hot coals. Not for me. No snake oil or feats of strength included with V in V. If that’s your thing, there’s other options out there for you.
The result. Summed up: We nailed my course curriculum (which I had been tirelessly stuck on for weeks), pinned down a name (same deal), amplified my confidence and my self-belief (priceless), and ensured I know next steps (no, they don’t do everything for you). So I’m dramatically further along in my journey (re: escape corporate America - make bank online) than I was before I arrived. I’ve estimated the weekend put me anywhere from 6-18 months ahead of where I’d be on my own.
No agenda. Listen: I am OCD about organization. Before every meeting with my team — no matter how big, small, formal, or casual — I craft an agenda down to the second. And when others don’t do the same, my brain goes bonkers. Guessing what will happen, wondering what’s next, and speculating every detail…
...when I didn’t receive an agenda upon arrival, an inner meltdown ensued. But, I now know it was for the better. As my wife stated, getting out of my normal flow allowed me to think differently. And I could, for once, operate in the moment instead of looking ahead.
Technology. I’m getting greedy (and it wasn’t promised), but I was hoping we’d sneak in time to knock out some of the techy stuff. Like getting my website built and plowing through branding. You know, the things most of us have zero interest in. If I could go back, I would have upgraded to the ‘white-glove’ package to have it done for me.
The food. With the wineries abandoned due to COVID-19, Anna played chef. I already mentioned the droolworthy tri-tip (from CostCo, by the way), but the salmon and banana pancakes deserve high praise too. Each meal was better than the one before. The problem? My wife and I can't get cereal right (I spy an opportunity for a cooking course, Anna).
Word to the wise, V in V is not for everyone…
...don’t bother if you’re not ambitious.
While your time in Temecula will certainly speed up your success, there’s plenty to be done when you head home. And if you’re not going to put in the follow-up work, a weekend retreat isn’t worth your time, energy, and money. You’re better off taking a weekend vacation.
I came to the vineyard to take a massive step forward toward escaping corporate america by assembling an online business that can deliver on my ambitious dreams (beachfront manor, kids college tuition, and a Kauai condo, to name a few).
Of most value to me is that the items above led me to a plan that has me out of corporate, in a new home, and living the freedom lifestyle in the next 6-8 months (maybe less). All of which means trading the crappy cubicle, problematic politics, and measly merit increases for the power (and freedom) to control my own destiny.
That vision was a pipe dream just days earlier.
- Clay Manley
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