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FOOD REVIEW: ROSE. RABBIT. LIE.

Jan 29, 2014 3:41pm

You have probably seen the billboards, the blogger posts, the banner ads, the news spots, and maybe even the TV commercials (apparently people still watch TV?). Even a faux demonstration of grammarians protesting the gross...

EATING YOUR WORDS

Jan 08, 2014 2:19pm
<p>Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman honors Life Is Beautiful officials on Monday. From left to right, LIB organizer Rehan Choudhry, LIB chief operating officer Ashley Goodhue, Goodman, Downtown Project CEO Tony Hsieh, LIB organizer Joey Vanas, Las Vegas Parking Services Director Brandy Stanley.</p>

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman honors Life Is Beautiful officials on Monday. From left to right, LIB organizer Rehan Choudhry, LIB chief operating officer Ashley Goodhue, Goodman, Downtown Project CEO Tony Hsieh, LIB organizer Joey Vanas, Las Vegas Parking Services Director Brandy Stanley.

Feeling somehow unfulfilled?

Down in the dumps? Working to shape up that bucket list? Need to get that killer app or awe-inspiring software into the hands of users? Could you use a power-tutorial in amazing arithmetic?

Need some motivation to achieve that sleek, athletic build hidden underneath the flab? Seeking advice from folks who pummel each other for a living?

Wondering how to harvest some of that red-blood-cell generating bone marrow?

With 35 speakers, the Life Is Beautiful Learning Program promises to give some insight, inspiration or plain old information for just about everyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together. Like the rest of the LIB Festival, the learning program has been a collaborative effort.

Rehan Choudhry is more than just the point man for LIB. He also put time into the learning program. And he’s also one of the speakers. He says a “rock-star team” helped put it together.

Talking with Choudhry last week, it became clear that a primary goal behind the list of speakers, beyond being interesting and informative, is to leave behind a legacy for the city of Las Vegas.

“That’s really what it’s about, not just for one year, but for the next 10 years,” Choudhry says. That explains why there are folks talking about urban design, educational achievement and other issues that might not, at first, seem like talking points at a big old rock and roll festival.

LIB, though, is different, Choudhry and his colleagues insist. He’s happy to put the spotlight on the learning program, which hasn’t gotten the rock-star treatment that the multi-star chefs - there will be 60 of them - and musical artists - 70 or so - have naturally attracted.

“In the entire development of the festival, I felt that this was the place I was supposed to be,” Choudhry says. “To be in the lineup is an honor and quite frankly, terrifying. But now more than ever, I have a story to tell.”

Another unifying theme among the speakers is how powerful moments “reshape your life.”

“The festival is meant to be inspirational in nature. I don’t do this for a living, but I have a story to tell, a story of hope and optimism.”

LIB is in the heart of downtown. People live, work and go to school in downtown Las Vegas, and not everyone can celebrate success the way that many of the spotlight speakers can. Choudhry is sensitive to the concern that the festival is of, by or for people of privilege.

He notes that he survived a heart attack at age 23. He’s got a touch of gray at the temples, but Choudhry seems pretty spry for the experience.

Others, too, temper their successes with difficulties, he says.

“That’s something that’s been a focus of mine since the beginning, “We’ve got athletes on the lineup who battled drug addiction for a long time. We have chefs who battled poverty… People’s stories are so unique. What I hope is that people will draw on these experiences and find things to give themselves hope, find positive opportunities.”

One of the speakers who is all about opportunities is Maneesh Goyal, who started a resource this year called Live in the Grey. Many people might think that living in the grey means somber, dull, drab - but not Goyal. For him, it means “no living in a black or white world, breaking down barriers between work and play, colleagues and friends.”

“It has a connotation, grey does of being drab, dull or static. We’ve turned it on its head. It’s full of color and vibrancy. Grey is gorgeous. Grey is the sentiment, “I’m not into black and white, I’m into the middle space.”

In other words, making your life work a working (and fulfilled) life.

Goyal has a masters degree in public health, and he’s also the founder and CEO of a MKG, an “experiential marketing firm.” But spreading the message that happiness is achievable but must be actively pursued is his central passion today. He says it’s not just about personal fulfillment - it’s an epidemic public health crisis, with 70 percent of people unhappy in their work or lives.

“A more fulfilled life is a healthier life. When you take away that dread from your everyday existence, you end up living in a healthier way.“

But living a healthier life means taking charge of your own life, he says.

“You’ve got to be in the driver’s seat to make sure that’s not the case,” Goyal says. “Happiness is not on anyone else’s radar.”

Getting all this inspiration in one place has largely been the responsibility of Amanda Slavin, the boss at CatalystCreativ of Las Vegas. The company was founded last year by Slavin and the Downtown Project, the investment effort helmed by Tony Hsieh of Zappos footwear fame. (It’s amazing that Hsieh’s name comes up here for the first time, given that his organizational DNA is all over Life Is Beautiful.)

Slavin says the learning program is an extension of the vision she and Hsieh share for a Las Vegas, and especially a downtown, that “makes you smarter every day.” Meeting Choudhry and organizer Joey Vanas helped complete the core group. Slavin says the group is committed to making LIfe Is Beautiful more than just another rock concert.

“The talks are going to be so compelling,” she says. “It’s really a diverse group of people. We want people to feel that they didn’t go to another music festival. We want them to feel, as an attendee, that their life is inspired. Learning will just naturally fit into that narrative, that story.” CL

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