Yeah, so that happened. This past weekend, Steve and I joined with 1000 like-minded folks in Portland to attend the 2nd World Domination Summit (WDS). Sounds intense, right? It was.
The WDS is organized by Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and the new $100 Start-Up, and on his way to visit every country in the world before he’s 35. The general “theme” of the conference is how to live a remarkable life in a conventional world. Sounds awesome, right? It was.
Given that tagline, the conference attracts non-conformists, entrepreneurs, artists, serial travelers, and just generally people who want to live an exceptional life. Sounds like my kind of people, right? They were.
There are tons of write-ups about the WDS, and I’ve been struggling to put into words what exactly the weekend was, what I took away, and what it meant to me. The word I keep thinking about is “validation.” Validation that I did the right thing quitting my job as an asylum officer nearly 3 years ago. Validation that the weirder I am, the more likely I am to succeed. (hat tip to Chris Brogan on that one). Validation that though my career path has been strange, I’m not strange for choosing a different path. Validation that I can and should travel – and travel BIG trips - if that’s what I feel I need to live a life without regrets. I’m coming away from Portland inspired, optimistic, and ready to make changes and kick ass.
More specifically, these ideas keep coming back to me as I reflect on the weekend.
1. Your experience cannot exceed your willingness to be vulnerable.
This one’s courtesy of the just crazy amazing Brene Brown. You may have seen her TED talk on vulnerability. It’s a doozy. (The whole weekend was actually like a mini-TED for non-conformists). This was a great message to kick off the weekend with. Over the last 6 years, I’ve become less and less cynical, and it has served me well. (As Brene said, criticism is cheap and easy. Choosing contribution over cynicism is a better path.) Although I like to think of myself as a pretty open person, I do feel like I sometimes choose to close off, rather than make true connections with people, whether out of shyness or introversion, or both. That’s going to change.
2. I can create what I want to see in the world.
This hit me numerous times over the weekend. First, with Scott Harrison’s presentation on the creation of his kick-ass non-profit, Charity:Water. I barely have any notes from this one, as I mostly just sat in awe and excitement during the full hour he spoke. The way that he runs the charity – divided pools of money of operations vs. actual charity funds, running the charity like modern businesses like Twitter, Google, etc. rather than traditional non-profits, using creativity to promote the need for their work in a funny, easy to understand, compelling way — makes me want to get back into doing more work in the public interest.
And on a smaller level, this concept of creating what I want to create, came through on the $100 Startup panel. Jen from the cool poster company, These Are Things, explained that her and her partner Omar basically started their business on a fluke — by designing a world map that they wanted to hang in their house. I started Drywell Art in a somewhat similar way, in that I was just messing around and drawing funny food things that made me laugh. Inevitably, the more successful you become, the more the business side – and the demands and requests of others – take over. I’m feeling a renewed sense of focus to create art that *I* like, that makes me laugh, and just hope that others will like it too. (A quick poster-hustler chat outside the ladies bathroom at the closing party with Jen and Omar just might change my entire operations here at Drywell HQ. Stay tuned.)
3. I need a super team.
Chris Brogan gave a somewhat rambling, but very funny presentation on the idea of superpowers. Honestly, I’m not really sure what the whole point of his talk was (and his devotion to Google Plus is disconcerting) but I did take away his advice to “Find a Super Team.” Steve attended a smaller talk on “How to Connect with Anyone” and came back with the (apparently familiar to a lot of people, but not us) idea from Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
It’s hard to describe, but the feeling of being in an auditorium with 1000 people you don’t know, yet feeling completely on the same wavelength with everyone as a whole is something I haven’t experienced in, well, maybe ever. The closest experience was going to Talented and Gifted summer camp (I know, total dork) and finally meeting people who were like me. (I am a product of the Texas public school system, if that helps paint the picture of my desperation a little more vividly.) The people I did connect with at the conference (there was so not enough time to do this) were universally interesting and very clearly “my people.”
And it again, validated, my desire to find and spend more time with people who are living creative lives, who are doing what they want to, who are doing the hard work of creating the life they want. I absolutely have that with my biz ladies group, which is filled with creative, enterprising ladies, hustling to make their lives how they want them to be. Our too infrequent meetings, however don’t help with the “average of the 5 people” business. Assembling a super team is on the docket.
4. Action is what matters
This was touched on over and over throughout the weekend, but perhaps most clearly by Scott Belsky. I was only tangentially familiar with his work, mostly through Quarterly, which I signed Steve up for. My notes on Scott’s talk are long, but circled and underlined is this; “this is like a fucking lazer.“ (yeah, I misspelled “laser.” ignore that whole gifted student thing above.) His presentation was essentially a quick version of his book, Making Things Happen but it was so laser-focused, and true, and resonant, that I immediately felt energized. Creatives have tons of ideas but fail to act on most of these ideas. The key to action? Organization, communal forces, and leadership. Most of all for me, it all comes down to organization. When you work for yourself, it is easy to be free-formed, and let your independence actually lead you astray. But why strike it out on your own unless you can actually find a way to actually ACT on your great ideas?
In reading another WDS wrap-up, I was reminded of something J.D. Roth said, but I failed to record. Nevertheless, this sums up a lot of the conference for me: “The things you DO are your priorities, not the things you say you WANT to do.” Again, like a laser into my brain.
And I can’t speak about action mattering without telling you what the organizer Chris Guillebeau did at the very end of the conference. He started by thanking all of the volunteers and speakers for their effort, and emphasized that none of them were paid for their efforts. (I’m thinking to myself, 1000 tickets, sold at $500 each, and NO ONE is getting $?). He goes on to tell us that he has made a conscious effort not to accept sponsorship, for fear of this turning into “Bud Light presents the World Domination Summit.” He then tells us that last year, they lost over $30,000 on the conference. Shocking. But this year they made about $10,000. And that he was also contacted by a WDS 2011 attendee who wanted to anonymously donate and fund part of the conference. Good for them, right? It gets better.
He explains that they did a little math, and discovered that the profit from the conference, and the anonymous donation works out to about $100 per attendee. You see where this is going, right? Chris explains that as we leave the conference, we’ll each be handed an envelope, with a $100 bill inside. Seriously. We are instructed to do whatever we want with the money – fund a project, give to charity, whatever. He just requests that we report back on what we did. Totally crazy-pants, Oprah moment. Who gives the profit from their conference back to the attendees? No one else I know.
I haven’t figured out what I’m doing yet, but am open to hearing any ideas! Seeing someone really act on their values, like Chris did, is really quite the thing to see. And it compels me to do something with the $100 that will multiply that money’s impact in some way. Still pondering, but I have some time.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the conference ( yes, yes, there is MORE) feel free to drop me a line and we’ll grab lunch. Or coffee. Or a cocktail.