Chris Guillebeau created The World Domination Summit in 2011 to bring people together around the shared values of community, adventure, and service. This year’s (un)conference was the second annual, held in various locations around the city of Portland, OR. The theme of the conference was the following question:
“How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world”
And today I want to share the 15 best answers I found to this question from an incredible weekend spent with awesome people.
1. Be constantly vulnerable
Brene Brown drove home the point loud and clear that being vulnerable is a very good thing. In fact, it is the only way we can live an authentic life in which we truly impact others. Convention tells us to conform, become complacent, and adjust our actions to meet the image others have created for us.
Brene says no to those false ideas. Instead, “Who you are will always trump who you think people want you to be.” In opening the conference, Brene spoke of Conference Anqiety Syndrome, making several points that apply wholly to living a remarkable life.
First, we have to realize that “cool is about self-protection.” Next time I catch myself being cool, I need to remember that vulnerability trumps cool.
Second, we have to remind ourselves that “no one belongs here more than me.” Whether here applies to WDS, a great opportunity at work, traveling around the world, or anything else, I have to remember that I am there for a reason. Only then can I make my maximum contribution.
Finally, “Your experience here cannot exceed your willingness to be vulnerable.” How true that was at WDS and how true it is for my future endeavors. Authentic connection with others only comes from true vulnerability. New friendships, family relationships, deep conversations, and new projects all come more naturally from a place of vulnerability.
I have to remember that if I put myself out there and fail or receive rejection in return, I have done my best. I have been in the arena and until others have been their too, their criticism cannot move me.
To live a remarkable life, I must continue to push myself to be vulnerable.
2. It is never too late to make a come back
Scott Harrison taught me that to live a remarkable life we must never give up on ourselves, but instead realize that it is never too later to make a comeback. Scott was a night club promoter in NYC with “every vice possible” before he woke up one day and decided to make a change.
He went from drinking, drugging, womanizing, and spending to serving, feeling, growing, and connecting. He went from club promoter to charity founder. He went from morally broke to founding one of the most inspirational and innovative charities known to man: Charity:Water.
In so many ways, Scott’s early story reminded me of my own. Raised in a good family. Smart, Christian kid. Grew up to rebel for no particular reason. Drinking, drugs, sex. Until one day I was forced to make a change or live a life of insignificance. I am still very much in the building phase, but Scott’s story shows me that a remarkable life is well within my reach.
Never give up on yourself. No matter what exists in your past, there is always a greater future to be had if you will allow yourself to dream. Those are the words my heart interpreted from Scott Harrison’s talk.
You are worthy; you are remarkable. It is never too late to make a come back.
3. Understand who you are
Susan Cain and Jonathan Fields reminded me that knowing thyself is such an important characteristic for having an impact in the world. Susan is an introvert and proud of it. As she spoke I had this intense realization that although I have always been pegged as an extrovert, I really lie closer to the neutral line in between introversion and extroversion. In fact, if anything, I lean to the introvert side of things until I get to know someone, at which point I can settle in and really share myself.
The point made here is that we can always learn something new about ourselves. We never know everything. We never know every little corner of our souls, but we can always work towards ever-greater self-knowledge.
By understanding who I am, I can better understand how to interact with others to create the greatest impact in the world. People who know themselves and actively design their lives around that knowledge can lead remarkable lives no matter what convention is telling us.
4. Seek adventure
Adventure is one of the shared values of those that choose to attend WDS, and Jodi Ettenberg embodied that value to a great degree. I learned from Jodi that adventure gives us a peek into our own souls, as well as the souls of others. It allows us to catch authentic glimpses of people, cultures, and locales.
Jodi seeks adventure by traveling the world and experiencing food to connect with people. She has learned many ways to eat safe, but authentic in any city and she used our breakout session to pass that knowledge along… To make adventure more accessible to each of us.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~Mark Twain
To live a remarkable life, I must seek adventure.
5. Kill good ideas in favor of chasing great ideas
David Fugate, founder of Launch Books Literary Agency, was the first to make this point this weekend during his “Book Concepts that Sell” workshop. And then immediately afterwards, Scott Belsky (read more under #6) reiterated the point.
Both men offered great insight. For creative types, coming up with ideas is not the problem. The problem is actually two fold with the first part being that we can often have TOO MANY ideas. The solution is to develop the ability and capacity to kill the good ideas in favor of pursuing the great ideas.
Good ideas lead to a good life. But great ideas lead to a remarkable life. To live a remarkable life, I must always remember to kill the good ideas so that I can spend my energy chasing the great ideas.
6. Take action consistently
Scott Belsky is the author of Making Ideas Happen and he presented the second half of the two fold problem I mentioned above. When we have many ideas (both good and great), we often end up taking action on none of them.
Scott shared an equation that will lead to living a remarkable life by taking consistent and definitive action:
Making Ideas Happen
(Creativity & Ideas + Organization & Execution + Communal Forces + Leadership Capability)
This led to another great moment of evaluation for me. I am great at coming up with ideas and getting them started in the moment of excitement. But then my energy often tapers off and I repeat the process to renew my energy. Scott calls this habit ‘incrementalism’.
But if you look back at those we admire for having lived remarkable lives, they were not incrementalists. Neither were they just creative thinkers with lots of ideas. Instead, they executed on their ideas by combining creativity, execution, community, and leadership.
To live a remarkable life, I must push myself to take consistent action and finish projects. 1 finished project will have infinitely more impact than 100 unfinished projects. Period.
7. Develop unique superpowers to do good
Chris Brogan is a comic nerd through and through. He was vulnerable in front of a crowd of 1,000 and I loved it. And in the process he reiterated Brene Brown’s message while adding that we have to develop our superpowers to do good.
Chris used some of our favorite superheroes to describe potential superpowers… things like synthesis, empathy, tenacity, and rage. He challenged us to name our superpower and then to test it, fail, and gain confidence from the experience.
By honing our superpowers in this way over time, we will gain the ability to do immense good in the world. In the process, we have to remember that no matter how weird we are, or how unique our superpower may be, it is needed in the world. Therefore, “the weirder you get, the more you will succeed.”
I must develop my unique superpowers by exercising them, learning about their capacity, failing, and gaining confidence. Only then can I use my superpowers to do good and live a remarkable life.
8. Commit to serving others
Service is yet another of the shared WDS values. Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott taught me that so much can be learned in the service of others. They have been traveling the world for over five years in the name of serving others.
They taught me that an unheard voice can be made loud and clear through service. They taught me that there is more to every story than what we may see on the surface. And they taught me that only through service to others can we truly experience the world and make deep connections.
To live a remarkable life I must always remember to commit to serving others in all that I do.
9. Leverage your skills and interests to create passion
Cal Newport taught me that many interests can be molded into a passion, a life’s work, or a calling. I didn’t always agree with everything that Cal had to say, as I tend to lean a bit more towards the fact that there is purpose in what we do and any old interest may not spark our sense of purpose over time.
But, Cal’s message did resonate with me in that developing expertise is such an important part of becoming truly passionate about a given interest. The question I encourage my coaching clients to ask themselves is this: which of my interests do I care enough about to become an expert?
When we care enough to pursue an interest until we have developed true expertise and a valuable skillset, we both become more valuable as a contributor and more passionate as a person. Passion contributors live remarkable lives.
To live a remarkable life I will have to become ever more passionate by developing expertise and skills.
10. Tell a great story
One of my close friends gave a wonderful graduation speech in which he said “Tell a great story with your life.” Sarak Peck reiterated that message in her workshop on crafting narratives.
Sarah taught me that crafting narratives and telling great stories is a way of connecting with others. Stories bind us emotionally, communicate our vision, and share our lessons with others. At the end of the day we all have stories, but to live a remarkable life we must create and tell a remarkable story.
That story cannot always be planned. It cannot be controlled. It can only be communicated as is unfolds. It can be shared passionately, as with Scott Harrison. It can be used to interweave with the stories of others. It can be used to inspire. But for it to do all of those things, we must first create it, and then share it.
To live a remarkable life, I must tell a great story with my life.
11. Build a community of support
The third and final shared value of WDSers is community. The value of community in remarkable lives repeatedly made itself clear throughout the weekend. In particular, Corbett Barr’s workshop on instant idea evaluation showed the immense value of a community of support.
Corbett’s session was like a massive mastermind session, and the value of the feedback reminded me that I must build a community of support in order to live a remarkable life. We need feedback, we need constructive criticism, and when we hit the troughs of energy we need support. Building a community provides for all of these things.
Corbett reminded me that I need a mastermind group (which I’m hopefully forming with a couple of fellow attendees). He taught me the value of open, honest feedback.
To live a remarkable life I must build a community of support that will help me and support me.
12. Keep your eyes on your own paper
I learned so much from the attendee stories that we heard on Sunday, but a common theme was keeping my eyes on my own paper. It can be so easy to look at what others are doing and want to do the same. It can be easy to envy and covet and imitate.
But what makes a life remarkable is its uniqueness. Imitators are not heralded for their remarkable copying. We should be inspired by others but “don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside.” A remarkable life comes from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. It comes from establishing our mission and getting after it.
To live an authentically remarkable life, I have to keep my eyes on my own paper.
13. Transform yourself to transform the world
J.D. Roth is an incredible man with an incredible story of profound personal transformation. J.D. taught me the value of transforming oneself. He reminded me to concentrate on changing myself in order to inspire others to change as well.
J.D. reminded me that focusing on what others should do will not make me better and it is not the way to transform the world. Instead, I should work every day and every month and every year to become a better version of myself. This time next year, as I board the plane to Portland for #WDS2013, I hope to have transformed myself to become a better person.
I can only transform the world by first transforming myself. To live a remarkable life I must embrace and pursue constant personal transformation.
14. Courageously invest in others
Chris Guillebeau has taught me so much through The Art of Non-Conformity (book and blog), The Empire Building Kit, and The $100 Startup… But never has he taught me so much as he did at WDS.
Chris showed me that living a remarkable life means courageously investing in others. It means trusting and empowering those around you to do remarkable things themselves. It means ignoring the trolls and naysayers and critics in favor of supporting the change agents and problem solvers and doers of good.
Chris has made himself vulnerable in countless ways in order to invest in me. He has neglected his natural introversion to stand on stage repeatedly in front of 1,000 people. He has shared his journey liberally with his followers, even when receiving criticism from others. And all the while he has asked for NOTHING in return.
I know that to live a remarkable life I must courageously invest in others.
15. $100 is All it Takes
Chris has also taught me the value of $100. It stated a couple of months ago when I received an advance copy of $100 Startup. It continued when I attended his Atlanta book signing and met him in person for the first time. Through all of this he showed that a meaningful, impactful business can sprout from $100 or less.
But then Chris did something entirely unexpected at the end of the day Sunday. He made the most courageous investment of all in all 1,000 attendees.
He created his own parable of the prodigal son and will be tracking the results over the next year. Combining this year’s profits with an anonymous WDS donation from a 2011 attendee, Chris dispensed $100,000 to the 2012 attendees.
He showed absolute trust and confidence in our ability to do good with the money. He showed a willingness to be absolutely vulnerable in handing out CASH to 1,000 people, many of whom he does not know deeply. Why?
Because he knows we share values of community, adventure, and service. Because he trusted that we would each walk away and willingly bear the burden of responsibility that comes with such a generous gift. And because he wants to see what happens when you empower a group of change-makers with the tools to make it happen.
To live a remarkable life, $100 is all it takes.
(To learn more about WDS and to sign up to receive notifications about #WDS2013, check out http://worlddominationsummit.com )
Photo: World Domination Summit 2012 by Armosa Studios on Flickr
Become a more courageous and generous leader
Get every new essay on making a positive impact in the world as it's published.