Sometimes you know you’re having a life changing experience as it occurs in real time
This past week was one of those experiences for me.
Nicole (my girlfriend) and I landed in Portland, OR on July 2nd for the 3rd annual World Domination Summit, hosted by Chris Guillebeau and his inspiring team. Chris’s vision for the event led to a 2,800 person gathering of amazing people from all over the world (at least 33 countries) this year.
I wrote about my first experience at World Domination Summit last year, which was a truly transformative experience for me. As I write this, I’m 35,000 feet in the air and looking back at some of the most meaningful lessons I’ve taken away from this week’s speakers, attendees, and experience. It’s not hard to realize that this year at WDS was equally transformative, but in different ways.
The lessons learned came in the form of small moments that have made a big impact on my thought process. While this is largely a reflection on some of the key personal lessons I’ve taken away, I think they apply equally well to others who didn’t attend the conference. So here goes nothin’…
The Battle for Creative Thinking
In his talk and incredible slides, Chase built a compelling link between the quest for widespread creativity and solutions to our most pressing problems in the world today. I’ve always believed in this approach, and his ability to connect creative education to real world solutions was an incredible inspiration. Chase showed that widespread creativity in our children, friends, and families just might be the path to creating a better world.
The takeaway for me is that it’s not unreasonable to link my work on creative career strategies for aspiring world changers to the very real issues we face as a global population. Chase’s approach reminded me of how important that perspective is, and I believe if we can all take a similar approach, we’ll pleasantly surprise ourselves with the positive impact we make in the world.
Take some time to foster your own sense of creativity. Take a picture a day. Write 250 words every morning. Paint something once a month. Create a plan to solve an interesting problem. Do something to become more creative. We need you.
How to Brag Well
This weekend I learned how to brag. I bragged about amazing photography, incredible video production, and world-changing writing. I bragged about blogs and projects and ideas.
The idea hit me as I watched Andrew Warner interview Chris Guillebeau on Saturday afternoon. Every time Andrew asked Chris about an accomplishment, Chris deflected by giving credit to the people he works with and believes in.
That reminded me that great leaders give credit and take blame. For the rest of the weekend when I was introduced in a group, I introduced my friends and then bragged on them. They’re incredible people and too humble to brag on themselves, but I wanted to help spread their message so I stepped up.
My findings: it’s much more fun to brag on other people than it is to brag on yourself. Try it, I think you’ll like it.
The Three Questions
Donald Miller is a five time New York Times Best selling author, and everything about his main stage on the three questions we should ask to tell a great story with our lives showed me exactly why he’s so popular.
With a ton of spunk and a list of three questions, he showed exactly how we can create the lives we imagine in a world that might otherwise hold us back. Here are the three questions Donald says we need answers to:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
- What happened when you went for it?
I realized that I’ve focused so much of my work at Living for Monday on the first two questions. I’ve tried to help each of you understand yourselves more fully and even work on understanding what you want. I’ve done the same in my own life, with a loosely held idea of what I want from my life.
Donald showed me that I’m holding back. I’m not taking the big actions, calculated risks, and sometimes I project an identity that’s based the fear of disappointing rather than creating a remarkable life. That’s about to change. I hope you’ll join me in the journey to turn an imagined “what happened when you went for it” into your real life.
3,000 Flute Toast
Chris Guillebeau is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup, two incredible books, as well as the founder of World Domination Summit. The guy is an absolute inspiration and he is an incredible embodiment of the mission and values of the event.
The mission of World Domination Summit is entirely oriented around the answer to one key question: “How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” and he has done a standup job of going hard at finding the answer.
In addition, Chris is a pro at communicating the values of the summit, which are Community, Adventure, and Service. Every story told, every speaker invited, and every experience planned embodies these three values.
Chris has shown me what is possible through mission-driven activities and values-based leadership. I’ve always believed in both, but he has proven to me that it’s just the right way to do things. That’s why it was no surprise to me when Chris received a 3,000 flute toast and a deserving standing ovation to close out the main stage talks on Sunday.
So what mission and values will you spread through the world?
Self Doubt and Productive Questioning
On Sunday, as we were walking from the last session of main stage speakers to get ready for the closing party, I had an intense sense of longing and loss.
I’ve reached a crossroads in my own career. While I had been inspired by the speakers and attendees, I also called into question all that I have done and have yet to do. I questioned myself, Living for Monday, and everything in between.
What I realized is that it’s all part of the journey. Even as I test and revise creative career strategies, I continue to grow in my own personal and professional life. That means I need mentors, great friends, and strong community to help me achieve my goals and find the answers to Donald’s three questions.
I don’t think I’m unique in that quest. I believe we all need the right people in our lives to help us push through self doubt to get where we’re going. Which brings me to my next point.
Dancing in Suede Shoes
Sunday night was one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire conference. After 2.5 days of nonstop inspiration, everyone put on their dancing shoes and gathered in the central outdoor square in downtown Portland.
DJ Prashant put on one hell of a show as he taught us to dance like Bollywood fools and enjoy the moment. I’ll be the first to admit that last year I sat the dancing out. I was intimidated and scared to let loose, which I went on to regret when we left town.
This year I refused to leave with the same regret, so I chugged a glass of Oregon red wine, laced up my suede shoes, and went for the dance floor. Two hours later, my cheeks hurt from laughter, my legs were exhausted from dancing, and I smelled like I had just played a game of softball in the middle of July.
But you know what? I loved every minute of it. So, find your suede shoes, put aside the fear of looking silly, and have fun. Otherwise one day you’ll wake up and realize just how much you wish you had danced. That I believe.
Running and Failing
I heard two things related to failure and running away that I’m still working through in my own head. That leads me to believe they’re worth sharing.
The first was a comment from a friend who said he once heard that entrepreneurs are more often running from something rather than running to something. As in, they start a business to help them get away from something in their past.
That resonated in a big way, as my past is full of snafus and bozo moves. Sometimes I feel that I’m running from my arrest story and being a big jerk for too long in my late teens / early 20s. In some ways, my work is oriented towards leaving a legacy other than that troubled period of time in my life.
I thought on this for 24 hours before hearing Donald Miller speak. During his main stage talk, he mentioned a line that hit home even harder than the running away theory. He said, “We are not our failures.”
Wow. That was profound. If we are not our failures (he also said we are not our successes), then what are we? Well, we are simply characters taking action. Hopefully those actions add up to small, positive changes in the lives of others. And hopefully at the end of our lives we can look back and see how each small change built up into one remarkable life over time.
So I share with you now: you are not your failures. Neither are you your successes. As Donald put it, “Great stories happen when characters take action.” Go, take action.
Last year I came to WDS largely as a fan of so many people. I was a fan of Chris, Corbett, Scott, Steve, Pat, and so many more. It was like a dream come true as I met the people that had inspired me to create my own career and began building personal connections with them.
This year, I felt I made a transition at WDS. I’ve become incredibly close with a small group of incredible people through weekly mastermind calls. Those people have become some of my best friends, which means they eagerly introduced me to many other inspiring people this week.
As I met a whole host of these people, I felt a growing sense of community around me. I was no longer a fan, but rather a friend, to so many people I admire and look up to. That was an important realization, which Caleb summed up well. He said, “Surrounding yourself with awesome people is the best way to grow individually and as an entrepeneur.”
In the year ahead leading up to WDS2014, I plan to work very hard to surround myself with even more incredible people. I want to find mentors who have been where I want to go, and I want to solidify relationships with the people I know will push me to reach my full potential. I want community.
Big Ideas for the Future
I couldn’t sleep last night. It was one of those nights. Ideas were flowing as I contemplated what it meant to be returning to Atlanta. I got out of bed and wrote down the twelve projects I want to make happen in the year ahead to create the story I want to tell with my life.
I won’t share now, because I’ve learned that sharing ideas before there’s a plan of action and real results is a bad practice. But do trust me that there will be no more of me being careful. There will be no more of limiting beliefs and taking small steps to avoid failure.
World Domination Summit 2013 reminded me of something: I have one chance to live a remarkable life in a conventional world. And it’s going to feel pretty damn good to start telling a great story.
Photo: World Domination Summit 2013 – Portland, OR by Armosa Studios on Flickr