While Brene Brown was a personal highlight, setting the perfect tone for the weekend, she was followed by one fantastic speaker after another who shared their thoughts and worldview about how we can live an unconventional life in a conventional world. Below is a short synopsis of each of the 7 other main stage speakers that all spoke to the conference theme of “how do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?”. It has been two weeks since WDS and in many ways I am still riding the high from the weekend. I have had the chance to wrestle with, digest and share the ideas that had the most impact on me. I have been working to implement the lessons learned into my daily life, though only time will tell if I am as successful as I hope to be at this. I will conclude with one more post details the weekend in Portland, the breakout sessions I attended as well as a few group conversations on stage as well as the “big reveal” at the end by Chris.
Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity:Water followed with a moving conversation about his evolution from a night club promoter to founder of one of the most successful charities in the world. Charity: Water is a charity for the modern world, far better matching the expectations of the internet generation than more traditional charities. Charity:Water is able to show people exactly where their money goes, matching GPS coordinates and photos of sites in Africa to specific donations.
Susan Cain and Jonathan Fields spoke on the rise of introverts, how both extraverts and introverts bring different strengths to the table. Over half of the audience identified themselves as introverts, making this a highly relevant topic to the crowd. Their biggest point is that creativity usually benefits from introversion, that when brainstorming individually more ideas make it out than collective brainstorming since in a group we usually defer to the extraverts, those that are loudest and most committed to their position. The fear of a negative reaction leads to bias, and the suppression of ideas.
Scott Belsky, creator of Behance began the call to action. His company works to help move from the point of conception, the point where there is the most excitement for an idea to the point of creation. Too often in our lives the urgent gets in the way of the important requiring accountability and leadership. As you work through your workflow it is necessary to create windows of non-stimulation where you can work on long term things. The most creative person without organization will not be able to turn their amazing ideas into reality. It is necessary to take a step back in the creativity department to spend some time on organization in order to see the ideas through to fruition. We each fall into one of three categories, the doers, the dreamers and incrementalists. While working through an idea you should decide what are the sacred extremes, what cannot be compromised on. With everything else, you should be willing to make some compromises in order to keep those sacred extremes intact. Doubt is a natural component of the creative process. Gaining confidence from this doubt is a reminder that the extraordinary is not achieved through regular means.
Day 2 was started off by the prolific blogger Chris Brogan who urged each of us to summon our inner superpower, to live our lives like superheroes do. Superheroes are often loaded with fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear, but its partner. The opposite of fear is surrender, giving up. Echoing Brene’s talk, Chris reminded us that the more willing to look dumb we are, the better we end up looking, that there is no shame in vulnerability.
One of the most important and at the same time most difficult things to do is to learn to untangle, to remove yourself from someone else’s narrative. We all are in pursuit of praise, of acknowledgement that what we are doing fits into someone else’s narrative of a job well done. If you are not willing to accept criticism there is no way that you can accept praise. While learning to untangle, remember that there are no shortcuts to success, that it is a difficult path since people are passionate about their thing, not yours.
Cal Newport was the alternate message of the conference, the voice that said following your passion may not be enough. Instead, Cal suggested that there is no way to figure out your passion in the abstract without first working at something. The longer you do something the more likely it will be viewed as passion. Our threshold for passion is lower than we think. If we are doing something that is interesting, that may be all that we need for a remarkable life.
JD Roth, the founder of the massively popular Get Rich Slowly was the last speaker of the weekend. His talk centered around the idea of personal reinvention, something that he has done in his personal life, his financial life as well as going through a physical transformation. Part of transformation is taking on the challenge. The first step to this is to say yes, to take the lessons of improv. When ordering your life you have the big things (rocks) and the little things (sand). If you prioritize the sand before the rocks not everything will fit in, there will always be more little things that can be done. If you, however, prioritize the rocks, the sand will fill in around the rocks, leaving room and time for both. At the end of the day, action is the key to change. The things that we do are our priorities.
The themes and advice that I took from each of these speakers will continue to percolate. I have been blown away by how frequently I have been able to reference something from each of these talks in the last few weeks. The power of this message, the power of the conference is something that we all need to hear and live by more frequently than we do. Go out and live a remarkable life, travel down the path less taken since the conventional world is just that, conventional. We, we are not conventional. We are remarkable and each one of us can put our own stamp on the world.