For the last four years, I’ve been going to Portland, Oregon at the beginning of July for an event called the World Domination Summit (WDS). The weekend event is designed around the values of “community, adventure, and service” and challenges attendees to live a remarkable life, even in light of our conventional world.
All jokes about domination and leather aside, the organizing principle is that individuals can make a difference in the world, and many of the people who gather in Portland each year for WDS do just that. It draws all kinds of interesting, creative types from travelers to entrepreneurs, artists, and authors from ~30 different countries.
It’s always an overstuffed weekend filled with great programming, incredible conversations, and meaningful insights, punctuated with all the best that Portland has to offer.
Below are some of my personal takeaways from WDS 2014:
WHEN TO SAY “YES!”
‘Yes!’ is my default answer. It’s the curious people-pleaser in me who always wants to go there and do that — whatever that might entail. At times, I’ve felt pressure to always say yes. People generally accept the idea that saying yes is the right answer, the right mindset to have, if you want to lead an interesting, remarkable life without too much thought.
A perfect example of this bias toward yes is a quote that a friend of mine (conveniently) posted on Facebook yesterday:
“Those who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.” ~ Keith Johnstone
That’s a little overly simplistic, if you ask me. Knee-jerk yeses don’t always pay off in adventure. They often just make you over-extended and exhausted. I’ve personally expended a lot of unfocused energy over the years. Before WDS, I’d come to the conclusion that, as a rule, my ‘Yes!’ needed some refining. Scott Berkun‘s speech left me with a poignant image and a new way to think about when to say “Yes!”
He shared a picture of Yoko Ono’s Ceiling Painting, the one that introduced her to John Lennon, where the canvas is secured to the ceiling with a magnifying glass hanging from it and positioned over a stepladder. Once you’ve climbed the ladder all the way to the top and looked through the magnifying glass at the canvas, you’re rewarded with just three tiny letters that spell YES.
“Yes!” is the right answer when the thing in question makes you feel a little uncomfortable or challenged or puts you outside your comfort zone, but it’s still clearly important to you. Those are the yeses that promise adventure.
JUST START ALREADY
Elise Blaha Cripe‘s speech reminded me that we learn by doing. We don’t need to have all the information. Actually, we can’t possibly have all the information until we try something. Once we try it, then we know more about it and ourselves. I’ve found myself thinking of this quote that Elise mentioned multiple times since her speech. This idea I can use.
“Now you know something about yourself.” ~ Amy Poehler
CHANGE CAN HAPPEN QUICKLY
Lately, I’ve been so focused on the types of goals that get accomplished little by little (like paying off law school loans) that I needed a reminder that big change can happen quickly too. Two speakers, Jadah Sellner and Gavin Aung Than, mentioned that their lives looked very different as little as 2 to 3 years ago. They had been working on other projects or in other jobs, and neither had launched their current very successful endeavor yet.
I’m reassured by the idea that my life could look completely different than it does today in as little as two to three years. That’s no time at all! (Even when life is good.)
A BETTER METAPHOR
Dee Williams, builder of tiny houses, let me with a better metaphor for accepting and entering into an unknown future. Typically, people use the phrase “Jump and the net will appear.” Dee used the words, “the path will reveal itself.” That clicked with me immediately. The difference may sound like semantics to you, but to me it’s much more. It’s a resourceful, build-it-yourself, with- a-little-luck kind of metaphor, much like Dee Williams herself.
“Jump and the net may appear,” could be setting you up for a colossal, hard fall, which may end up setting you back even further. I’m not interested in that, but I will happily trudge through fog and rain, over mountains and around bends to see (and let) the path reveal itself.
HOW ARE YOU DOING WITH WHAT YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
Michael Hyatt challenged us to answer some important questions and to consciously author the legacy of our lives, but the one that stuck with me most was his last all encompassing question… How are you doing with what you’ve been given?
I’ve always taken to heart the idea that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” but it’s been a long time since I’ve been asked that question. I couldn’t be more grateful for the life I’m able to lead and aware of the luxury and freedom it affords me. So this question still hangs heavily in the air, awaiting an answer… A better answer.
The lives we lead are our single most creative endeavor, and they’re worthy of our unconstrained attention.
The WDS challenge and community has enriched mine immensely for four years running.
P.S. — This year WDS and Portland were part of my summer vacation, along with a short trip to Maui, and I have plenty more to share from both!