This weekend I attended my first ever WDS (World Domination Summit), put on by Chris Guillebeau of the Art of Non-Conformity. A lot of the lifestyle values and career goals of the group (total freedom from office hours, self-employment, personal fulfillment, making a meaningful contribution, adventure and travel, deep and meaningful relationship, self-exploration) have guided my life since I was young – and as I watched Chris G’s community grow and coalesce, I knew I had to come and meet them.
As an “early adapter” (I’ve been self-employed and living overseas since I was about 18) I was happy to meet new people, and share their passions and projects, but didn’t expect to learn as much as I did.
I discovered, through a series of powerful presenters and workshops, that I could be living my life on a much grander scale, and there were well-tested techniques to doing so that I’d never considered before.
Here are some of the most valuable tips I got from the conference. There were many more speakers, but I’ve just chosen the ones that influenced me the most.
1) How to tell your story in mythic archetypes.
(Donald Miller, storylineblog.com)
Something I noticed over and over at WDS 2013 was that the speakers each had a life story that followed classic literature:
Act I – The Ordinary Life
Act II – A Dramatic Shift, A Turning Point, A Point of No Return
Act III – The Fallout and eventual Resolution, Where the Hero Learns Self-Confidence and New Found Powers.
When Donald Miller came on stage, I realized this wasn’t accidental: Donald is a life and memoir-writing coach. He has a coursebook and runs workshops to teach people how to frame their own narrative to make it a compelling and powerful story.
If you want your life to be inspiring, it needs to be framed in a way that connects with people – and this basic storyline has been successful for thousands of years. Be the hero of your life.
To begin your story, ask yourself, “Who are you, what do you want, what is the first step?”
To reframe your life story into the archetype, ask, “Who are you, What do you Want, and What Happened When you Went for it?”
The story revolves around powerful and courageous action – so there needs to be a leap of faith that involves a lot of risk.
If you’ve not yet taken committed, no-turning-back action towards your goal, you need to do it. Whether or not you succeed, it will let you create a more powerful life story.
2) If you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t trying hard enough.
(Jia Jiang, rejectiontherapy.com)
Jia Jiang is an entrepreneur from China who dared to chase his dream and was crushed when a big business venture fell through. He took it personally. It ruined him. He decided he needed to toughen up, so after searching around online, he discovered “Rejection Therapy” – which is about asking people for strange things with the aim to be rejected as much as possible.
But for some reason, when Jia went around with his crazy demands (asking strangers if he could play soccer in their backyard, asking a pilot if he could fly his plane) a lot of people said “Yes!” He was able to have and record some incredible experiences.
The main lesson I learned from Jia is always ask. Ask for anything and everything you want. Never fear rejection, embarrassment, awkwardness (you’ll still feel them, but don’t let them stop you). This lesson was amplified by the things I heard from other speakers, amazing accounts of success always grounded in perseverance and tenacity.
Asking once isn’t even enough – if you are met with rejection, it only means that you didn’t sell it well enough to that particular resource. Repackage, edit, and reformat. Create a better hook. Keep sending emails, letters, gifts. Make them notice you, and keep asking until they say yes.
(Small tip: ask for what you want, then after they say no, “I understand, but I thought I could ask anyway because this is really important to me.” Let the uncomfortable silence grow. Look them in the eyes. Let them think it over. Many times, they’ll break first and make an exception).
A related tip, which I’m not sure I can link to a specific speaker, is this:
Don’t ask for permission.
This skips right over the ‘asking’ altogether.
Find out what you want and make it happen. Don’t be passive. Don’t wait for an interview and let them mull you over. People may not be ready for your bold ideas, so their first response may be “No” because they’ve never done it before. Do the planning for them. Show them how it could work. Show them that you’re prepared and you can really pull it off. Take the responsibility on your own shoulders and make their decision easier.
(A brilliant example from Chris G. himself came the last day – he had intended to give us all champagne in Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Hall… they told him he couldn’t. It was illegal. He’d get in trouble. “How MUCH trouble?” he asked – he may have been willing to pay the fine, spend a night in jail, pay the consequence for what he wanted to make it happen, rather than just give it up. Ultimately though, he couldn’t risk his staff of volunteers also getting into trouble so we settled for apple cider.)
3) How to write a speech that resonates with people.
(Nancy Duarte, duarte.com)
Nancy was one of my favorite speakers. She taught me that great speeches follow a very specific pattern. In any presentation, connecting with the reader and creating resonance is critical, but also achievable by structuring your information in the right way.
Similar to the mythic archetype, a good “story” should
- Focus on 1 big idea
- Show what’s at stake
- Lead to the transformation of hero
But further than that, the most effective speeches go back and forth between
what is and what could be…
what is and what could be…
ending finally in “the new bliss.”
It’s important to take common phrases and symbols from popular culture and to use them, to refer to famous passages and texts, to incorporate things the audience already has some attachment to. It’s important to repeat these phrases, throughout the speech (just like the majority of country music songs – where a few critical words get repeated throughout, but with slightly altered meaning each time).
I’m no expert speech crafter. In fact although I’m comfortable on stage, I never felt confident speaking, mostly, I realize now, because I haven’t been telling a story with resonance.
The implications of Nancy’s findings are many for me: instead of trying to write a powerful “about me” page, or sales page, or fundraising campaign, I can think about any aspect of my life that I want to grow and bring people into as a speech challenge: I can write these things as a powerful, moving speech that resonates with people.
I’ve known this was important, I just didn’t have a clear guide on how to do it.
4) Start now, help 1 person a day solve a problem
(Darren Rowse, problogger.net)
Like any budding blogger, I’ve followed Darren Rowse’s problogger for years as the go-to site for building my blog, writing valuable content and connecting with readers. Hearing him speak in person, recounting very personal aspects of his biography, was motivating and encouraging for me – mostly because it allows me to see someone who’s become very successful who got there one day at a time, without really specific plans. Things kind of just happened. Darren pursued his hobbies, built platforms to help other people solve small problems, and grew alongside his businesses. The tip that resonated with me most personally was to just start now, and help one person a day with one specific problem.
If you can help one person solve the small issue/problem that they’re stuck with, you’ll be helping hundreds more with the same issue, and become indispensably valuable.
5) Form a fellowship.
JD and Leo teamed up to present a workshop on confidence and courage (meant to be interactive, but the room was packed well past capacity and they had to improvise a little). Despite their main objective, the takeaway tip I got from their talk was to form a fellowship. Maybe this is just something I was learning in general from WDS which they helped me put into words.
Heroes don’t do big things on their own. Frodo wouldn’t have made it to Mordor without the Fellowship of the Ring.
They need guidance, teachers, coaches, friends, supporters, and help. They need people who “complete them” – who have skills and resources that they lack. Nobody can do everything, but partnering up with others to make an effective team can have incredible results (a lesson not only gained from WDS’ core community of organizers and speakers, but something I noticed many times throughout the weekend: successful people had friends and alliances.)
6) It’s OK to fail big, and learn from your mistakes
(Andrew Warner, mixergy.com)
Even before Andrew got on stage, I’d been checking out his website Mixergy.com, and finding my eyes seriously opened. It’s probably because, although I have an entrepreneurial spirit, I haven’t been involved in an entrepreneurial community. I’m not used to thinking about starting huge companies worth millions of dollars. I’m not used to thinking about raising capital, taking huge risks, going bankrupt and starting over.
What I love about Andrew is his vulnerability and self-doubt; he admits to being afraid to talk to “important” people. He feels nervous. Inadequate. These are issues I connect with. Andrew started a very successful company, turned around and started another one, which crashed and burned.
He realized that he’d been overconfident, and didn’t ask for input on the second venture.
He decided that he really just needed to ask questions, be humble, listen and learn, so he started mixergy – a site devoted to in-depth interviews of other successful entrepreneurs. His interviews are pretty personal; I get to see the people behind the businesses, the terrific blunders and accidents that drove success or failure. It makes me realize and accept that there’s not much difference between these people and myself, except that they’re playing a much bigger game.
7) Creativity is new literacy.
(Chase Jarvis, www.creativelive.com)
Creativity is the #1 requirement for business leaders and new hires, but it gets stamped out by our crappy education system. Lack of creativity is metacrisis: if we had more, we could solve all other problems. Chase’s speech was long and fact-laden, but the topic was immense and important. Unfortunately I don’t see an easy way to make education free, although other countries do seem to be much more successful at it than America. For his part, Chase has started creativelive – a site where experts can offer live classes that anyone can attend for free. I’ve already taken advantage of some classes.
What I loved about Chase’s speech was the picture he painted of a future where everyone is creative – where creativity is nourished above data memorization and regurgitation. A future where creativity is sexy and valuable, and the majority of people are creative innovators.
8) Enthusiasm is contagious
I’ve organized events and camps before, but I always forget how incredible it feels to be around passionate and enthusiastic people. 3000 interesting people from all around the world, taking over the Portland Zoo, Pioneer Square, the Schnitzer Theatre? Way more impressive than I was ready for.
9) You need accountability and motivation to get things done.
I forget exactly where I picked this up, but I heard it over and over again. You need a program to stay on task. An incentive. Feedback. Somebody checking in and asking how it’s going. I’m a big believer in doing more with my life, and WDS 2013 really made me excited for what I can achieve, but it’s tough to stay motivated.
So I’m making it a personal goal to make over $100,000 this year (doubling my income, by finishing some books, products and business ideas that I’ve been working on for awhile.) If I can do it, I’ll give 10% ($10,000) to a charity at WDS 2014. Probably Charity Water, but I’ll be open to suggestions. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it is significant: more importantly the image of me on stage giving away money, having achieved my goals is much more likely to spur me towards action than simply thinking about numbers, which seem too abstract.
So that’s my bet to myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.