You only need one thing to connect people.
3,000 people came to Portland, Oregon because we had one connection, Chris Guillebeau. We were entrepreneurs, artists, authors, moms, dads, unmarried, non-profit and for profit, gay, straight, rich, not as rich, young and old. We came together and got along beautifully because we had one thing in common, Chris. You were pre qualified if you were at World Domination Summit because you followed Chris’ writing and goal of designing a life instead of accepting the one the world gives you. You only need one thing to connect people and if that one thing is strong enough you can have a tremendous amount of diversity and still make beautiful experiences together.
A clear leader but it’s not about him
This was not a conference about Chris Guillebeau. This wasn’t about his business or his products or his world travels. He brought us together and then got out of the way. I believe every great movement needs a clear leader but that same movement needs to be about more than the leader. As a Christian I live this out every day. Jesus doesn’t live here anymore and He was clear that His message should go forth through His followers. I’ll be the first to admit we don’t do a great job of communicating His message to the world sometimes but the true measure of a leader is the power of his message when he’s not on the stage. Chris wasn’t there to pontificate and educate us. He just hosted the party and invited the right people. WDS is not about Chris Guillebeau, it just happens to be held in his town.
Risk taking in a healthy community is rewarded and never punished
I don’t dance and neither does my friend Todd, but we danced for over an hour at the closing party. We weren’t dancing with anyone, we were just dancing. We had the time of our lives because we knew we could take a risk and experience the reward. If we failed (by dancing poorly or making fools of ourselves) there was no punishment. This community didn’t take risks that could hurt others. This community took risks that destroyed the ego, the what-if and the fear that lives inside of all of us, keeping us from living a full life.
There are rules
- No self-promotion unless we ask how we can help you
- Respect each other
- Listen carefully
- Encourage and cheer when the soul is exposed
Some of these rules were spoken and others weren’t. When 99.9% of a community is doing something it becomes a rule. People listened respectfully and they rewarded every person on the stage who was vulnerable. Whether it was the Christian author who spoke of his struggle with depression and too much whisky, the NPR veteran reporter who didn’t get the job of her dreams, the woman who wept while telling us a simple two minute story or the crazy guy who will sail around the world, authenticity and vulnerability were rewarded.
Diversity is required
When there is no diversity there is no beauty. I spoke with a yoga instructor for an hour about marriage, parenting and faith. I spoke with a man and his life partner about their restaurant winning new restaurant of the year and how they were paying their workers a livable wage and giving full benefits. I struggled to understand a man through his heavy accent as he told his story of wanting to see his poetry published. I love a blue sky but a rainbow beats it every time. (Tweet This) The diversity of experiences, perspectives and origins created a beautiful community. If we are all the same there’s not much to talk about.
There is beauty in weakness and unfulfilled dreams
Some of the speakers were midstream. Their story was not finished. They were in the gray. They were figuring it out. I liked those speakers the most. They were so human, vulnerable and honest. They were so brave to share their struggles with us. We are drawn to one another through our weaknesses much more than our strengths.
Development is applauded more than achievement
The WDS attendees were not impressed with Donald Miller because he’s sold millions of books. They were impressed with his authenticity and the way he spoke about his faith. We will remember and admire Tess Vigeland not because she got her dream job and then quit but because she reminded us that it’s hard to dream when we’re in our dream job. We’ll remember her unfinished story. We’ll remember Gretchen Rubin saying “Non of this is scientific” as she explained her theory on how different people build habits. She didn’t pretend to have it all figured out according to some expert. She said she made sense of it in her head and she was willing so share it with us. Jia Jiang spoke about his wife telling him to get back in the game of entrepreneurship. “I gave you six not four!” were her exact words. We don’t remember what came of his business. We remember that he grew by taking risks and confronting rejection. We applauded everyone who was humble enough to tell us they didn’t have it all figured out. We applauded growth more than arriving at conclusions. We collectively ran alongside our speakers as they shared their journeys and instead of asking, “How do I get to the finish line?” we listened to their stories in silence knowing our story would look different. We were collectively ok with the journey being the destination and were just happy to hear about the journey of our friends. Trying counts just as much as succeeding.
Encouragement is the default
There are places where there can be only one person at the top. At WDS the playing field is level and there are infinite resources available. It is a community that believes in abundance and lives it out by offering abundant amounts of encouragement even if you’re in the same field and could be seen as a competitor. Skepticism and comparison are the enemies of encouragement and they seemed rare at WDS. We encouraged one another and we genuinely believed in each other’s success.
Shared experiences make wacky, normal
My eyes opened wider and my smile broadened as I saw the crowd move in unison with the leader’s Bollywood moves. You would have looked strange if you weren’t dancing. Everyone was dancing and our coordinated experience created something beautiful. The wacky had become normal. When everyone is doing something weird or new together it is accepted, not rejected. The dance party in Pioneer Square or the collective standing ovation for Tess Vigeland were community decisions. We stood in unison and we danced in unison and we laughed in unison. We were on a ship going wherever the spirit of the event took us. We trusted each other and so we danced freely.
Room for serendipity
There were two times during the weekend that breakout sessions were scheduled. They were jam packed and just as many people were turned away as were actually able to attend. People were disappointed but no one asked for their money back or demanded a seat because we knew that WDS offered an orchard of serendipity trees, waiting for us to pull down a piece of fruit and take a bite. Every hello to a stranger became a new story and a new friend after ten minutes of conversation. We had most of the evenings to spend with each other and opening and closing parties were voice of programming and pregnant with opportunities to get to know other attendees. There was room for serendipity to happen so it happened.
Communication came in every size
WDS is not about talks from a stage. It’s about a collective experience made up of conversations, meals, dancing and collective chances to be silly. Great community doesn’t make everyone communicate in the same way. TED talks are wonderful but I can watch them on my computer. The conference was powerful because it afforded us the chance to listen in a crowd of 3,000, meet with new friends for a shared experience of a yoga class or photography tour or time to simply sit in a hammock by ourselves.
Everyone gets more than they expected
Meeting my expectations is nice but exceeding them makes me a raving fan. WDS made me raving fan of the conference and the community. That was a collective comment I heard from others. Their expectations were exceeded. They got more than they paid for. It was not an even exchange. That’s great community. That’s a powerful movement.
Wealth is not the hero or the measurement
There were millionaires at this conference but they weren’t the heroes. They weren’t despised either. The wealth that was on display at WDS could be seen in the smiles, the conversations, the connections, the trust, the mutual respect, the standing ovations, the tears shed in empathy. Money was talked about from stage and during conversations but wealth was not the hero of WDS and it wasn’t the measurement of who was qualified to speak or lead. Wealth was not disposed or discouraged. It had its place and its place was never at the top. We were wise enough to know that it is an empty goal. It is a number, not a finish line.
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