Know how when you spend time in another country and then return home, you feel like no one understands what you went through?
And how it’s strange and semi-unbelievable that everything at home is exactly the same, when you’ve changed in big ways?
And how when anyone asks how it went, you don’t really know what to say because there’s no way you could possibly do it justice?
That’s how I feel after this weekend’s World Domination Summit.
I signed up for the conference (which sold out in minutes) because it seemed like a rare opportunity to connect with go-getters who have big ideas about how to live a remarkable life. Except this group — many of whom are fans of Chris Guillebeau, the conference organizer and one of my favorite bloggers — don’t just have ideas. They actually ACT on those ideas.
That’s why many of the conference’s 1,000 participants have
intimidating impressive accomplishments. They run successful online businesses. They’ve cultivated huge online followings. They’ve made the world a better place by giving back. And they’ve often managed to do all that while creating the kind of life they want to live (regardless of what society says they should do) and making a living on my own terms — which you know are my two favorite topics.
I figured it would be an inspiring group. What I didn’t expect was to be totally overwhelmed when I arrived. I had to step outside my comfort zone again and again to introduce myself to new people and, quite honestly, keep socializing all day when I would’ve felt far more comfortable chatting with a new friend one-on-one or retreating to my hotel room to read a book. I’d forgotten how challenging it can be to go to an event on your own when you don’t know anyone.
Being surrounded by those people, in an environment that’s totally supportive of living and working differently, was what made this weekend amazing. In fact, it made it emotional. Several times when the entire group gathered in a Portland theater to hear from speakers like J.D. Roth (creator of a popular personal finance blog who has made big changes in his own life), Brene Brown (wicked interesting researcher who talked about courage and vulnerability) and Scott Harrison (founder of charity: water, which I now want to get involved with), I had tears in my eyes. Real tears! The energy of this group had me feeling emotional about my work, mainly about how to better help YOU create the life you want to live.
So yeah, it was powerful. So much that I had to push myself to distill how I grew this weekend into a few takeaways to share with you:
1. Give back. And then give back MORE
I’ve always loved organizing projects that help others, like convincing my newsroom to adopt a few families over the holidays or working with generous blog readers to send Cameroonian kids to school. But since focusing full time on my business nearly a year ago, giving back has taken a back seat to creating awesome products, managing my team, working with clients and, quite frankly, earning a living.
WDS had me asking myself: How can I re-integrate giving back into my life?
One of the participants who was chosen to tell his story on the big stage explained how he was giving back to “where he started.” That seems like a smart place for all of us to start. If you’re not already giving back, how can you give back to where you started?
Speaking of giving back, one of the coolest things Chris Guillebeau did this weekend was give every attendee $100 to invest in a meaningful project or person. Yes, ALL $1,000 participants received a $100 bill. If it sounds insane, that’s because it IS. (I’m still figuring out the best way to invest my $100, so holler in the comments if you have ideas.)
2. To do good work, you have to be good to YOURSELF
I tend to think of my health as separate from the work I produce. Going to the gym often feels like time I should be spending writing guest posts or creating tweets for clients. Eating at my desk distracts me from the monotony of answering email. But this weekend made me realize that my health affects my work, and my work can only be as good as my health.
Usually when I think about what to eat, I try to convince myself NOT to eat crap (for me, that’s chocolate and tortilla chips). But today, just a day after returning home, I find myself instead thinking about what I should eat, how to best nourish my body rather than how to deprive myself. It’s the glass-half-full version of healthy eating.
What can we feed our bodies that will help us be our best?
3. Go bigger
For a lot of grateful people, I think the Summit provided the kick they needed to get started on their passion project. I didn’t really need that because I’m already pursuing the work I want to do, already working toward my big goals. But here’s what the weekend did help me realize: I need to GO BIGGER.
With my courses, with my newsletter and with this blog, I need to GO BIGGER.
It’s easy to convince myself that my work is big enough, that I’ll never catch up to the Chris Brogans and Seth Godins and Chris Guillebeaus of the online world. What ideas do I have to offer that they haven’t already put out there?
But as Brene Brown pointed out during her talk, each of us deserves to be here just as much as anyone else. It might feel intimidating to sell guides and provide information in a crowded online space, but I deserve to be here — and to succeed — just as much as any of the big names. So maybe I’m not putting myself out there as much as I should be. Maybe I’m not going at this full force (yet). Maybe I need to GO BIGGER.
Part of going bigger will likely be a re-branding of this site in the near future. Too many new friends at WDS assumed I was a travel blogger, and that’s no longer my niche. This blog is about lifestyle design for go-getters. And while that includes fitting travel and adventure into our lives, the bigger theme is getting where you want to be, both in your life and in your career.
Should YOU be going bigger, too?
Want to read more about the Summit? Here are posts from Chris Brogan (about 1,000 true fans), C.C. Chapman, Mike Vardy (about the first time he cried at a conference), Ken Solin, plus a few more compiled by Eugene Buchko.
UPDATE: Chris Guillebeau also posted links to more than a dozen (chill-inducing) reflections.