When Life Beats Out Business: A Reflection on #WDS2014

July 22, 2014

It always takes a few days to process the World Domination Summit. After being embedded in a community where strangers ask about your superpower and unconventional choices warrant a high five, it’s a bit of a shock to return to the Real World.

But while WDS is inspiring and life-changing, the Real World is where the action takes place. It’s after that awesome weekend that the real work — and real adventure — begins.

Why WDS felt different this year

If you haven’t heard of the World Domination Summit, it’s a conference for adventurers and non-conformists, many of whom have alternative careers and online businesses. Here are my accounts of #WDS2012 and #WDS2013.

For the last two years, the Summit has served as a place to strategize for my business. WDS was an opportunity to foster relationships that helped me succeed as an online entrepreneur, and made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my quest for an alternative career.

This year, though, I absorbed the conference differently. Rather than spending the weekend scheming on business, I found myself reflecting more on life.

Maybe it was because I spent the day before the conference accompanying my soon-to-be-husband to a specialist to determine whether he needed surgery on his cheekbones, which he fractured during a cycling crash the week before. Seeing the person you love in pain makes it pretty easy to identify the hierarchy of life over work.

Or maybe that shift spurned from sharing a hotel room with one of my closest friends, an IRL — or In Real Life — friend, as we say in the blogosphere. Jacci is one of my few IRL friends who also understands the online world and what it means to make a living there, so the weekend was as much about catching up with her as it was about dominating.

Then again, maybe business fell into the periphery because I’m pretty happy with my professional life, with where things are and where they’re going. The people who benefit most from WDS professionally seem to be those who are grappling with big questions, like whether to leave their day job, how to grow a business that will support them, and which path will lead them to fulfilling work. I’m always reevaluating the direction of my business, but at this moment, there aren’t any overwhelming question marks out ahead of me.

So those are all contributing factors. Yet when I really dig deep — because that’s what WDS pushes us all to do — I think the biggest reason I spent this year’s conference reflecting on life rather than business is because of where I am in my life-business cycle.

When business moves to the passenger seat

For the last few years, I’ve put a lot of energy into growing my business, both because that’s a requirement when you’re just getting started, and because I wanted to. But this year has been about planning a wedding, buying and moving into our new house, and spending time with my new nephew. I’ve worked plenty, too, between launching The Write Life bundle, managing high-quality (and often high-volume) blogs for our clients, and barreling on with ebooks and courses for this site. But unlike in years prior, my life has taken priority over my work.

I believe our personal and business lives move in cycles; sometimes we lean into one, while in other years the clouds part and we focus on the other. It’s pretty much impossible, especially if you’re also making room for your health and your friends, to go full-tilt on both business and life. Michael Hyatt said it right during his talk at #WDS2014: “You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.”

Even if you’re in a career-focused phase, you can’t attend WDS without reflecting on your life. Are you where you want to be? If you died tomorrow, would you be happy with your legacy? What’s the one brave decision you need to make today?

One brave decision (WDS)

I’d like to attribute this, but I grabbed it on Facebook and can’t remember where I got it from! This is Michael Hyatt inspiring us.

These are the questions speakers asked us all weekend, the questions we asked each other, the ones we looked deep inside ourselves to answer. In our daily lives, over-busy with texts and tweets and emails, we often forget to check in on these priorities. And when you forget to check in, it’s easy to steer off-course. It’s easy to find yourself living, as Hyatt called it, The Drifting Life, passively addressing whatever comes your way rather than actively making your life what you want it to be.

Yet Hyatt told us there’s also such a thing as The Driven Life, and this sparked my ah-ha moment for the weekend.

Those of us living The Driven Life aren’t passive. We’re the doers, the executors. We get things done. At WDS, attendees often ask each other, “What’s your superpower?” And I answer that my superpower is executing. I don’t waffle around dreaming up big ideas; I act on them.

But while I’d always thought of this as a strength, a characteristic that helps me succeed, Hyatt showed us that The Driven Life has a downside — a big one. Those of us living The Driven Life often get things done just to get things done. We feel a sense of accomplishment from checking off boxes, and so we accomplish one thing after the next after the next… without ever pausing to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. It’s like finally reaching Inbox Zero… and then realizing you didn’t accomplish anything meaningful that day. We gain so much momentum that we forget to stop and ask ourselves whether all of this doing is moving us toward our end goal, and whether that end goal is even what we wanted it to be when we started.

In this way, Hyatt said, The Driven Life is no better than The Drifting Life. (Click to tweet this.) Because in both cases, we tend to steer off-course. Both types of people need to be more mindful, more full of purpose, consciously choosing the life we’re experiencing, rather than just experiencing it.

What one brave decision do you need to make today?

So that’s my WDS resolution, the brave decision I need to make day after day after day: to drive forward actively and consciously, choosing my direction.

To give life that driver’s seat, with business as a passenger — not in the backseat, per say, but a secondary seat nonetheless.

And to allow myself to enjoy this life-focused phase, when business becomes less my anchor and more my floaties, carrying me as I swim through life. This is what it’s about, why we work hard to create careers that work for us, so we can choose to focus on life when the time is right.

And so I ask you: What one brave decision do you need to make today? It’s not an easy question to answer, but if you put even the slightest bit of effort into figuring it out, you’ll be more likely to move in the right direction.

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    11 Replies to “When Life Beats Out Business: A Reflection on #WDS2014”

    • Joe Kovacs says:

      Thanks for this great and thoughtful post, Alexis. I’m still getting started on my blog and trying to chart a course to help it emerge as an online business of sorts. Funny you should mention the World Domination Summit; I just read an email from Jeff Goins earlier today and he also referred to it–that was the first time I’d ever heard of the event. Wonder if I’ve been napping too much. 🙂 In any case, to answer your question, the brave decision I need to make is to keep forging ahead with my blog and writing. Earlier this year, my wife and I separated. My life has been turned upside down, you might say, and learning how to establish a new household, get through a sudden, traumatic transition and still find time to pursue what I enjoy doing makes for quite a balancing act. Thanks again for your thoughtful post. Regards, Joe

    • Ivana says:

      What a great spot to be in with your business…and life! Congratulations on being present in the year of your wedding, and for your husband (and sorry about the husband’s cheek, sounds pretty painful!) – this is big stuff that happens, ehm, about once in a life time. Great commentary on phasing through different aspects or work and life…one really cannot do everything. Thank you!

    • Kate James says:

      Great article Alexis. I love what Michael said “The Driven Life is no better than The Drifting Life.” Like you, I’m an executor and I know I could benefit from embracing The Drifting Life. I had a friend email me this morning to tell me about an amazing marketing opportunity that came out of the blue from a contact he’d made many years earlier – in his words “no marketing plan would have allowed for this.” There’s definitely something to be said for creating space in your life and making time for the things that really matter. All the best with your wedding and house hunting!

    • Yesterday I was like a pitching machine (I’m just starting to really focus my ghostwriting niche now & its time to get clients) but today I feel like all that effort forced me to be very worn out mentally.

      So with that said, my brave decision today is to put on my big-girl entrepreneur pants and get back to pitching. Even if I’m tired. Despite the fact I have a headache. Regardless that my house is a mess and I need to go grocery shopping. All of that stuff can wait (except the headache & I already dealt with that so…). To make this thing work I need to push past procrastination. Every day.

      Thanks for a really thought provoking post. The Summit sounds like a great event, I’ll have to try to get there in 2015!

    • Rosanna says:

      My brave decision? Pursue an idea that, right now, seems completely crazy and far fetched. Except for the fact that I can’t get it out of my head.

      So I’m deciding, for today, to indulge the big idea and explore it a little more.

      Oh and I love this: “You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.”

    • Neena says:

      Work life balance is a constant struggle for most people. If you love what you do for work, it’s even harder to separate the two.

      My brave decision is to put enough structure into each day so that my unplugged time is truly that. And to make sure the time that I spend on my business is used on activities that will make a difference.

    • So cool. I love seeing other people have this realization. One of my biggest reasons for excitement over seeing my business *working* (holy $hit!!) is not just that it’s working – but that it’s working on my terms. Working while still living my life. Working while going rock climbing at 2PM on a Wednesday if I want to. Because isn’t that part of why we did this? For the freedom? Not for working 80 million hour weeks? So excited to see all of the good happening for you!!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Yay! I actually caught a glimpse of you at WDS and thought, we need to catch up! Maybe at a WDS meetup here in DC? Would love to hear how things are going for you…

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