Part of my USA travels this July included a trip to Portland, Oregon for the World Domination Summit, "a gathering of creative, interesting people from all over the world." More from the Eventbrite description: "Every summer, thousands of people travel to Portland, Oregon for an immersive experience in life, work, and travel."
My top 3 takeaways for the creative life from WDS 2014:
Use your imagination to increase your bravery.
We are scared. Our imaginations, when used correctly, are powerful things. Put those two together and you have a recipe for bravery. Over and over, the speakers talked about how scary it was to take risks in life, business, and creativity. But if you use your imagination in a positive way, you can do anything. It's like the tired advice given to professional speakers to imagine audience members all naked. Stuff like that works. But here are some more original examples.
- Gary Hirsch got interested in how art impacts peoples lives for good, and hand painted a bunch of tiny robots, giving them away to people as "bravebots." He and a team hand painted one of these for every summit attendee. He's got photos of people holding these before they go in for chemo, surgery, and before doing other, less physically scary things, like, oh, write a book. His challenge to us was to "activate" our little bot by posting our brave thing on social media. So I did. My one brave thing: write and publish a book by the end of 2014.
- Tiny home builder Dee Williams came onstage wearing a "superhero cape" that was actually a Delta airlines blanket. Just that alone took guts. In a moving and hilarious speech, she talked about how walking around in her every day life wearing her "invisible superhero cape" gave her not only buns of steel and better posture, but an attentiveness to how she might help people around her in grocery stores, parking lots, and other daily-life places.
Saying your dreams out loud can be magical. A simple declaration of identity or action, spoken to an audience, has more power in your life than unspoken thoughts.
Speaker Elisa Blaha Cripe had trouble definining what she did. After lots of soul-searching, this is her answer: "I make stuff." And she really does. It's powerful because there's so much integrity in her statement. She is an artist and crafter and she is constantly creating.
She had us write down our declarations.
Mine: I'm a writer.
Scarier: I write inspiring books that help people live better, happier lives.
Scariest: I am love.
Take imperfect action.
This gem came from most of the speakers, but was most clearly stated by one of my favorites, Jadah Sellner, who told authentic stories about the imperfections and failures that went along with her entrepreneurial journey. These stories were encouraging in light of the very successful business she eventually built (after lots of failure.)
I was struck by how the action people took was most assuredly and often NOT the action I would have taken. Ever. After witnessing the effects of an oil spill, "The Planet Walker" John Francis decided to stop riding in cars and took a 17-year vow of silence. Would I have ever dreamed up that response? No. Was it effective in changing things? For him it was, probably because it came from a true place inside him.
A fellow attendee, "The Poem Catcher" decided to travel the world with a large butterfly net. He asks people to write and donate poems and throw them in his net. Then he makes books and sells them and gives the proceeds to charity. Here he is:
These actions are creative, possibly insane, and probably imperfect, but they are working.
However, it's called imperfect action because it doesn't always work. Don't be afraid to try something else. There's no shame in trying and failing if you learn and try something else.
I'm writing a book on creativity, and will be focusing on that throughout this fall. I'll use this space to write about what I'm sure will be a very imperfect journey towards a completed book. I look forward to sharing it with you.
What do you think of these takeaways? Which one is speaking to you the most?
More About My Experience
This was my first time going to the summit, although I've thought it would be fun to go since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. It is the first event I've attended as an investment in myself as a writerpreneur, which felt good in that little-bit-scary, challenging way. I showed up alone, nervous about an entire weekend of meeting strangers. With over 3,000 other people in attendance, would I meet the right ones? Would I learn a lot, make exciting connections, and have fun?
I needn't have worried.
Before the first day was even halfway over, I felt that I never wanted to speak or blog again, because I had met so many good-hearted people doing wonderful, interesting, creative, world-changing things. People with so much to share, so much wisdom. All I wanted to do was listen and learn from these people. Of course the funny thing about creative and world-changing people is that they are curious and they wanted to hear about what I was doing too. Each person I met was encouraging and genuinely interested in what I was doing, some energetically offering helpful advice, encouragement, or connections. I don't remember the conversational content of several of the most impactful interactions I had, just how they gazed into my eyes with so much gentleness, acceptance, love and undistracted presence that my life is changed for the better. Not a single person I talked to was cynical, jealous, or discouraging.
One B-schooler I met up with during the welcome party, Jackie Knechtel at Pure Vibrant Living, rushed me around, introducing me to about half the attendees, it seemed like. When I asked how she knew so many people there, she said that she'd traveled to over 50 countries, and just loved people. People loved her too, basking in her warmth and openness and hugs.
Throughout the weekend I continued to meet kindred spirits, like this wonderful woman who runs Alight Biz Solutions. She and I plotted together about creativity, project management, book writing, and empowering women in business. And we shared the summit's gift to us: a free hot air balloon ride.