This is my third dispatch from the World Domination Summit 2012. These are the themes which hit home for me the most from the event.
WDS2012 was put together with an amazing amount of thoughtfulness and professionalism. It ran like clockwork, and was truly world class. Even the scheduling of each talk seemed to be perfectly planned.
Brené Brown, whose work I wasn’t familiar with previously, did the opening talk, which pulled the rug from under my feet.
She told us that our experience in any situation “cannot exceed your willingness to be vulnerable”. As she says in her TEDx talk which I’ve embedded below, vulnerability is “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love”.
The Creativity Slump
According to Brown, “unused creativity is not benign. It turns into grief and rage”. She talked about how children, though naturally creative, were hitting a ‘creativity slump’ at around 4th and 5th grade (9-11 years old). At this age, children start to feel shame, and the criticism of teachers, parents and peers only makes this worse. But as Brown says, and I wholeheartedly agree, that no-one has the right to tell a child at that age that they’re not creative.
What Drives Me
I got a massive insight that this is actually a big part of what drives me to write this blog. As someone who lost my faith in my own creativity for several years, and then rediscovered it, I want to help adults recover from the pain of the creativity slump and believe in themselves as creative people. I met some fantastic people at the conference who want to address the problem at the source and stop it from happening to children at all – which I would love to support also. But for me, it’s helping adults who have relapsed creatively or have doubts about their own creative abilities that drives me as I feel their pain!
Contribution and the Power of Uncool
Brown emphasised the importance of contribution over criticism and cynicism. She said that she will only respond to feedback if it’s from someone who’s also in the arena, getting their ass kicked. To everyone else she just says, “suck it”.
She talked about the power of being uncool and used a quote from the film Almost Famous: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”
She got us to laugh, dance and sing, and then to do our coolest poses, to demonstrate that the former involved movement, and the latter stillness. She said that being cool involves control, disengagement and self protection, and being uncool involves movement, activity and engagement.
Brown spoke of the importance of wholeheartedness, and the need to belong instead of just fitting in. She said “who you are will always trump who you think people will want you to be”. We all got up and sang ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. The Glee version. Talk about uncool.
Brown is an incredible speaker, and her talk moved me deeply. I felt a shift in myself. Instead of worrying about networking with as many people as possible, I relaxed. I opened myself up to serendipity. I went with the flow. I allowed myself to be comfortable with being quiet. I sensed the same shift in the other people there. We were open to deep connections and conversation. Brown’s talk set the tone for the entire experience from then on.
And now that I was open, and vulnerable, Scott Harrison stepped onto the stage and told a story of heartbreak, of losing your soul and regaining it again. Of unbelievable hardship, and of hope and love. As a child, he watched his mother, a passionate journalist, become an invalid due to carbon monoxide poisoning. He then spent 10 years as a nightclub promoter in New York and addict to every vice imaginable. He hit rock bottom and came face to face with his own spiritual bankruptcy. Harrison knew he needed to make a change, so he joined the Mercy Corps. There, incidentally, he met a kindred soul, Chris Guillebeau.
As official photojournalist he had to take photographs of people with the most horrible facial disfigurements, who had walked for days and weeks for the chance of treatment by the visiting, volunteer doctors. He watched as they were successfully treated. He learned that the common denominator that led to the spread of these diseases was a lack of access to clean water. He discovered that one billion people don’t have access to clean water.
And he decided that he would solve the problem, one well (or whatever solution works) at a time. Not only that but he would completely reinvent how charity is done. He would ensure 100% of all donations went directly to providing water for the people who needed it. He ensured that every one who donated would be informed of exactly what their money provided thanks to GPS technology. And he used his promotional prowess to create a modern, sophisticated brand.
By the end of Scott’s talk, all 1000 attendees had pledged to give up their birthdays to help bring clean water to those that need it most. During his talk, I cried. The double whammy of these two opening talks had an immense effect. Again, something has shifted within me. I don’t want to be selfish any more, or guarded, or half-hearted. It feels like redemption is possible, within reach.
JD Roth talked honestly and movingly about personal transformation, and how by improving himself he has begun to help others. He pointed out that we who were present are extraordinarily fortunate. Unlike the majority of the world’s population we have the opportunity to be independent, to learn, and take risks and chances, and make a difference.
Spirituality and a desire to give service to others are aspects of myself that I’ve repressed. Because I was scared, embarrassed, lazy. I was not being wholehearted. That will change now. I will change now.
What Drives Chris Guillebeau?
I was curious about what drives Chris Guillebeau before. Whilst I chose to believe he was a positive person, I didn’t know how much of what he did was a cleverly crafted public persona.
Now I strongly believe Chris Guillebeau is deeply driven to change the world for the better. He strongly believes that this is the most important thing that we can do, and more importantly he believes that it is possible.
He has surrounded himself with people who believe the same. He has gathered 1000 people with shared values together in the beautiful city of Portland.
On the Sunday evening Chris walked out onto the stage. He talked slowly and purposefully, with a massive grin on his face. We knew something very (un) cool was about to happen (by the way, Chris has an unexpectedly great stage presence – and he is very funny).
He reminded us of the Parable of the Talents – in which a man distributes his wealth to three people before setting off on his travels, with varying results.
Chris Guillebeau said that what always interested him was the motivations of the man who gave the money. Maybe he was just curious to see what might happen.
He explained how, after losing a lot of money last year, this year’s event made a modest profit and also received an anonymous donation. It turned out that this amount was enough to give $100 dollars back to all 1000 paying attendees. That’s $100,000.
As we left the theatre, we each received an envelope with a $100 bill inside.
When we registered on Friday, we were all given a copy of Chris’s book – the $100 Start Up. Chris gave us each a gift, and a challenge. He left us with no excuses.
As I typed these words, sitting in a Portland coffee shop (I’ve since returned home), I feel that this has been a life changing experience. Of course, action speaks louder than words.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Could You Change the World with $100?
I’m giving away one copy of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The $100 Start Up (read my review here) and one copy of his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity to whoever gives the best answer to this question:
How would you use $100 to change the world for the better?
Post your idea on the Clear-Minded Creative Facebook page or in the comments below and I’ll pick the one I like best in a week’s time – at which point I’ll request a postal address from that person.
I’ll send the books to anywhere in the world, but be aware that it might take a while for them to arrive if you live outside the UK. Also please note that my choice will be entirely subjective so please don’t get upset if yours doesn’t get chosen – I’m really interested in seeing any responses that come in.