So there’s this thing called the World Domination Summit.
For readers who are subscribers to my newsletter, you’ve heard me mention it before. For WDSers who are just coming to my blog for the first time, you know what I’m talking about. For anyone else, here’s the most succinct description I can give:
WDS is a conference for unconventional creatives and entrepreneurs to gather and be inspired, network and form connections, and share their journeys and be vulnerable.
The 3rd annual WDS took place over the July 4th weekend, and since then I’ve been grappling with my takeaways and how to explain them to you here on Taste Life Twice. (Also, many WDS participants are bloggers who write up their own fab experiences and then search out others’ posts to read, so, ya know, no pressure).
So for both audiences, WDSers and TLTers, here’s what I gained by attending this ‘conference.’ (WDSers, the framing below comes from the quote that named my blog, which you can read about here)
In the Moment
During the days of the conference and during the meet-ups that sprung forth before and after the official activities, the most important thing I could do was be in the moment. This meant minimizing other life concerns such as chores, errands, this blog, my novel. It meant maximizing the exposure I had to people whose interests aligned with mine somehow, whether through travel hacking, foodie passion, or writing their arses off.
It meant putting myself out there as much as I could stand.
Like practicing yoga, I tried to tune out all the other voices in my head as I listened to speakers wringing out their life stories for us on stage. I shut the beak of the ‘counter-mind’ (i.e. negative script) that said it would be lame to start dancing too early, and jumped into the action at the Zoo on opening night. I pushed past the thin red line of polite attention to engage with a few people on a deep level, and was rewarded with the glint of recognition in the other person’s eye: “Yes, you’re in my Tribe!“
I also had a ton of fun.
As any introverts out there might imagine, it took a while for me to recover. Just like the various flushes of tea leaves being harvested, I wrote, and I reflected, wrote, and reflected. Except, contrary to tea flushes, which decrease in quality the later in the season, my epiphanies got better.
Darren Rowse’s talk highlighted ‘getting the dreams out of your head,’ and Jia Jiang’s story hammered home the need to get over the fear of rejection. On Saturday night, when I had taken all I could and needed a retreat, I made a list of dreams that I had allowed to wither on the vine for fear of rejection. Then I made a list of dreams that I had pursued, despite resistance.
The withered-dreams list was just a little longer than the pursued-dreams list.
But I noticed that the timing of these activities hopped back and forth: grade school: withered, high school: pursued, college: withered, post-grad job: pursued, etc. So who’s winning, me or The Fear?
As long as I keep adding to that Pursued Dreams list, which I took a mighty step toward in radically changing my life direction, I win.
The Selfishness SHOULD
The second realization that hit was that I was having an internal battle about what role service should play in my dreams and creative career aspirations. Chris placed it in the core values of WDS, so it’s obviously important. But I’ve been on a denial-tear of refusing to volunteer for either large, lofty causes or direct-action campaigns since college.
Sure, I’ll work for Americorps for a year, but I’m not going to a soup kitchen.
Of course, I’ll donate to friends fighting for education reform, clean water provision, and cancer research, but no way you’re getting me to fundraise.
What was up with this?
There’s been a sort of shadow over my life, extending all the way back to JFK’s call for Peace Corps volunteers (which my mother did), and reinforced by years of Catholic school extolling the virtues of Jesuit missionaries. There was a weight of ‘Should-i-ness’ in all this.
It said, “Do something great with your life.” “Go big or go home.” “You are so fortunate; it’s your duty to share that fortune with others.”
“Your creative dreams aren’t enough.”
And so, not understanding the shadow, I rebelled against it. No religion. No volunteering. No fundraising. No lip service to lofty humanitarian goals.
But in my own way, I supported people with whom I had connections, whose missions I admired. Maybe, just maybe, there was a way to serve without the Shadow of Should.
Maybe, just maybe, going my own way and exploring my dreams and chasing happiness was OKAY.
That brings me to lesson #3.
RADICAL ACCEPTANCE & TRUST
To conquer fear, to beat back whatever shadow looms over your life, you need to trust yourself. You need to accept yourself. You need to finally write the words I did this morning:
I know better than any other what I should do with my life.
The Radical Journey
Realizing this (off and on, as my record of dream-pursuing shows) in the past year and a half has put me on a radical journey.
- I’m publishing my first novel next month.
- I’m structuring my days in order to learn and grow and achieve goals I set myself.
- I’m meeting amazing folks.
- I’m taking responsibility for my life.
And in pursuing these dreams, I experience moments of such intense happiness that I literally feel like I’ll explode, or float away, or cry.
Something tells me that is the path of dreams pursued… and that both Taste Life Twice and WDS have something to do with it being a sunny path, instead of a shadowed one.
When was the last time you were able to reflect on your dreams? When you were able to have a vulnerable conversation with a near-stranger about fear? When you last considered why you are where you are?
Join the conversation, folks. (Comment below!)
Photo credits: Armosa Studios