evaluating WDS (and me)

so what's WDS?

In the simplest for, it's an annual gathering of creative people and asks the deceptively simple question: how do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world? The three core values of WDS are:

  • Community
  • Service
  • Adventure

I say deceptively simple because the goals are small (yeah, right) but the payoff is enormous. It's a challenging and stimulating gathering (I choose not to call it a conference, it's not what )

After reading The Art of Non Conformity (both the blog and the book) I was in a quandary. I want to do things but I'm always afraid of what it would take to actually make the change. I've always been afraid of changes and I've always been afraid of what shape the future would take without having a safety net.

Yesterday and today

After meeting some amazing people (more on them below) and debating with myself for the better part of two years what to do I missed WDS in 2012 by about 15 minutes... damn it. In hindsight I don't know if I was ready for the whole WDS experience back then... but at they say, hindsigh is always 20/20.

I went to WDS in 2013 with a large degree of aprehension. I didn't know anyone, I didn't know what direction I wanted to take my life and, perhaps the most important factor to consider, I didn't really have money to do much of whatever it was I had planned to do (just getting used to saving money again)

The learning experience was amazing. I hung out with some people, I went with the flow and by the

I've always been amazed by people like Jody Ettenberg, Sean Ogle, Jenny Blake and Chris Guillebeau who basically made shit happen and went on to pursue their dreams... and I've got to admit that for a while I was a little jealous of them and afraid of what would it mean for me to actually pursue those dreams.

It's amazing what a year can do to your perspective and how much your view point in such a short/long time.

I remember writing about wanting a change and to talk about what would be next. Since I left Fireeye I've been planning and trying to figure out what was it that I wanted to do.

It's time to put word into action and make those thing I'm passionate about a reality. Where last year was about accepting change and taking on the challenges ahead this year has all been about putting my money where my mouth is and actually taking actionable steps to make things happen.

So I love digital publishing. How can I leverage that to make things better for myself and others?

I've always seen my work as a service in addition to or instead of being a product. While it's nice to sell the tool to the people who know how to use it, it's also useful to have a turnkey service for those people who “just want shit to work”.

This is where I'm putting my energies. I'm continuing work on the grunt project with a view to expanding it to a full fledged publishing tool. I'm doing this until I get a job or until the project is completed. This will be my primary activity.

I will rebuild the publishing project work and solicit feedback and collaboration from friends in the front-end development and eprdctn communities. Strength in numbers, yo

I will also sound people in #eprdctn for ideas and pain points thats I can address either through video, blog posts or code (codepen is an awesome tool)

Grand themes and takeaways

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Marianne Williamson

Let go

Those two little words have a weight that, at times, it's almost unbearable. I suck donkey balls at letting go. There is still a lot of baggage that needs to be worked on before I can really and finally let go of my dad and how things ended. I am very good at holding on to the pain and the grudges in my life and not good at all at retaining the possitive and the good.

This song reminded me of this in startk detail today. This song reminded me of my dad with such aforce that it actually hurt. It made me question (at least) some of the choices I've made...

Sucking is the first step of mastery

Directly related to the one below (but not necessarily related to WDS) is the fact that we will fail at things. We will even suck at doing things until we've done them enough times to succeed. How willing are you to fail? to fail publically?

Don't let uncertainty stop you from going in your chosen direction
Don't let fear hold you back

Until now I've never worried about not having a direction to go or being afraid of where your dreams would take you or wouldn't take you as the case may be. I've often found myself in a situation where I have a lot of ideas and projects that wouls be awesome to work on but I've let fear and uncertainty stop me... feat and uncertainty of failure (why should I even bother doing this?) or, and I've only recently accepted this, fear of success (what will I have to commit to if this project is successful?)

One of the biggest themes that ran by WDS this year was being brave.

  • Michael Hyatt pointed out that important things get accomplished in the discomfort zone. Attempting new things can involve hesitation and confusion—which inhibits getting started in the first place.
  • Scott Berkun revealed the hidden secret all creators have: they have to do the work while feeling a little unsure—but do it anyway.
  • Gary Hirsch and the joybot reminded me once again that the only person who can stop me is me

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
– Nelson Mandela

Failure can be as good a learning experience as success

No one will think less of you if you try and fail. They might think less of you if you don't try at all.

  • Elise Blaha Cripe is living proof that you don't have to be ready or perfect to get started... even with all her popularity, she will be the first one to tell (as she told us) that she is no expert and that she is not afraid to ask for help.
  • Jadah Sellner told us that the steps you take don't have to be perfect to work towards your goal. Everything is a learning experience. Even the "imperfect steps" she talks about are good for your learning process

The corollary to this is: Don't be afraid to be rejected.

Articulate your ideas and your plans outloud. Write them down in public to hold yourself accountable

Talk to yourself (and others) about the plans you have. Speaking them outloud helps keep yourself accountable.

Writing out your desired outcomes will also make you accountable. You can ask your readers or the members of your community/tribe to help you stay accountable. Whatever you decide to do, you should already know that you can't do it on your own.

Ideas are written down, not set in stone... there's no way you can anticipate everything that may or may not happen. Be flexible and stay adaptable. Remember that once you embark on a project, things and people change. You grow. The unexpected occurs. And you have to reframe and redirect along the way. You build in the flexibility to allow for what couldn’t be anticipated.

Face your fears and know that help is out there if you choose to use it

There are 3 videos that, to me, illustrate this.

I've known of Jonathan Fields for almost 3 years. First through his website http://www.jonathanfields.com/ and later through his book Uncertainty. I heard him speak last year at WDS and it has always been an eye opener.

In the video and in the book Jonathan asks 3 questions:

  • What if I fail and how do I recover. Weight both parts of the questions equally and don't blow it out of proportion, be realistic and honest with yourself.
  • What if I do nothing? What will my life look l ike now and in the future if I do nothing now?
  • What if I succeed?

The more I think about it it's the thid question that scares me the most in the short term. What happens if I succeed and what I do is successful. Not doing anything may be more damaging in the long run but at least in the here and now it's the lesse of two evils.

The scariest part is how to manage success. That's something I'm still working on...

Someone put this video on my twitter stream... it is amazing by it's directness and in the simplicity of the message it delivers.

Admiral McRaven, USOC commander in the US military, uses his seal basic training from over 35 years ago as a metaphor for 2014 UT graduates (and anyone else for that matter) in how to live your life.

The video above can be summed in the following paragraphs:

To the graduating class of 2014 [and everyone who reads this], you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away starting to change the world—for the better.

It will not be easy.

But, YOU are the class of 2014—the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.

Thank you very much. Hook 'em horns.

WDS in detail

I came in to this year's WDS naked. What I though I knew I wanted hasn't really materialized... It may be that not wanting to monetize publishing project wasn't the right approach as it took away the passion and the energy of a more professional project. It's not too late to start but It's going to be a freaking night mare

Very much unlike me I was hit by 5Ps when planning the trip. I arrived one day too late and left a day too early.

All speakers I saw were beyond fucking amazing. The sense of adventure and community that has always attracted me to chris’ work and the WDS tribe was particularly strong this year. The elements below are some of the thoughts I got from each of the speakers.

AJ Jacobs

He's crazy... That's the first thing that came to mind.

Trying to follow to the letter all 613 commandments in the bible is impossible. I'm amazed he even attempted it but in the processs he actually learned, like the people he researched he put himself out there and tried to do something that was hard or was ridiculed by his peers and the world around him.

Jacob’s latest project is about family. He received an email from someone claiming to be his 12th cousin. He learned about Geni, a website that has the largest family tree: 77 million people. He claimed that everyone on earth is 55th cousins or less. He pointed out this is bad news for bigots – when you look at the tree its harder and harder to make distinctions.
He’s trying to organize he largest family reunion in history - there will be a film (and I’d guess a book?) about the event.

Gavin Aun Tang

Gavin is another story of trusting yourself and believing in yourself and what you can do. Zen Pencils started as hobby side project and now has been his dream come true and allowed him to pursue the dreams full time.

Passion is the key to success and happiness but it will never be handed to you. You have to go out and pursue it, make yourself vulnerable and let others judge your product. If it's good it will show, if it's not you've learnedand are n ot better prepared for what's next.

Jadah Sellner

No one, ever, has been absolutely successful the first time out of the gate. We've all experienced some level of failure at some point in our lives.

That's not the point.

The point is how you recover and push forward despite adversity and failure.

The point is how you take your dreams from reality to action.

The point is caring about the people you're hoping to serve.

The point is to learn from everything in your life; good and bad

“I encounter every lesson in life on purpose”
Jadah Sellner

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt challenged us to build our body of work (personal and professional) as the legacy we'll be remembered by. Mike’s story resonated very strongly with me because, in a way, it mirrored my relationship with my own father with all the trouble and pain that went along with it.

Like Michael, I don't think I ever knew my dad. Even after all this time I've been afraid to ask the really hard questions that I suspect are not what I grew up with. It wouldn't change the love I have for my aunts, cousins and dad but I think after all this time I deserve the truth for a change.

Unlike Michael I'm 12 years too late to ask him. He passed away when I couldn't be with him (continents and circumstances conspired).

Shannon Galpin

Women in Afghanistan don’t have a voice. In their courts women count as 2/3 of a man. Shannon works in Afghanistan on women’s rights issues. Shannon offered some shocking statistics about womens issues (no source was provided but it jibes with data I've seen before)

  • 14 million girls given away as child brides
  • 4 million girls and women sold into slavery
  • 237,868 women are raped or sexually assaulted in the U.S. annually
  • Around 60% of sexual assaults are never reported

“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
– Lily Tomlin

She found her voice after visiting women’s prisons in Afghanistan. 50-80% of women in prison are there for morality crimes related to arranged marriages or for being a rape victim. She discovered an outpouring of stories, told faster than the translators could translate. No one had ever cared to hear their story before.

“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”
- E. B. White

Never be afraid to speak up on things that matter to you. Your voice does matter and you can make a difference.

Scott Berkun

Hearing Scott Brekun speak is just amazing. Had to leave before his presentation was over and missed an entire presentation because of the 5Ps (see earlier for what that means in this context) but these two tweets are what resomated the strongest with me:

The first tweet begs the question: why create if vulnerability is a requirement? If you have to put yourself out there all the time when you create and subject yourself to ridicule and criticism? Part of me wants to hide in a hole and just throw stuff out there and to hell with the consequences. The other part of me says it's time to stop being a coward and actually do it.

Related to it is the twit below:

Saki Mafundikwa

What are the stories you're telling? Saki worked in a comfortable design firm in New York before returning to his native ZImbabwe to teach others what he had learned and to work on telling the stories of his country and his people. Most African cultures are traditionally oral and that causes traditions and events to be lost or to not known outside the oral history circles where they are told.

Take a leap of faith. A net willappear and you'll be safe. There is no worst deed than the one that remains undone., have the courage to go ahead even when you're not certain of the direction you're going, just go.

Takeaways, lessons learned

Be passionate about what you do and let it shine through

  • Take consistent, ninja-focused action
    • If you're going to work on something let that be the main focus of your professional life. Don't get sidetracked and don't let other priorities get in the way... if you're building products, let the products be your introduction to your target audience and let them kick ass on their own
  • Stay insanely curious and see what sticks
    • Don't get discouraged because your pet project wasn't as well received as you thought it would be. Let it go, do a post mortem and start working on the next project
  • Court your community
    • Identify who they are
      • #eprdctn people
      • People outside book production
      • People in the #WDS community
    • How can you best serve them?
      • Tools
      • Resources
      • Services
    • Who are the best people to collaborate with?
      • After you identify your community choose who you reach out to
  • Create hyper-engaged connection
    • I want to think I'm doing that already. Help people without expecting anything in return. Offer to help even when you're busy.
  • Choose Love over Metrics
    • Numbers are just jthat... numbers. Don't ever forget that behind those numbers there are people

You matter, if you don't take care of yourself you're not good to anyone

  • How do I want to be remembered?
    • Architect the memories others will have of us. I want to believe that people will have fond memories of me.... Whatever shape it takes I want to think I've made the world better (if only slightly) because of my being here

What is important to me?

  • Who is setting the agenda in your life
    • Are you the one living your life or are you letting other people or other things live your life for you?
      • I want to think I'm running my life but I can't help if money and the specter of not having it doesn't color what I'm currently doing. Learn to let go and trust that if you take the jump the net will appear
      • Does it make sense the way I'm doing things right now? If I decide to monetize things and start my (professional) blog all over again
        • What shape will it take
        • What will it look like?
          - Will I be happy with it?
        • It's ok to be vulnerable. That's where you do your best work
  • Reconnect with family and friends
    • One area where I've neglected. I've always thought it was the right choice (and I still do) but it's scary to see how much has Chile changed (this was true even in 2000 when I had been gone for only 6 years) or how much I longed for the place I grew up in and the life I had while growing up.

Prioritize your work and your life

  • You can win at work or life, not at both
    • I did prioritize career over life when I first started working and, in a way, that has shaped my life for the past 15+ years am I ready to do so all over again
    • If I were to do it again, it'll most definitely be different. I'm less worried about the job situation and I'm more cconcerned
    • If I can't have everything I want, what am I willing to drop or do without?
    • If you don't take care of yourself you're no good to anyone else

###Don't let the urgent take precedence over the important

  • What single brave decision do I need to make today?
    -You don't really need to have everything planned

    • The publishing project is going to get redone. I'm also taking it more seriously and more regularly (perhaps even hiring someone to do the design)
  • Find work and find what works in your life

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead