74 Unconventional Stories, Ideas & Beliefs for Making an Unforgettable Impact in a Conventional World (#WDS 2012)

74 Unconventional Stories, Ideas & Beliefs for Making an Unforgettable Impact in a Conventional World (#WDS 2012)

brene brown unforgettable impact

“Most will say you’re crazy to try. Find those who say you’d be crazy not to.”

Jenny Blake

Being in the Right Place

Every year I dedicate at least a few weekends and a few thousand dollars to being in the right place.

To attending events with people who see the world in a similar way.

In a world where most people encourage complacency, we need a sanctuary where people understand why all of us interested in living meaningful lives, do what we do. I go to belong. To be inspired. To find ideas I’d never discover on my own. To find people who hold me to a higher standard.

Because in that environment, magic happens. 

There is no more powerful component to doing work that matters, to making a difference and to Living Your Legend, than putting yourself around the right people. It also happens to be the #1 ingredient to connecting with anyone.

Last weekend was a perfect example. Chris Guillebeau hosted 1,000 people in Portland at his second annual World Domination Summit.

For a weekend 1,000 of us got to feel at home.

Humbled by Greatness

As I read through 20+ pages of notes from the weekend, I noticed one phrase I had scratched down on almost every page: holy shit, these guys are doing insane things.

Every talk, every conversation and every interaction, left me thinking the exact same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely proud of what I’ve built, both at Live Your Legend and other parts of life. I am proud of the impact I’m having and the way I’m helping. In fact, between last year’s event and this year, there’s probably never been a period of more business and personal growth.

Yet… among these folks I almost felt like I was playing small ball.

Not in the “damn, I’m not enough” sort of way, but in the “damn, how much bigger could I be thinking?” sort of way.

As a result, my vision of where Live Your Legend is heading, completely blew up. It was awesome (and I can’t wait to share it with you later on).

When surrounded by people making a genuine and unique difference, while doing exactly what they want to be doing, you can’t help but wonder, what level am I operating on? How much bigger, more focused or clever could my impact be?

A few of the stories I loved hearing were:

    • Stephanie who decided to donate to a different charity every day for a year.
    • Nate who thought it’d be fun to walk from one side of America to the other to inspire folks to go after big dreams.
    • Chantelle who started One Girl, a charity to provide education to young girls in Sierra Leone.
    • Adam and Grant who assembled a film crew and did a 4-month sprint across the country to profile the tragedy of complacency in our society and do their part in getting the world to refuse the scripted life. Their documentary “I’m Fine. Thanks.” premiered on Saturday night. Had the room in tears.
    • Jodie, a recovering lawyer and travel fanatic who’s just about to publish her first book, on eating cheaply and safely abroad.
    • Scott, an ex New York club promoter, who decided his time was better spent solving Africa’s clean water problem (and fixing the broken charity model), founded charity: water, and is solving both likely better than anyone else on the planet.
    • Brandon founded Kids of the Gulf to document the effects the gulf oil spill has had on kids, and give them a venue to speak out.
    • Marianne, a humanitarian turned virtual yoga and presence teacher who spends most her time hosting workshops around the world.
    • And 992 others…

The stories, ideas and lessons are enough to fill a year’s worth of articles, but for now I wanted to share the ideas straight from the people creating the disruption. Below are my most impactful takeaways from the last few days (at least according to my notes – I surely missed some gems).

74 Unconventional Stories, Ideas & Beliefs for making an impact in a conventional world.

ideas to remember

Brené Brown, vulnerability author and famed TED speaker

1. No one belongs here more than me. When in doubt of your surroundings, this is the mantra.
2. The ultimate currency is being uncool. Be vulnerably you and watch how you connect.
3. The opposite of scarcity is enough. Be confident that if you’re doing work that matters to you, you are enough. There is no comparison.
4. Unused creativity is not benign – it turns into grief. Do something with it.
5. Get in the arena, show up, do your thing and don’t be afraid to get your ass kicked a little bit.
6. Who you are will always trump who you think people want you to be.
7. You can’t control if someone loves you back. Love them anyway.

Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water

8. There’s no power or redemption in guilt.
9. You can spend $16 on a margarita or feed a family of four for a month in Liberia. You get to choose.

Josh Kaufman, bestselling author of The Personal MBA

10. The key metric is how much value have I added to the people I care about.
11. For everything we don’t like to do, there’s someone out there who’s really good, wants to do it and will enjoy it.
12. You can be successful without ever hitting any of the credentials people say you should care about.

Scott Belsky, bestselling author of Making Ideas Happen

13. The second chapter is a little more difficult to write than the first. Keep writing.
14. Most people quit jobs because they are not fully utilized. Find a job or career that allows you to be as much of who you are as possible.
15. Pure focus on organization and execution trumps most everything. Dreaming is only the first step.
16. The #1 ranked supply chain company five years in a row is Apple. Process matters.
17. Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means.

Chris Brogan, bestselling author of Trust Agents

18. The opposite of fear is not courage. It’s giving up. Fear and courage live side by side. Surrender is the killer.
19. The more willing you are to look dumb, the better you look.
20. The only real plot is “Who Am I?”
21. Untangle from other peoples’ scripts. They weren’t written for us anyway.
22. Take the criticism with the praise. You can’t accept one without the other. Say thank you to both. Then keep moving.
23. Confidence comes from trying things. From learning, doing, failing and experiencing. Start doing.
24. You will succeed the weirder you get. Be uniquely you.
25. If you don’t earn it, you don’t get it. Work your ass off. (It’s no surprise that Chris Brogan and Chris Guillebeau write between 1,000 and 4,000 words every day.)
26. There are no shortcuts.
27. Don’t settle: Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.
28. It’s not who you say you are, it’s what you do. The only way to be an author is if you write. A painter means painting. A musician means playing. There’s no substitute.
29. Understand why people do what they do. Incentives have incredible power.
30. It starts with empathy. Remember names. If it’s difficult for you then practice.
31. No one is going to die. Don’t constantly check your phone and email as if it’s life or death. It’s not. Get something meaningful done.
32. Find a Super Team. Solo acts never win. We need more bands.
33. Use your powers for good. Promote good work.

Dan Noll and Audrey Scott, husband and wife full-time world-traveling team for 5+ years straight & counting

34. Nothing worth it in this world is an easy decision to make.
35. Embrace Regret Avoidance. Refuse to look back and wonder what would have happened if…
36. There is no generosity greater than the generosity of spirit. That’s the rule, not the exception.
37. We are all more connected than we could ever imagine. Say hello.
38. Life is a team sport.
39. Follow your curiosity.
40. When your friends and family say it’s crazy, you know it’s probably the right thing to do.
41. Shared accomplishment trumps personal accomplishment.

Cal Newport, Georgetown professor, learning hacker & author of four books on unconventional school and career approaches

42. The tragic mistake is to figure things out in the abstract without getting out and doing it. There is no substitute for experience. Get it.
43. Get good at something rare and valuable. Then use it to gain experience with things that matter to you. This leads to passionate work.
44. You must have something unique and valuable to offer.
45. Once you’re an expert, there’s much more pressure to take the standard path and not follow the direction you actually desire.
46. If it’s interesting to you and will give you interesting options if you do it well, then you’re much more likely to end up loving what you do.

J.D. Roth, personal life transformation guru and creator of award-winning blog, Get Rich Slowly

47. Peoples’ lives are not dull by chance. It’s a result of our conscious patterns.
48. Say “no” to the things that don’t excite you so you can say “hell yes!” to the things that do.
49. Allocate as much money to what excites you as you can. Cut back hard on the things you don’t care about. If you love wine, then drink good wine. If T.V. doesn’t matter, then cancel the cable bill.
50. It doesn’t matter what we say matters to us. It’s the things we do that are our priorities. If writing’s most important, then write. If it’s running, then run.
51. Our society values complacency. Find the people who shun it.
52. We are a part of all we have met. You get to decide who you meet, what you experience and how you live.
53. Change yourself. Change the world.

From all of us:

54. Use the awesome accomplishments of those around you as inspiration to step up your game, not intimidation.
55. Freedom comes from providing value for others.
56. Every successful blog, movement and idea has a real and personal story behind it. A reason why, that a community can rally behind.
57. Be careful doing too much market research. All the competition you find might keep you from creating something people genuinely want and need.
58. People value it a lot more when they pay for it than when they get it for free.
59. The questions people ask you over and over is the expertise you can charge people for.
60. Real connection doesn’t come from sharing only your highlights. Practice full transparency. Share the warts.
61. Learn to be an amazing storyteller.
62. Conviction is the ultimate secret sauce.
63. Big sexy goals come from taking one small unsexy step at a time.
64. There is no cap on your potential success.
65. Most will say you’re crazy to try. Find those who say you’d be crazy not to.
66. Courage is not always glamorous.
67. Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside.
68. The timing is never perfect.
69. Just start. Then keep going.
70. Money is never an issue.
71. Be yourself. Do what’s fun. But show up.
72. Have a big dream and be willing to lose it.
73. Inspiration is only useful if followed by action. What are you going to do about it?

74. Believe in possibility.

The community makes it possible

We are hardwired to connect.

This is the thread that wove the weekend together. Whether the crowd knew it or not, it’s why we were all there.

It’s really the only reason I show up. After all, if it weren’t for the people, everything else could be learned by spending the day in a dark room in front of your laptop watching TED talks. No plane fight, hotel room or slight hangover required.

It’s not about what you learn. It’s about who you learn it from, the connections you create with them, and what you are able to do with it once you join forces. 

It all comes back to community.

Over the weekend I had the honor of giving a talk on How to Connect with Anyone, which was no doubt the most fun and proud moment I’ve ever spent on stage. I could not have asked for a better setting or audience. Thanks to those of you who were there and obeyed the ‘3-second rule’ and came up to say hi. It meant more than you realize. For the rest of you, I plan to post the full talk soon.

Believing in possibility

Just over four years ago no one had hear of Chris Guillebeau. This year he got 1,000 unbelievable people to travel from 20 countries to spend 3 days together. He had to turn down 4,500.

That was only four years ago. Two years ago there was no Live Your Legend. I didn’t know a single person on the Internet.

It’s sometimes easy to forget how powerful possibility can be.

How big of a castle you can build just by laying one brick at a time.

It doesn’t even have to take that long.

You just need the conviction to keep stacking the bricks.

As it turns out, possibility and success only have one limit: imagination.

The ultimate responsibility…

$100 Investment

As the main events closed on Sunday evening, Chris held up an envelope on stage.

He explained that while last year they lost about $30k hosting the event, this year they ended up under budget – to the tune of about $100 per attendee.

A $100,000 profit isn’t bad for a weekend event.

But instead, as we all left that evening, heads swarming with ideas, we were given an envelope.

In that envelope was a crisp $100 bill and simple instructions: “Put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different – it’s up to you.”

How’s that for impact?

I’m still not sure where my $100 will end up, but you can be sure it will be someplace that matters (I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!).

We all have a responsibility. A responsibility that trumps all others. To take our possibility and see to it that we leave no rock unturned. That we do all we’re capable of doing to have the impact that only we can have.

We owe this to ourselves as much as we do to the people around us.

Let’s take it seriously.

I’ll end this the same way I ended my talk this weekend, with the definition of the Bantu word ubuntu.

I am what I am because who we all are…

You all hold me to a standard I couldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago. And we’re just getting started.

Thank you.


How about You?

Which of the above lessons was most powerful for you? If you were there, what was your biggest ah-ha? Share in the comments below.

P.S. If you were not a part of WDS this year, I hope you’ll join us in 2013. Last year tickets sold out in minutes so be sure to get on the waiting list.

And in case you missed it, here’s my 2011 World Domination Summit recap