52 Unconventional Ideas & Stories for Moving from Idea to Impact (#WDS2013 recap)

52 Unconventional Ideas & Stories for Moving from Idea to Impact (#WDS2013 recap)

What kind of future will you create

“Notice the sparks. Follow them. The next big thing may be the small thing right in front of you.” – Darren Rowse

Rule #1: Put All the Crazy People in the Same Room (or River)

Last Friday morning Chelsea and I grabbed some fresh Portland coffee, walked down to the Willamette River, stripped down to a bikini and board shorts (I was in the shorts) and hopped in a couple inner tubes with about 618 other friendly folks. A few minutes later we broke the Guinness World Record for creating the longest human floating chain (old record was 542 in Viareggio, Italy in 2008). Hat tip to Tyler of Advanced Riskology for orchestrating the seemingly impossible feat.

It was fitting that the first official event of the World Domination Summit involved hundreds of people sloshing around in a river for a few hours wearing next to nothing. Something tells me that little vulnerability exercise wasn’t a coincidence. Also wasn’t a bad way to meet a few new friends.

And it set the perfect tone.

For those of you unfamiliar, WDS is an annual gathering put on by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non Conformity. The event’s core theme is “How do we lead a remarkable life in a conventional world?” This year 3,000 people from 30+ countries descended on Portland, Oregon to share in that vision. Their stories were proof of what’s possible.

This was my third year in a row and surely won’t be my last (I already grabbed my 2014 ticket).

The People Make Things Possible

At Live Your Legend we believe the fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done, is to hang around people already doing them. As we spend time around people operating on this new level, our belief of what’s possible begins to transform. We brainwash the impossible and suddenly it becomes our new normal. It’s a magical and simple process, and the best part is it’s 100% in our control.

Our goal at LYL is to help our community find and do work you love by surrounding yourself with the people and tools that make it not only possible, put probable. Change your environment and you change your results – it’s the fastest way I’ve seen too fill any gap between where you are and where you want to be. That’s also why we’ve put such a huge focus on in-personal LYL gatherings in the past months (and why we’re only just getting started).

World Domination Summit is one of the best places on the planet I’ve found for transforming your surroundings in the real world. In fact, I hosted a workshop on that very topic during one of Saturday’s sessions. Corbett Barr and I also hosted a packed house of 160 for a little pre party on Friday afternoon. Seeing so many of you in the real world was no doubt the highlight for me. Next year we’ll have to find a bigger venue!

Something special happens when you realize the people around you believe what you believe.

A guard does down, the need to puff your chest out starts to wain, and for the first time in many people’s lives you can actually be the person you really are. And when you do, you inspire the people around you to do the same. That’s what creates genuine connection. That is where possibility is born.

At WDS, instead of the average person doubting and belittling your ‘crazy’ idea (like so much of society does), the default response is filled with support, encouragement and fresh thoughts to help make your vision come alive.

After the weekend I felt both compelled and overwhelmed to write something. Plenty of articles will come as a result of the last few days, but for now I thought I’d keep it to the most powerful and moving ideas from some of the most inspiring and accomplished speakers, attendees and living legends I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a room with.

The below are some of my favorite tidbits from over 20 pages of notes – either things others said or things I learned from watching the things they did. I’m sure I missed plenty of gems, so please leave your own in the comments!

52 Unconventional Ideas & Stories for Moving from Idea to Impact

We are not our failures

Nancy Duarte – CEO of Duarte, Speaking Coach for Business & World Leaders and Author of Resonate

1. The most powerful way to resonate with your audience is through compelling stories and transitions. From blog post to best-selling book or world-changing speech, the framework stays the same.

2. You are not the hero. Your audience is. Your success is ultimately measured by how greatly you transform that hero. Make the journey dramatic.

3. Provide one magical tool that gets your audience unstuck from their most challenging pain. Meet them where they are and inspire them with what’s possible.

4. Note: For those curious, I did my best to follow Nancy’s Resonate book and framework in writing and presenting my TEDx talk. Her guidance was invaluable.

Darren Rowse – Founder of Problogger and Digital Photography School

5. Condition the habit of dreaming. That’s where creation begins.

6. A path is not to be found, it’s to be made.

7. The future isn’t a place we’re going, it’s a place we’re creating.

8. Notice the sparks. Follow them. The next big thing may be the small thing right in front of you.

9. At the end of each day ask yourself what gave you the most energy. Those are of the sparks worth pursuing.

10. It won’t be perfect. Put it out there anyway.

11. Consistently investigate what gives other people energy. Be the fan that fuels it.

12. Become hyper aware of people’s problems. Become obsessed with providing value. Through blog posts, emails, lunches – every interaction is a chance to helps someone solve a problem.

13. At the end of the journey it’s not about saying I had big dreams – it’s about saying I had great outcomes and results for the people around me.

14. Big dreams are meant to inspire, not intimidate. Do one small thing each day to the best of your ability to get you a tad closer. Set aside time to create & complete. Even 15 minutes a day can get your closer than you’d think.

15. You don’t have to be just one thing, but you do have to start with being something.

16. Infect others with your dreams. Sharing a vision builds a tiny army of people around you who will help it come true.

Bob Moore – Founder of Bob’s Red Mill

17. Sell something the public wants and do it in a conservative enough way to make it a business.

18. Put people before profit. Share with those who helped you build it.

19. Progress sometimes is just showing up. Personal permanence is powerful.

Jia Jiang – Founder of the 100-day Rejection Therapy Project

20. Go out and ask people for crazy things. You’d be surprised how often they’ll say yes.

21. Train yourself to welcome rejection. The higher you get, the more success you experience, the more no’s you’ll hear.

22. Avoiding rejection from others means you’re rejecting yourself. Ignoring your own ideas is the worst turndown of all. It’s also the most in our control.

23. How could the world change if you and the people around you stopped worrying about hearing “no”?

Chase Jarvis – Famed Photographer and Founder of Creative Live

24. The most common trait of successful people is creativity. It’s not a talent you’re born with. It’s a habit to be cultivated.

25. Embrace the creative craft. Find your art – photography, writing, music, story telling, cooking, anything – it’s all art. Create it daily.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”  – Abraham Maslow

Gretchen Ruben – Bestselling Author of The Happiness Project

26. The key to happiness is self-knowledge. We become too focused on how we should be that we forget who we are.

27. Being who you really are means recognizing who you aren’t and who you’ll never be.

28. As you let go of the sadness that you are not a certain way, you can devote more of your life to what you actually love doing.

29. Being you allows the people around you to be them – one of the greatest gifts you can give.

30. Who do you envy and why? Notice the things in others that you wish your life embodied. Build upon that.

31. What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old? Find a way to adapt it to your adult life.

32. Trying to resist temptation causes a lot of bad feelings. Avoid the situations that require the greatest fight.

33.  Do the work to know who you are, and set life up to play into what you know creates your happiness. Leading with intention can change everything.

Andrew Warner – Founder of Mixery

34. Pay attention to what triggers your inner critic. Learn to question it. Is it true? Does it matter? Your answers can diffuse it.

35. Focus on your true mind – the part about you that’s getting traction and doing well. What is true, useful and wanted? There’s always something. Drown out the critic.

36. No one ever got great by not sucking.

Tess Vigeland – Radio Celebrity and Former Host of Marketplace Money

37. It’s time to jump ship when you have too much self-respect to stay. Even if you happen to like the job.

38. Getting your brain to absorb new opportunities is damn hard when you’re deep into something else. Space is a powerful producer of possibility.

39. Wherever you are in your career, realize there will always be a “next”. That’s the exciting part.

40. You are not defined by your job – no matter how magnificent it is.

Steve Schalchlin – Musician, AIDS Survivor and Founder of Living in the Bonus Round

41. You can only make a difference when you care.

42. You can always find one thing you can help one person with. Finding that person means there are 10 others. And if there are 10, there’re likely 1,000 more. That’s where changing the world starts.

Donald Miller – Multi Bestselling Author and Founder of Story Line 

43. Three questions make for a powerful story: Who are you? What do you want? What happened when you went for it?

44. What we think we want isn’t what usually makes us happy. Don’t expect your achievements to solve your problems.

45. Happiness comes from meaning. Find a meaningful project, share it with those you love and you’ll become a lot more resourceful when the inevitable suffering hits.

46. Shame often separates one’s personality from who they actually are. We can’t genuinely connect with others until our identity reflects our core.

47. We are not our failures. We aren’t our successes either.

48. The expectations that come with success can freeze us from being the person that got us there. Stop being careful. Seeking approval is not a reason to do something.

49. No masterpiece is perfect.

50. Put it out there. Give people something to respond to. Learn and adjust.

51. Great stories happen when characters take action.

And the most powerful theme of all…

Dont ask permission

52. Stop waiting for permission.

An attendee who’s currently planning his around the world sailing adventure summed it up nicely: “You don’t learn sh*t tied up at the dock.”

Everyone I talked to seemed to have their story about the difference they were making. For starters…

  • Amy’s creating a movement by hosting fitness bootcamps around the country to help suicidal kids. She did her 30th in Portland last Friday.
  • An artist launched a camp to teach women how to build iPhone apps.
  • Sarah swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco in her birthday suit to raise over $30,000 for Charity Water.
  • John’s writing a book to support his mission to transform the way kids learn.
  • Rami started a website and wrote a book to teach geeks how to meet girls.
  • Jon launched a kickstarter project to help a recovering bipolar paraplegic kid turned life advocate, tell his story and help others avoid the same challenges.
  • A world-exploring chef created Global Table Adventure to celebrate the positive in the world by bringing it to your table.
  • And my favorite (and most proud) – Naz, a member of our Connect with Anyone community, who started a business, The Pursuit of Purpose, with her two mastermind members turned best friends, who then decided to fly out from Australia together, and managed to make her way onto the main stage to recite a limerick that won her a free ticket for next year – which she promptly donated to a Venezuelan friend to help her stay in the U.S. and build out her dream.

You cannot make this stuff up.

And probably the most obvious lesson in possibility and permission came from Chris himself. As he stood on a stage in front of 3,000 people from over 30 countries, it’s easy to forget that six years ago no one knew who he was.

But he had an idea for a new approach to the world. His values were simple: community, adventure and service. Values people could take on as their own, and as they did, a movement was born. Three years ago 500 people showed up to share in that vision. The next year it was double. Then triple. Thousands more were on the waiting list. And it’s only been a few years…

Do you think Chris asked if it was ok before he got started?

Something interesting happens when you hang around people who refuse to ask for permission.

Their actions become contagious.

We no longer need approval by some higher power to pursue the things that matter to us. We don’t need a bunch of money or special resources either. The only real requirements are a meaningful idea and the people to help make it come to life.

What makes a weekend like WDS so magical is the same thing that makes our community at Live Your Legend what it is.

Everyone here has an idea to share.

Something you’d like done differently.

A problem you want to solve.

An impact you desperately want to make.

A way you’d like to change the world.

And this community has always been here to make that impact a reality.

Wrap up your idea in a way that makes the people around you better. Then care enough to do something about it.

After a weekend like this it’s hard to imagine doing much else.


For the comments: If you were at WDS, what lesson did I miss? If you weren’t there, tell us your vision or share a lesson of your own. Stop asking permission, leave a comment and make us better!

And in case you missed it, here’s my recap from the first two years: WDS 2012 and 2011.


Images courtesy of Armosa Studios