This past weekend, I attended Chris Guillebeau‘s World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, Oregon. Funny name aside, WDS is a gathering of people from around the world who are interested in living an “unconventional life in a conventional world.”
Since the first summit in 2011, it’s brought together lots of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, writers, artists and more looking to be inspired, meet like-minded people and further their mission to live life on their own terms (whatever that looks like for them). This year brought out 3,000 people!
Fear seemed to be a theme of many of the speakers this year and since I’m all about hugging your fear, I’d like to share X lessons I took away from WDS about going to a conference alone and from several of the awesome speakers.
Decide in advance what you want out of the conference.
Forget what you think is supposed to be the goal. I felt an unspoken pressure to make my primary goal meeting a certain amount of people, especially since I knew no one going in. Instead of making me focused, most of the first day it made me feel anxious and resentful.
So I sat down and wrote out what felt better to focus on, what I wanted to get out of my trip. Things like getting guilt-free rest, being myself, having fun and being inspired topped the list.
And you know what? I ended up meeting way more people than if I had super focused on doing that. Lowering the pressure made me actually want to chat with people. And I still got in lots of rest and fun activities. So decide what you want up front, not what you think you should want or what others tell you should be your priority.
Meet people wherever you stand.
Sometimes we make things scarier than they need to be. Sometimes it’s really as simple as just saying hello to whomever you’re standing next to. Maybe not on a street corner in New York City, but at a conference, the odds are in your favor. The people around you are there to meet like-minded souls and saying hello opens up a potential new connection.
And if you can’t think of what to say after hello, “What brought you to this conference?” is a good second question that will likely reveal other things to talk about. Make the most out of just standing in line next to someone, that’s how I met people at WDS.
Separate fear from preference or personal need.
Sometimes we mistake fear with needing a break or with our temperament. There is this myth that you should be part of every single thing that is happening at a conference, whether it feels good or not. Sometimes you just need a break, especially if you struggle with fear. Putting yourself out there can require a lot of energy. Take a break without the guilt.
And if you are an introvert and/or a highly sensitive person, a break is a must do. Taking time away doesn’t always mean you’re running, it can also mean that you’re taking care of yourself so that when you are back to the group, you can be present and energized.
Peer pressure does not end after high school. Being in a large group of people, it can be very tempting to go with the crowd, especially when you’re around people who you admire or want to be like.
One thing that came up a couple of times in conversation was how awkward it can be to do what other people aren’t doing. For example, many people at WDS (or other similar kinds of conferences) are outwardly enthusiastic which leads to lots of standing ovations and exuberant cheering.
Several times after a presentation was over, I found myself sitting while other people were giving standing ovations. I felt very tempted to get up and clap to be part of the group, but I also felt like doing so would be dishonest.
I was a bit afraid of what other people would think of me sitting, but I sat with that fear (literally!), took some deep breaths and stuck with my choice. Being yourself can be scary, but it brings peace of mind in the long run. Choose to be your true self in the midst of conference peer pressure. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Like I mentioned before, several of the talks during WDS made reference to fear. I was comforted to hear how so many people doing awesome things still felt afraid and went for their dream anyway.
The first lesson was the power of taking a step, any step. Jadah Seller, co-creater of Green Smoothies, recommended taking imperfect action as a way to move through fear. She had no idea that her business would grow to be where it is now, but she just kept taking imperfect action and her path unfolded.
Michael Hyatt, shared the question “What single brave decision do I need to make today?” He gave an example of a brave decision he made. Once when he was the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, he put his job on the line by speaking against the majority of the board’s decision to declare bankruptcy for the company. He talked about going into that board meeting terrified and shaking, but saying his truth anyway and in the end it worked out.
“Tiny House Pioneer” Dee Williams, wore a red cape (a Delta airplane blanket in a former life) to demonstrate how we can be courageous in our day to day life if we imagine ourselves wearing one. We can become a superhero of sorts and show up despite fear for our lives and each other.
Assuming the posture of a superhero (straight back, chin up, chest out and hands on hips) can help us project our “superheroness” to ourselves and the world and show up with courage and bravery.
John Francis shared the power of taking a step literally when he shared how he spent 17 years honoring a pledge he made to himself to walk everywhere (no riding in cars) and stop speaking. While he didn’t talk about fear as much, I want to share with you how powerful a simple decision made by one person can be. His one decision led him all over the country, earning multiple degrees (one of them being a PhD) and it led to him becoming a United Nations Environmental Program Goodwill ambassador. You don’t have to see the full path when you start walking, just take a step and you will likely end up in a place you would have never dreamed of.
And adding to the walking theme, Elise Balha Cripe of the craft website Elise Joy said, “you learn to walk by walking.” You can’t think your way to what you want to do, you have to take a step and then let the path unfold. Start with step one and don’t think about the other steps. I just love that!
Finally, Gary Hirsch challenged us to answer the question “What is one brave thing you want to do…but haven’t?” Each of us was given a handmade Brave Bot to help us visualize our bravery and also to help encourage it. See what brave things other people have done here.
For more detailed notes on each talk, Scott Berkun has a nice write up here.
So have you ever been too afraid to go to a conference on your own? Just know that you can do it and have fun even if you’re terrified or just a little bit nervous. Perhaps that will be your one brave thing? I’d love to hear from you.
Until Next Time,
If you liked this post, you might also like:
5 Things I Learned from Doing A New Thing Every Day for a Month
5 Easy Ways to Make Fear Less Scary and Take Steps towards Your Dreams