You know that five syllable word that can so often get under your skin when following the directions of a GPS? When you’ve been making each and every turn you’ve been told to take and then suddenly, you hear it… “Recalculating”. Oh, the frustration.
On Sunday, July 13th, I heard that word ringing throughout my head while standing in front of 2,500 other people who, like me, are driven to “live a remarkable life in a conventional world”. And for the first time, it was the most beautiful word I’ve ever heard. You see, my life changed that day. Significantly. So here’s my story- because our stories are what make up our lives. And our stories are meant to be told.
In my last blog post I talked about Jason Mraz and airport layovers, but most importantly, I committed to stop asking for permission to follow my heart. What a great decision that has turned out to be. This month, I traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend the World Domination Summit. I spent three days with some of the most creative, passionate and incredible people that I’ve ever met- all of whom are pursuing a life of adventure, community and service. There were keynote speakers who left me jaw dropped, on my feet cheering and ready to dominate the freaking world. There were attendees from all over the world who were each unique in their own way with stories that only amazing people have to tell. And there was an overwhelming sense of opportunity floating through the air, because at WDS… anything is possible. To recount those days in their entirety would require hours upon days of writing, gallons of coffee and potentially a publisher. So just trust me on this one. It was awesome. And if you choose not to trust me, I challenge you to attend next year’s conference. I’ll even save you a seat beside me.
At the conference check-in, they had a video booth set up called the “time capsule” and the concept of it was to go in and answer the question, “What does life look like for you in the year 2020?” It’s important to know that by the time I got to the video booth, they were starting to shut it down. So I was literally (of its proper use) the next to last person to go in. I went to WDS with the mindset that I wouldn’t hold anything back, so when asked the 2020 question, I answered truthfully. Keep in mind, this is the first time that I made this idea public.
This is not word for word, but a basic idea: “I want to create a program for teenage girls that helps them develop themselves as a leader (in self-confidence, independence, relationships, etc.) through traveling. It could be as simple as a weekend camping trip teaching them how to build a fire, pitch a tent, etc. or as complex as an international service trip. I’ve started realizing through working with college students that many of them haven’t even been out of their own communities, much less the state, the south or the country. I want to help the girls overcome a challenging situation and experience a different culture. I’m a firm believer that personal experience and providing a service to other people are two huge contributors to an amazing leadership development and the teenage years tend to be when women start to really feel comfortable in their own skin, face real-life issues and determine how they view themselves. I want to help the girl that struggles with body image ski down a black diamond- facing a challenge that she usually wouldn’t ever have the opportunity to face, overcoming it and watching that body image issue become less and less of a thought in her mind…”
By 2020, I want to see that program created, operating and expanding across the United States. After that explanation, the hidden human behind the camera proceeded to ask, “What would you have to do between 2015-2020 in order to pursue the development of this program?” The beauty of this program idea is that it would allow me to continue traveling, seeking opportunities and experiencing the world in this life of mine. So there was my answer. Plain and simple. So I was left with a “Thanks! Have a great day!” and that was that. Or so I thought…
Maybe I should have split this into two parts. This would be a good time for a bathroom break, coffee refill, stand up and stretch…
The WDS weekend went on according to schedule and that video booth remained at the back of my mind. Until Sunday, July 13th. That morning, I received a text from one of the WDS staff members that read something along the lines of, “Hey! I need your help with something for the afternoon session today. Meet me at 4:05 by the theater and I’ll fill you in on the details.” Uh, what? My first thought was, “Oh crap. They’re going to make me be in a magic show or hypnotize me on stage in front of everyone.” I was unnecessarily skeptical (a good leader admits their faults, right?). Because at WDS, you never know what you could be in for. So I continued the day by plotting out my escape plan. But 4:05 rolled around and there I was with three other people- one from Portland, one from Los Angeles, and one from Chicago- all wondering the same thing… What on earth is happening? Oh, and those details that we were promised? “We’re going to seat you where we can find you. You’ll know when it’s happening, so just go with the flow.” I just knew that I was destined to end up barking like a dog every time I heard a bell ring.
We sat through the final two keynote speakers without anything happening- insert torture. Then Chris Guillebeau (another incredible human and visionary behind WDS) made his way on stage and began talking about the video booth. In my mind, I was wondering when we were going to get to this- clueless. Chris went on to explain that amongst the 2,500 people that were in attendance for WDS, they had over 7 hours worth of video footage. To put it into perspective, I may have talked for three minutes of those seven hours (or what felt like three minutes). Of course, there’s no way to show the full seven hours, so he explains that over the weekend, they narrowed the videos down to four people that they wanted to highlight. Ding, ding, ding! Bomb dropped. With a couple of expletives and a “Wait, what did I say?!” running through my head. From there, Chris proceeds to pull the four of us out of the audience and brings us on stage.
While sitting on stage in front of 2,500 of my new best friends, beside an old, vintage suitcase, hoping that no one could see up my dress (I knew I should have worn jeans), Chris began sharing our videos… and completely turning our worlds upside down. I was the third person to go and after the first two, I couldn’t sit still. Head completely swimming. He started out by replaying my video for everyone to see and then asked me to open the suitcase. Inside, I found… school supplies! This has to be going somewhere, right?
That’s when it happened.
First thing. Because the fine people of the World Domination Summit believe in my program idea, they are providing me with a nonprofit coach to serve as a resource throughout the development process. Jess Teutonico is someone that I’ve been following since grad school, so when I heard that she would be the one by my side throughout all of this, I considered back-flipping off of the stage. Jess was previously the Director of Special Events at Vogue Magazine and has worked with many leading international think tank programs on both content and production. She is dedicated to community development and investing in human potential and has been working in Kenya on sustainable programs through her own organization. She’s a badass. And she’s working with me. What?!
But that wasn’t all- second thing. There was that “2015-2020″ question in the mix too. While I’m still gathering my composure, Chris adds (again, not word for word. My head was still spinning)… “And because you still need to seek out opportunities for your program and you mentioned travel, we’re going to send you to Cambodia to do some work with Carpe Diem Education.” -insert second heart attack. In simple terms, Carpe Diem is an organization based out of Portland, OR that has travel programs created for students that focus on experiential education, community and intercultural exchange. And the more I read about the organization, the more excited I get. Of course, logistics for all of this will come in time. Patience, don’t fail me now.
Out of seven hours of video footage, four were chosen. And mine just happened to be one of the four. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. I will never be able to thank the people with World Domination Summit properly for this opportunity. They truly have changed my life in one weekend.
I stopped asking for permission and I took that first step, the hardest step, into pursing something that I didn’t have all of the details for. But I knew it felt right. And what a journey it’s turning out to be.
“If we waited until we knew what we were doing, we would never do anything.“
-Elise Blaha Cripe, WDS Keynote Speaker
Thanks Armosa Studios for staying on me to attend WDS- and for the photos!
Imagine what you could do if you took that first step.