It seems fitting that WDS 2013 ended with a champagne toast.
It felt very much like a culmination and a celebration of sorts, for me at least.
It also felt like the end of my WDS time.
At the end of the weekend, after all the amazing speakers and stories, I was left with this thought…
“I think I’m done.”
Does this mean I’ve learned all I can from the speakers and fellow attendees?
With college, even after you graduate, if you were to go back and sit in on a class, it’s very (if not highly) likely you’d learn something, be inspired, meet cool people—and that’s great.
But it’s also important to know when you need to stop sitting in and move on.
I think many people (including myself) come to WDS for a few things:
- Seeking Inspiration
- Wanting Ideas
- Finding a Tribe
So what happens when you find those things?
(all together now) You go DO something!
In Year 1, I had been blogging and traveling (for almost a year), but I still had no firm plan, no one thing to focus on.
In Year 2, I was trying several different things, hoping something would stick, eager to position myself as “someone.”
For Year 3, I know what I’m working on (the TET show), I have my core group, and I now feel like I’m here to share, unattached (as much as possible) from the outcome. I got stuff I’m passionate about and grateful for those who want to listen.
Back in my past life in LA, I consider my four years with a classical theatre company a kind of Graduate Degree. Similarly, over the past two years, perhaps I’ve earned a Masters Degree in World Domination. Now THAT sounds pretty cool.
I’ve learned from:
- Jonathan Fields
- Pam Slim
- Danielle LaPorte
- Leo Babauta
- Brene Brown
- Cal Newport
- Chris Brogan
- JD Roth
- Nancy Duarte
- Gretchen Rubin
- Donald Miller
- and many more
On topics covering:
- and lots more
And not to mention the hundreds of people whose work I’ve discovered and engaged with over the past two years.
My WDS Years (to the tune of “The Wonder Years…”)
I’ve attended since Year 1 (3 conferences total) and it’s pretty amazing to look back at where I was two years ago, and where I’ve come.
Year 1, with only 500 people, was just an amazing, intimate experience. For the first time that I knew, all these inspiring online people were getting together in the same place, hosted by one of the most influential people in my life (Mr. CG himself). It was a no-brainer to attend, and it planted the seeds for some amazing relationships.
Now, I’m glad WDS grew. Many of us didn’t know what to expect with twice as many people in Year 2—I thought it would lose something special.
But if Year 1 was “really cool and pretty sweet,” Year 2 was “OMG—did you just see that??” There was such a HUGE leap in production value, it was kinda stunning.
Though I do kinda miss in Year 1 how we were all in one room, where the lights were just “on,” so you could look around and see everybody all the time. It was awesome.
Year 2: for me, this was *the* year, when everything peaked: the speakers, how ideas landed on me, my connections, etc. I was in the sweet spot of my life for that conference to happen when it did.
Between Brene Brown’s opening speech, the theatre-wide karaoke rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” and Chris’ announcement of the $100 Investment, there was an unbelievable electricity in the air.
A kind of “Did that just F@$&ING happen?!” series of moments.
I think everyone in that theatre knew something profound was amidst. I’m sure I was not the only one gettin’ goosebumps. The excitement was at 11, people!!
And after Chris said everyone was getting $100 cash, there were audible gasps—we were truly speechless.
If you weren’t there, I’m sorry my sub-par writing skills aren’t adequately conveying the scene. It truly was unforgettable. Think of something amazingly awesome and life-changing that happened to you 5 years ago that feels like it was yesterday. Ok, that’s what we’re talking about.
And even with 1000 people, it always felt like wherever you went, you would run into people you’d know. It was, in a word…wonderful.
Year 3: speakers were great (Donald Miller and Tess Vigeland blew me away), more wonderful people, but for me, there was something missing, and I don’t think it was the program. It’s where I’m at personally.
It also felt like too many people. I’m not being overly nostalgic for 500; I just know that one of the main reasons I came to WDS is to see my friends, the people I’ve been building relationships with over the past few years.
With 3000 people, you can be surrounded by a couple hundred people that you don’t know and you can’t see anyone you recognize—that is challenging. There were people I *knew* were at the conference and I barely saw them!
Of course there are awesome people all around, but I’m not looking for quantity of connections.
Though there was that moment in the after-after party when I danced with Danielle LaPorte to Shakira. You can’t make this stuff up.
So what’s next? Where do we go from here?
Those of us who have been to all three years (or Years 2 and 3), we’re a cohort, and while we may have attended the first time looking for the three items above, what if we have that now?
It seems that the conference is focused on appealing to a more general/beginner audience, which is great—there are always people who need the introductory materials, and a way to connect with others who “get it.”
But what if you don’t need a kick in the pants?
For me at least, it kinda feel like you can “tap out” on this kind information—not that it isn’t useful; it’s more “right, I get this—now I need something different…”
THAT “something different” is what I’m looking for.
And maybe, it’s going to be up to us—those who have “graduated”—to figure out how we can continue learning, growing, and achieving as a group.
Will we come up with our own conference? Do something virtual?
I don’t know, but I’m excited to consider that question alongside some kick-ass friends, mentors, and teachers.
What am I going to do for WDS 2014?
Unlike last year, I didn’t pounce on a ticket. And I’m not sure I’m going to.
I may “un-conference” as a couple of friends did this past year: just show up to Portland for that weekend and go to meet ups and connect with people. I love my friends, I love the vibe when everyone’s in town, and I love Portland in the summer. It’s a win-win-win.
I won’t be able to attend the official events, which is a shame, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Chris Guillebeau, it’s that the man knows how to throw a freakin’ party.
Will WDS become something different in the coming years?
Well, seeing how much of a serial entrepreneur Mr. Guillebeau is, I have no doubt he’s been thinking how to best expand this little project.
And just to be totally frickin’ clear, I’m not hatin’ on WDS or Chris. I am SO enormously grateful for the work he and all his associates have done; their level of dedication, enthusiasm, and integrity is stunning.
These WDS years will always hold a special place in my heart.
“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…”
**OK, it was sparkling cider they served for the toast, as apparently, Chris and the entire rest of the staff were threatened with jail time if they served the real thing. One of Chris’ best lines was when he was told he’d be facing jail: “how much time are we talking?” Ha.
Photo courtesy of Armosa Studios