I flew to Portland trying to keep my expectations neutral. Last year’s World Domination Summit had changed my life – no word of exaggeration. How could this year’s event live up to that billing?
So much would be different. I knew people who were attending this year. The speakers were new, a different workshop format, three times as many people were going.
Ah yes – 3,000 people were going to attend this year. Which somewhat ramped up the other major difference – that I’d be speaking to them.
I found out about two weeks ago that Chris would like me to tell the story of The Hundred Dollar Club.
I’ll admit to breaking the law slightly here. I saw the email arrive whilst I was driving. But what I saw was this:
Oh Wow. Good job I was parked by this point! I promptly set a new Personal Best for the number of simultaneous conflicting feelings:
Yes! Get in! Holy Shit! Wow that’s going to be awesome. ARGHHH! Right, what shall I say? WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO SAY?! AND HOW AM I GOING TO DO IT IN FRONT OF 3,000 PEOPLE?
There were more thoughts that I can’t remember. My head was spinning faster than my wheels had been, but eventually I settled into the thought that it was an amazing opportunity, and I’d secretly wanted to do for a while.
Last year, I’d sat in the back of the theatre and thought – “You know, I’d quite like to speak up there next year.” I didn’t make it an explicit goal, but it was always there in the back of my mind – It subconsciously pushed me to create a story worth telling.
I replied saying I’d love to speak. And I actually meant it.
A little secret about me is I love tests. I’ve always bizarrely quite liked exams, and difficult situations, as long as I’m prepared for them. Two weeks was plenty of time to prepare a 3 minute talk, so I went to town on it. There was some fear and some doubt, but a year of pushing myself to do uncomfortable things told me this was right. So, to prepare…
I Googled something like “how to write a good speech”, and pretty much every result mentioned Nancy Duarte somewhere. Given she was to be the opening speaker at the event (She didn’t disappoint), I tried to apply her advice as much as possible within the confines of three minutes.
I researched how many words would likely take up 3 minutes then wrote, rewrote and reworked a speech that I thought would do the job. I practised the SHIT out of it. I tweaked and tuned till I thought I had it down. I wasn’t totally perfect, but was as good as I was going to get.
It wouldn’t be true to say I was relaxed when I met fellow attendee speakers Jean, Amy and Rami before going in, but I was OK. Rami Happened to say “No plan survives contact with the enemy” and we all laughed a bit.
Then, a tiny detail dropped a bomb on all of us. We’d prepped for 3 minutes and given ourselves a bit of leeway. My last practice came in around 2:40.
We had only 2 minutes. ARGHHHHHHH! What to do?
I started thinking – should I just ignore the timer and go for my original speech? Would a trap door open and swallow me up after 2 minutes? I decided probably not, but it would be a bit disrespectful, so I, along with the others set about mentally culling parts from our stories.
Actually, not so mentally – during the first part of Gretchen Rubin’s talk I was scribbling and crossing out bits of my notes. I did one final mental run thought and…
I showed Amy, who’d evidently being doing exactly the same thing. We took screenshots as a memento, and a reminder that we’d be fine!
After nervously half listening to Gretchen’s Talk and vaguely learning that I was an “Abstainer” and an “Obliger”, we headed backstage – it looks a bit like this by the way – the blurred effect was pretty much how my eyes saw it:
Deep breath, quick chat with Chris who told us we’d be extraordinary and we’re on.
Oh My Goodness it’s amazing to be up there.
I loved every second of it.
Hopefully a video of the talk will be around soon – then you can judge for yourself whether I was any good or not, but frankly I was ecstatic. Jean, Amy and Rami were awesome, and I think we all marched off with a sense of disbelief and swollen pride.
So – lengthy descriptive bit over. What did I learn from this experience – turns out an immense amount.
Firstly, pushing myself to do it was a great education. One of my heroes gave me some advice:
“If your Lizard brain is telling you not to do something, try walking towards it”
Whilst I deep down wanted to talk, my brain was in overdrive telling me a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t. I ignored them and walked into the fear. As I did that I think the it realised the game was up and switched to make sure I didn’t do anything too stupid, like swearing on the stage (It didn’t quite get all of those, sorry)
I’ve definitely grown as a person this year by taking on uncomfortable stuff, and in all cases I’ve found I actually liked those things in the end. As I said in the talk itself:
Self doubt is bullshit!
This definitely resonated, because it got a huge cheer, people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for saying it, and I’ve seen it in a few tweets! I’m learning to embrace things which seem far fetched and scary, including people tweeting stuff I say!
I was also starkly reminded of something I already believed:
Everything can be simplified.
I thought my talk was at it’s very essence, but it wasn’t. With the right circumstances and pressure I chopped fully a third from it and it still got the message across. In fact, I’m sure it improved.
The whole experience was a fitting round up to a year where I have firmly believed that if you put your mind to it, take action and get support, you can achieve big things. The guys in The Hundred Dollar Club did, and you can too.
That’s going to be my renewed focus for the coming year – getting so called ordinary folks to do amazing things, using my three personal themes from #WDS2013:
Connection | Community | Action.
I want to scale up the work of THDC to impact and change more people. Are you with me? Drop your email below and together we’ll make great things happen.
I’d love to know what your takeaways or themes were. Has WDS inspied you to do something awesome this year? Please do share in the comments.