As a first-time World Domination Summit participant, I am ecstatic about meeting new people in the community and learning from them. This year's official festivities begin this Friday (two days from today) but many participants arrived in Portland days before the Summit. They organized daily, informal meetups starting last weekend.
I was curious about the possibilities of meeting other participants before the official start of the conference and decided to attend an informal gathering several evenings ago. As I hopped on the crosstown bus and headed to the meetup, my mind formed questions of apprehensions. Here I was, taking a journey to meet a group of strangers whom I had never met in person before. The only interactions I've had with them were online. I'd only met few of these folks, and I had known them for less than 48 hours!
I imagined a group gathering where others all knew each other through previous WDS events and had forged close relationships over time. I felt like a dirty plebeian who was just learning the ways to lead a remarkable life. I felt like a carnivore who brought steak to an all-vegan potluck. "What if I don't belong? What if I'm too conventional?" From a very timely blog post, Seth Godin explained this fear: "All our warning systems are on high alert. From an evolutionary perspective, strangers represent danger. They are not only a direct threat, but carry the risk of rejection and all the insecurity that comes with it."
But I decided to show up. And, hot damn, I am very glad for making that choice. I discovered that these people were inclusive and supportive. I spent hours listening with fascination about their life stories, journeys, and work. I found commonalities and shared interests with the folks who also dared greatly and showed up. I learned that some of them even traveled from overseas or took cross-country road trips to attend WDS--without knowing any of the other attendees! Shit, my 45-minute bus ride of trepidation paled in comparison to the chances these people had just taken.
From these six friends, I learned about "location-independent" lifestyle, men's life coaching, taking leaps of faith when making significant life changes, and other concepts which broadened my horizon. They also validated my strengths and passions--bringing people and ideas together is not just a trifling personality knack, but a gift. My new friends also made me aware that I have areas where I want to improve upon: demonstrating empathy and displaying kindness to outsiders. It was powerful to hear a group of newly-met friends offer important advice, which I will take to heart: "Never apologize for who you are, or where you are in your life." As Seth Godin added in his post, "But the opposite can be true: Strangers can represent opportunity. The opportunity to learn, to make new connections, to build bridges that benefit everyone."
I was reminded that I have dared greatly before in venues where I knew no one else beforehand, and embraced those communities. I showed up at running races and long-distance cycling events even though I was in company of complete strangers: I often became inspired by watching other participants, and shared brief pleasantries and conversations with them. I built friendships with people from my recreational flag football and softball teams even though I joined the teams as a free agent outsider. I've made new connects from a room full of strangers at Project Management courses last year--that how I had indirectly learned about WDS in the first place!
Just yesterday, while I was thinking about the amazing experience of meeting WDS participant friends, I became filled with joy. For several minutes, I felt as if I was floating on air. I felt very content. As Karla DeVito sang in "We Are Not Alone" (from The Breakfast Club soundtrack), "If we dare expose our hearts, just to feel the purest parts, that's where strange sensations start to glow."
Meeting those six people the previous day inspired me to attend another meetup later in the day: there were about twenty people in attendance, and I connected with many of them. I feel blessed to have discovered such an inclusive and friendly tribe where people routinely dare greatly.