Never mind startup, join in - Reflections on WDS 2014

Once a year there's a conference in Portland, Oregon called World Domination Summit with the mission to explore how do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world. A main focus is on how to build remarkable businesses. The values of the conference are community, adventure and service with NY Times bestselling authors, seven-figure income earning business leaders and celebrity smoothie makers presenting and attending. During a 72 hour period, presenters used the word awesome dozens of times. Turned out it was actually inspiring.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios (armosastudios.com), WDS 2014 Media Team

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios (armosastudios.com), WDS 2014 Media Team

One of the few grey-haired speakers at WDS 2014 - the only speaker in a navy suit jacket - was John Jantsch with a presentation on making good choices. During his talk, he said something that stuck. He said when he made the choice to leave a super successful career in the 90s and start his own business that people thought he was a failure. Friends asked if his day job was really that bad, and asked why he couldn't get a new big co job. 

Today it's the opposite. Twenty somethings are surrounded by freelancer friends, follow millionaire bloggers, and watch movies like The Social Network. There's been a boom in business books about ditching your day job and striking out on your own - 4 Hour Work Week, The Art of Nonconformity, The War of Art and many of these principles and stories are about solo businesses, about going it on your own.

About 3,000 people attended WDS. The focus was on what do YOU want to do for a remarkable life? There was even a sticker given out with  "I ______" printed on it so everyone could declare a personal intention. It was empowering, but it made me wonder if we are missing out on doing things together.

About 10 years ago, about the same time I started joining and doing marketing for tech startups, I also joined a non-profit arts Board with almost no notion of how I could contribute. I saw a Decidedly Jazz Danceworks performance and was so moved that I looked into the organization and discovered their track record of profitable operations in a really difficult funding environment. I mean jazz dance? Isn't that for old people? This is a city with 35 years old as a median age.

Over the decade - out of three startup experiences, the one I would have least expected to flourish is the only one that's delivered a return on my sweat and options. But Decidedly Jazz Danceworks just broke ground on a $25 Million dance facility that will make it a cultural pillar of Calgary. It's not my venture. It's not about me at all - I don't know how to dance and own just two jazz albums that were gifts from DJD. But by joining in, by being part of something that didn't start with my own goals, that's how I helped make something remarkable happen.

Amazing things happen when we join in other people's ventures that align with our own passions. Just look at the hundreds of volunteers who joined in to make WDS happen. They look pretty accomplished.

Starting up something personal is powerful. So is joining in.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios (armosastudios.com), WDS 2014 Media Team

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios (armosastudios.com), WDS 2014 Media Team