Thoughts from #MisfitCon — a week later

MisfitCon BillboardLast year, I left #MisfitCon with pages of detailed notes. This year, one of the most striking things about my notes is how scant they are. For many speakers, I just wrote down one or two thoughts. For some speakers, I didn’t write down anything at all.

Towards the end of Saturday, I was pondering why I wasn’t taking more notes and to be honest I think it’s because this year’s #MisfitCon was more about my heart than my brain.

One of the hardest parts about being a bit of an introvert is that I have a hard time creating connections with people I don’t know. I will often go in to social settings and sit in a corner and people watch vs. interact. One of the best parts about being a returnee to this year’s MisfitCon is that there were already so many people that I met last year or (even if I didn’t talk to them at all last year) interacted with on Facebook over the course of this past year and I felt immediately among friends.

I ate at Hotel Donaldson four nights in a row — each night with a different group of people. (A couple of those dinners I invited myself to, and I hope people didn’t mind.)

It’s interesting that I’ve come away from two conferences this year — the nonprofit technology conference a few months ago and now MisfitCon — where the interactions that I had with people had so much more of an impact than what happened “on stage”.

My big takeaways from this year’s MisfitCon are really similar to last year’s … with a few twists.

  • I am important and unique. No one else can tell my story or add what I can creatively to the world. If I don’t do it, no one else will.
  • Be bold. Take risks.
  • Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission.
  • Being uncomfortable is okay. Making other people uncomfortable is okay.

Farewell, Fargo

MisfitCon BillboardIn a few hours, I will be leaving Fargo after an amazing #misfitcon weekend.

If you’re wondering, “why Fargo?”, go read this.

On Friday morning Jonathan Fields spoke about making sure all of our buckets were full. While my vitality bucket is a little low and will need replenishing over the next couple of weeks, my connection bucket is full and overflowing.

I feel as if I have been recharged and that I’m now ready to take on the next 360 or so days until next year’s MisfitCon.

It hasn’t been announced whether next year’s conference will be here in Fargo or some other awesomely quirky location, but I love the time I’ve spent in this town this year and last year.

If only the winters weren’t so cold and snowy …

Gotta do more … gotta be more

I woke up this morning with a couple scenes from Dead Poet’s Society running through my head.

This is how I feel after an amazing two days hanging with the misfits. gotta do more. gotta be more.

This year’s conference was so amazing. (And, we still have the film festival and I’m sure what will be more amazing conversations and chats with folks today!)

I had probably 3 or 4 people last night — mostly new folks to the whole misfitcon experience — asking me if this year’s conference was better or worse than last year’s. Where would I rank it? To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. There were many things *different* about this year’s conference — the number of attendees, some of the locations, some of the speakers, etc. — but it wasn’t better or worse than last years. It was just different.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Melissa and AJ gave me to come share my story and share my journey. The presentation is still a work in progress and a bit rough around the edges. If you came up and talked to me in the past couple of days about my presentation, thank you. It meant a lot to me. If you take anything away from my presentation, my hope is that you will be able to apply some of the things I do in your own life to be more awesome … to be more world-changing than most of you already are.

It was great to hear from some of the same presenters from last year and hear how their journeys have grown and changed just in the past 12 months. It was in true misfit-style that they were willing to share that even though some of them may have had more growth in their ventures than any other year, that they were still struggling with what was next and where things were headed.

I know, especially if last year was any indication, that most of the real insights from #misfitcon will come in the quiet moments in the days and weeks to come. I do already have a couple of things running through my head:

a) Creativity is an essential part of life. Whether that creativity is part of what earns you a paycheck (hopefully it is) or something else, finding those moments to be creative is crucial.

b) Only you are uniquely you. Don’t hide that from the world.

Thanks to everyone who donated to the windmill project

Thank you!

When I first heard about the windmill fundraising project that AJ Leon was putting together, I wanted to sign up but I just wasn’t sure.

I knew that my month was going to be pretty chaotic — starting with a trip to Fargo for the Misfit Conference and then the big move up to Clarksville. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to pester folks to donate, and so I wasn’t sure if I would be able reach the targeted amount.

After attending the Misfit Conference, I was still struggling with whether or not to sign up. I exchanged a few emails with Jessie and then finally thought up a plan and gave her the go-ahead to list me as a good misfit.

Today is the final day of the month, and so far I’ve raised $435. Overall, the project has reached its goal of $15,000 to build a windmill in Africa and any extra money will now go to help complete other projects needed by the community.

It’s not too late to make a donation. I would love to make my personal fundraising goal of $500 (I’m at $435 now), and I will send you some crocheted loveliness.

A Book Review: The Leap Year Project

One of the first people I met last week at MisfitConf was Victor Saad. One of the first things I noticed about Victor is that he’s one of those people that really listen to you when you’re talking with him. It was pretty neat to start hearing his story at the event the evening before the conference started.

Victor spent 2012 on the “Leap Year Project” — instead of studying in an MBA program at a university, he spent the year at multiple companies serving as an apprentice and learning by doing. As part of the project, he devoted part of the year to writing a book about his experiences.

I don’t normally comment on the aesthetics of a book — mostly because I tend to do most my reading these days on my Kindle app — but this book is really beautiful and would be an awesome addition to any bookcase or coffee table. Filled with photos of both Victor’s adventures and those who joined him by taking their own leap year adventures, the book is one that you can read cover-to-cover or just sit and read a page about one person’s experience.

My favorite quote from the book is:

“… I was starting to understand that when you share your hurdle with someone, it gives them an opportunity to contribute — to open their home, prepare a meal, write a note — and therefore be part of something bigger.”

Victor’s Leap Year Project started out with an idea, but it never would have happened if other people hadn’t stepped up — people offering him a place to sleep, companies taking a risk and allowing him to work on special projects, a friend donating airline flights to get to various locations, and many other small things people gave to Victor along the way.

This is also true of all the smaller leap year experiences described in the book.

I’m super grateful to have met Victor in Fargo and to learn more about the work that he’s done. Victor’s latest project is The Experience Institute, where he wants to expand experiential education to others. I’m looking forward to helping him on his next journey as much as I can.

When Good Thoughts Collide — Good, Better, Best

There was a talk at General Conference back in 2007 by Dallin H. Oaks that is titled Good, Better, Best. In the talk, he discusses a series of examples of how good things — specifically how we choose to spend our time — could be made better and the BEST options of those available.

I was thinking about this same idea on the train ride home today. To be glorious and to do work that “truley” matters there are good things I could be doing. But, then there’s another list of better things I could be doing and beyond that there is a list of the BEST things I could be doing.

To be sure, the things on the BEST list are the ones that will take the most time and are the ones with the highest risk, but they are also the ones with the greatest reward — the ones where I will be able to look back and say “this was the unique mark that I left on the world … this is the work that ‘truley’ matters.”

Stories I Need to Tell

Fearless by Stan Vasilyev (stanvasilyev)) on 500px.com
Fearless by Stan Vasilyev

One of my goals for attending the #MisfitConf was to gain the courage I need to start telling the stories I need to tell.

I’ve struggled on this blog a bit in trying to decide what to talk about and how much to share publicly.

I don’t think I have the answers I’m looking for yet.

And, there are some stories that I need to tell that are going to make people uncomfortable … but, we’ll see how it goes.

The People of #MisfitConf

In my post yesterday about the amazing content at #MisfitConf, I really only told half the story. The other half of the story is the amazing community that AJ & Melissa brought together in Fargo, North Dakota.

To be honest, trying to figure out who to talk about in this post was almost harder than putting together a short list of content highlights. Here are a small handful of the fantastic people I met this week.

  • Israel Smith had quite a journey to make it to MisfitConf, but I think all of us that met him were glad he made the trek. He’s a photographer from Australia and takes beautiful photos.
  • I sat on a couch with Patrick Strahan and his wife. Patrick is a blacksmith artist and makes some really cool stuff.
  • Victor Saad spent a year traveling around the world doing 12 one-month apprenticeships. Along the way, he encouraged others to take their own “leaps” and start something new. He put all the experiences together in a beautiful book.
  • Rose Choules is a shoemaker from England, who makes these wonderful handcrafted moccasins. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve really wanted a pair of shoes that weren’t my boots.
  • Marcella (and her husband Juan Jose) are from Nicaragua. Juan Jose is in farming and construction and Marcella works with companies and helps them with their marketing.
  • If you ever wanted to meet anyone who loved their town and their community, that would be Greg from Fargo. He was an awesome ambassador for Fargo to all of us misfits.
  • Nelson De Witt has an amazing story that he’s currently trying to tell via a documentary. We got to see the first 8 minutes and hear more of his story.

Those are just seven of the nearly 50 talented, funny, generous, awesome, brilliant people that came together for #MisfitConf. (I already mentioned my love for AJ & Melissa in my post yesterday. We wouldn’t have been there without them.)

Proud to be a Misfit

Greg from Fargo

I’ve just spent the past two days at the most amazing conference organized by AJ & Melissa Leon. I first met AJ & Melissa nearly 5 years ago, when they were just starting out on their Misfit journey. I’m so happy that I was able to be part of this inaugural Misfit Conference with them.

This is one of those events where there are almost too many takeaways. Each speaker was amazing, and I have pages of notes to process as the days, weeks & months go on.

My goal for coming out to Fargo, North Dakota and attending #MisfitConf was to be inspired — to be more fearless, to be a better writer, to take more risks, to put my thoughts and stories out there and not care what everyone else thinks. I got that and so much more.

There wasn’t a lot of tweeting happening, because AJ had implemented a no laptop / tablet / staring at your smartphone rule. There were some tweets that made it on to the Internet, and you can see them here. You can also see some of the awesome Instagram photos people took of the event.

These are the top takeaways from the event — although there is *so much more* floating around my head (and heart) that it was difficult to even narrow it down to these:

  • Clay Herbert – “What gatekeeper is keeping you from shipping?” For me, that gatekeeper is internal and not external.
  • Pam Slim – “You don’t always need to know the outcome.”
  • Srini Rao – “The more you polish something, the more it loses the shine from within.”
  • Srini Rao – “Be the final authority on your life.”
  • Justin Levy – Pursue your ideas & passion with obsession. Don’t let the cards you’ve been dealt in your life dictate your decisions.
  • Victor Saad – Hope. Risk. Learn. => HOPE
  • Victor Saad – Education should be about finding out what is wrong in the world and HOW YOU FIT INTO MAKING IT BETTER
  • Joshua Fields Millburn – Don’t confuse passion with excitement
  • Joshua Fields Millburn – Hold on to the things that add value to your life & ditch the rest — re-evaluate this on a regular basis
  • David Baeza – Don’t try to compete. Research your competition and find where you can add unique value.
  • Rachel – The gut feeling is your destiny.
  • Rachel – You already know what your destiny is and you have everything you need to start!
  • AJ Leon – Everything from tomorrow on is unwritten.
  • Greg Hartle – opportunityisnowhere
  • Greg Hartle  – If you don’t let go of the old and of the past, nothing new can begin.

My hope is that #misfitconf and the community of misfits will be a touchpoint for me moving forward.

It is wonderful how things turn out. Years ago, I heard about a guy named Chris Brogan and that he was holding a conference in San Francisco called New Marketing Labs Inbound Summit. I had been following Chris for awhile and actually paid for the Indbound Summit out of my pocket. I was on a quest for power to charge my laptop and wound up at the same table as AJ & Melissa Leon. We had a couple of great conversations that day and they became part of my inner circle. These past few days are an extension of that, and I’m so proud to be a Misfit.