Resonance, Rejection and Act Four

I went to the World Domination Summit 2013 in search of inspiration, instead I found strength in my own convictions. As I discarded remnants of my dream shackles on the boardwalk bordering the Willamette river, I rediscovered my self-confidence. As I heard stories of adversity and perseverance from the speakers, I felt empathy. As I saw the plight of those in need, I remembered gratitude. As I felt the grace of those that have achieved success, I embraced humility.

It has been exactly 2 weeks since I returned. I have written over 7000 words on the subject. I have laid out detailed accounts of each speech made at the conference. While I found every conversation and interaction to be insightful, if I were to start publishing everything I wrote, I would write predominantly WDS related material for the next month! Instead I offer a brief synopsis of topics that influenced me the most. I summarize the speeches which have broadened my dreams. I present my lasting impressions of WDS 2013: Resonance, Rejection and Act Four.

Resonance, Rejection and Act Four

Resonance, The Power of Story

I hope the “The Authentic Life Guide” generated a greater awareness of all aspects of your life. I hope it led you to your dreams and gave you a glimpse of your story. Nancy Duarte helped me understand the power of story in her speech at WDS 2013.

  • You may think that you don’t have a story or that it is not worth telling. That is not true, we are all born storytellers. From the time that we start stringing words together to form sentences depicting our external world, we begin relating who we are and how we feel about everything around us.
  • Everyone has a story waiting to be told. If you have lived, loved and learned, then you too have a story to relate. Your untold story might make a world of difference to someone who has not lived your life.
  • No one can tell your story better than you. You have to own your story and be willing to narrate it to everyone you meet. How you tell your story matters as well. The story might be about you, but if you want to bring an audience along on your journey, it has to be about them as well. Your narration must be compelling enough to infuse your audience with enthusiasm.
  • Are you drawing upon all resources at your disposal to tell your story? Songs, verses, dialogue and images, these are all tools you can leverage. In order to make your audience care, you have to tell them why your story matters. How will your story impact their reality?
  • Repetition, visual imagery, a poignant story and most of all a STAR moment (Something They will Always Remember) are key to leaving a lasting impression in the minds of the audience. Nancy surprised me by her unexpected examples of Jesus’s and Evita Peron’s speech. Her reference to the Argentine descamisados will always stay with me as a STAR moment.
  • All writers are speakers. The more you own your story, the more poised you will be with presenting your message in front of an audience.
  • The speaker is not the hero but a mentor to the audience. The important factor in any speech, dialogue or book is the audience. What does your audience care about? How can you impart your idea to them?

Stories create emotional appeal, they persuade in a way that facts seldom do. A personal story is the most powerful tool for delivery of information. It can arouse the imagination of your audience and move them enough to change permanently.

A Taste of Rejection  

Whether we admit it or not rejection is something we reflect on every single day. When we compose an email to a prospective client, when we approach a committee with an idea, or even when we try to instill healthier eating habits in our family, we face a chance that we might be rejected. Public speaking heads the list of things that everyone fears, not only because it is intimidating to speak in front of a crowd but also because of the possibility of being rejected. Fear of rejection is an insidious disease similar to preoccupation with perfection. It can stop us from taking action to pursue our dreams and leading a more authentic life.

I was blown away by Jia Jiang’s speech on Rejection Therapy. Aside from the fact that Jia has an interesting sense of humor, it was fascinating to hear his story. He too had aspired for something different when he was younger. Ironically, in his path to following his dreams (starting a software company), being rejected and sharing his story, opportunities outside of what he initially sought have presented themselves to him.

Some of us haven’t even considered rejection. I have played it safe in my academic and corporate life not because of a fear of rejection, but because of a misconception that opportunities materialize eventually. Jia’s willingness to step out into the unknown and face rejection made me feel humble. Jia’s conviction resonated with me, if we are not actively chasing our dreams (even with a newborn in tow) we are indeed rejecting ourselves.

At the end of the day, rejection is just an opinion; it is simply how another person perceives you. If we build our lives based on other’s perceptions how authentic can that life be?

Rejection is like chicken, it accepts flavors of the sauce in which it simmers. Which sauce will you allow your rejection to marinate in – humiliation and despondence or affirmation and endurance ? How does your rejection taste?

Act IV

Most people are happy with one act when it comes to their career. They usually obtain a job, achieve proficiency and start climbing the corporate ladder. If they decide to switch gears midstream or become more adventurous there may be an act two or three. But what happens when you have achieved mastery in one niche and attempt to switch? What if you don’t find what you are looking for? What if you are ready for Act 2, but none present themselves to you?

I felt goose bumps as Tess Vigeland walked on stage and said these six words “What the hell are you doing?” Even though I was seated amidst an audience of 3000, it felt as though we were engaged in a personal conversation. I may not have Tess’s background, connections or fan base, but I could relate to her story. A similar question has lingered at the back of my mind since I quit my corporate job 10 months ago. I too have declared my intentions to build something new, faced opposition, and almost fallen back into another corporate job. Tess’s speech left me pondering many things about starting a new act.

  • Her inside joke on radio personalities was a STAR moment. You can’t let preconceptions limit your dreams. If Tess let the fact that radio personalities are usually thought to have a better voice than presence stop her, she wouldn’t be on stage influencing 3000 people.
  • All of us inevitably find ourselves in an appealing comfort zone where we are recognized as an expert. We can parade our knowledge within this zone and feel like we are an authority in our field. However, paradoxically, dwelling in this comfort zone leads to discomfort in the long run. Tremendous opportunities exist outside of the comfort zone if only we were to explore them. The entire WDS experience reinforced my belief that we have to constantly seek new zones and probe the depths of our talents.
  • It is unsettling not knowing what your next act will be and when it will commence. Even those who have achieved immense success feel this way sometimes.
  • When someone thinks of starting a new act they are usually considering something peripheral to their current act. Taking an example from the corporate world, say, someone could move out of analysis into management. But what most people don’t realize (and it took me several years to acknowledge) is that one day your comfort zone will expand to encompass even that peripheral role. If your dreams are not being met in a particular job, industry or occupation, anything remotely connected to that job will not offer long-term dream fulfillment.

The universe works in mysterious ways. After Tess interviewed and failed to receive an offer for her dream job with NPR in D.C., she was approached to publish a book. She now begins her fourth act as an author.

Summary

The beauty of a speech, a book, or an event is not just the message conveyed within but how it alters our reality. These were my lasting impressions of WDS 2013.

  • Our references and values are shaped by our environment, the books we read as children, the messages that are handed down to us by our parents. We have the ability to change our references at any time. We need to have a clear vision of who we want to become and discover role models who have achieved what we aspire to. We need to proactively pursue opportunities to interact with like-minded people. This in effect will expand our references and move us towards our goals.
  • Connections or knowledge alone will not create a legacy. Only sustained action will leave an indelible mark on society. All the same, being in close proximity to role models and like minded peers will urge you take massive action and inspire you to expand your vision.
  • An initial internal spark might have motivated you, the artist, to claim your true calling. However, once you have identified what you want to create – books, art, music, and software – you need to establish a practice of prolific creation. Relying on inspiration alone is like planting seeds and relying on Mother Nature to rain on the fields to grow your crop. You need to protect, nurture and tend to your seeds every single day.
  • You have to be willing to risk rejection to achieve your dreams. If you don’t then you are rejecting yourself and directing your life based on other’s opinions.
  • No two entrepreneurs or artists are alike. Every artist tells his or her story differently. I was moved by Nancy Duarte’s passion, Jia’s humor and Tess’s candor. Each of them had a STAR moment and a unique way of telling their story. The only way to become a master storyteller is to start telling your story. Never fear, you will find your style along the way.
  • Keep your eyes open for the bonus levels that are unlocked on the way to fulfilling your dream. Like Jia Jiang or Tess Vigeland you too might end up inspiring 3000 people.
  • Some of us have chased success down every dark alley in the corporate world and simulated passion in its pursuit. Oddly enough after being surrounded by thousands of successful people, I feel less intimidated by their success and less threatened by any chances of failure. I humbly claim a modest success in my own eyes, if only because I have taken a risk and continue to write here at RGL.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

— Rudyard Kipling, If

What have you been procrastinating or avoiding to elude rejection? How will you narrate your story so that it resonates with your audience? What will your next act be? Can you brave rejection and harness the power of your personal story to propel yourself to a magnificent next act?

Image Credit: darrentunnicliff

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