Embracing Vulnerability at WDS

Last year Madeleine and I attended the inaugural World Domination Summit (“WDS”) in Portland OR, the brainchild of Chris Guillebeau (blogger, world traveler and author of The Art of Non Conformity and The $100 Start Up). Unfortunately Madeleine couldn’t attend this year, however thanks to her encouragement many Vancouverites made the trip.

Some of the Vancouver contingent at WDS

While the name of the conference raises eyebrows, the event is essentially a gathering of people who are living (or aspiring to live) “a remarkable life in a conventional world”. Last year, attendance was capped at 500 and this year it doubled (with tickets selling out in a manner of minutes). There are over 200 blog posts about WDS (not surprising, since the conference attracts talented bloggers and writers), so rather that trying to summarize it myself, here are a few of the best posts for those of you considering attending in the future:

As for my own takeaways, without a doubt the most impactful speaker of the weekend for me was Brene Brown. I’ve watched her TED talks on vulnerability and shame, but hearing her honesty and humility live was extraordinary, and I can’t wait to get my hands on her new book Daring Greatly, which comes out later this year. Her message has helped me process some of the feelings that came up for me this year.

Brene Brown on vulnerability, photo Armosa Studios

With the expanded conference size, it certainly felt different from last year. I witnessed 1000 people seamlessly move around from speakers to workshops: it felt a bit like being on university campus again. The Extroverts reveled in the crowds and took part in the multitude of crazy activities, while the Introverts pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, navigating the organized chaos.

As an introvert who has trained myself to be extroverted when I need to be, I volleyed between wanting to really engage and meet new people to planning for safe escape from the madness. I exchanged heartfelt greetings with those who I met last year and took lunch breaks away from the crowds. I also did a lot of people watching and initiated conversations with attendees I didn’t know.

So here’s the interesting part: I felt rebuffed on several occasions by some of these new exchanges. It happened enough times to make me wonder: was I intruding on someone’s space who didn’t want to engage with me, or was feeling rebuffed ME feeling shame … hello Brene!) that I wasn’t good enough to talk to that other person, that I didn’t fit in?

“We grow up putting on armor to protect ourselves from vulnerability.” Brene Brown

It led me to wonder about how and where we wear “armor”, what it means and what the consequences are. Brene’s words reminded me that a close friend once told me she had observed me as appearing unapproachable in social situations (and wondered why, since she knew me to be a warm and loving person). She held a very valuable mirror in front of me, as I didn’t realize I wore that armor sometimes too!

My experience at WDS was a reminder that I need to let go of the feeling of shame or worry around fitting in (which Brene says is about showing up in a way you want to be seen) and believe “that no one belongs here more than you”. Dare to be vulnerable, because in Brene’s words:

  • Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage
  • Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

Have you noticed whether you (or others) wear armor in social situations? Are you comfortable embracing your vulnerability?

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  • Thanks for sharing this post, the quotes and the videos. Some people definitely seem to wear armors in social situations and I think that being vulnerable in general is hard to do, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes.