So I have been noticeably absent for the past week or so. Not from lack of material or inspiration but for once, the complete opposite. Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Web of Change Conference. As many of my friends now know, I tend to approach any new gathering of strangers with a mixture of fear, skepticism and overall reluctance. The fact that everyone who has ever gone to one of these events gush about it with a cult-like enthusiasm and vigor, only increases my level of wariness and skepticism. Web of Change promises to be a ‘gathering connecting senior leaders working at the convergence of online strategy, technology, and social change’. So the big question remains, was it everything I thought it was going to be? As the website promised… did I come back inspired, reinvigorated and more importantly able to renew my passion for the work that I do?
Let me just say that it was probably one of the most intense 5 days that I have ever experienced. When you are stranded on a remote island in British Columbia (see Hollyhock’s website) 24 hours a day with the 100 attendees, there is not much down time or ‘alone’ time (We all had to share lodgings because the conference was packed to the gills) Each day started at 7:00am (if you are into yoga and meditation) or 8:30 breakfast. Groups sessions and workshops usually take up the remainder of the time with breaks to eat lunch or dinner and quickly attend to your biological needs. Somehow dinner always rolls around unexpectedly to be immediately followed by fireside talks and various parties that lasted till the wee hours of the night. Before you know it, the alarm is ringing for the next day’s yoga session (I only made one of those)
For me, it seemed that a lot of what happens at WOC happens in between the sessions. As you are trekking through the woods to the sessions, sharing your meal with other WOC-ers, sitting in the smoking temple or hanging out in the hot tub. It seems that no-one’s brains are ever turned off (regardless of sleep deprivation or level of intoxicants) just like how some people’s true passions and belief in what they do are never turned off. Unlike other conferences, there is no ‘hard-sell’ (wait…am I gushing?)
I feel like I have met people who are truly happy with what they are doing. (In the real world, these people are hard to find) They believe in what they do. They may not enjoy it all the time but ultimately they believe in the contributions that they are making. In one of the sessions a question was posed “What is your calling?” “What inspires you?” I have been struggling in my own way for the past 10 years to answer that question. I don’t believe that a job is merely a job and I choose not to work just for the sake of working. I want to believe that my skills can be used to improve the world somehow and perhaps in a more selfish way, what I do matters in the grand scheme of things.
So what was the most important thing I left Web of Change with? The knowledge that there are people so fulfilled by their work and the fact that they appear happy. As Jason Mogus told me, “Sometimes you have to let go of that image of who you wanted to be and be happy with the person you are.” You just have to be brave enough to make the right choices and listen to your gut. I may not have all the answers right now but I’ve met some real live examples of what is possible.