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“Instead of perceiving fear as an obstacle, I choose to see it as an opportunity.”: Michelle Poler at WDS

Next month we’ll release the first round of tickets for WDS 2017, a week-long gathering of creative, remarkable people—taking place next summer in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

But first, we’re rolling out a series of speaker videos from the 2016 event. Following our first speaker, Jonathan Fields, we welcomed courageous video blogger, Michelle Poler, to the stage.

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela to a family of holocaust survivors, Michelle was accustomed to living with fear. It kept her safe and comfortable. But when she moved to New York to pursue a Masters in Branding at the School of Visual Arts, Michelle quickly realized that NYC was not for the fearful.

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“You’ve got to be unapologetically you.”: Jonathan Fields at WDS

Next month we’ll release the first round of tickets for WDS 2017, a week-long gathering of creative, remarkable people—taking place next summer in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

But first, we’re rolling out a series of speaker videos from the 2016 event. To start us off, here's a video from our opening speaker, Jonathan Fields. A New York City dad, husband, entrepreneur and author, he founded mission-driven media and education venture, Good Life Project®, where he and his team lead a global community in the quest to live more meaningful, connected, and vital lives.

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Thirty-Three

After traveling on an all-night flight where I stayed up for hours, only sleeping 90 minutes or so in the final portion before landing, I landed in Bangkok. I hadn’t been to Thailand in years!

It was genuinely good to be back. There’s something strange and bittersweet to be here, but I can hold both feelings simultaneously.

I was in town for two days, and I spent both afternoons working from the coffee shop in Terminal 21, a big shopping mall across the street from my hotel. I was in a jet lagged haze per usual, but it took me a few minutes to realize what else was wrong. Finally it hit me: Bangkok was a place I’d thought about bringing Ken on the big trip we never took.

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Black Sheep Basics

Be proud of being the black sheep. If everyone agrees with you, maybe you’re not being bold enough.

For a while, even as someone who never worked a real job, I was afraid to put forward an opinion that I knew was likely to be challenged. I had heard all the proverbs and stories about how those who change the world for good are often criticized, but it was hard to walk the walk. I was afraid of being put down!

I was also afraid of causing offense. The irony is that I thought I was being polite in going with the flow—not conforming to it myself, necessarily, but not really challenging it in others.

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When to Compromise and When to Hold Your Ground

8581789342_d849c00856_z At some point, most of us end up settling in a major part of our life. We compromise and make tradeoffs.

We can’t always get everything we want, of course. We can’t always be in total control. But we can certainly get a lot of what we want, and if we prioritize what's most important to us, we can probably get the top things on the list. Just because we can’t always be in control doesn’t mean that we're never in control.

This truth presents a natural question: when should we compromise, and when should we hold our ground and keep fighting for what we really want?

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How to Live in Fear

Are you tired of being courageous and fed up with bravery? Seeking an alternative to risk-taking?

Not to worry. Choosing to live in fear is both easy and safe. Simply follow a few simple guidelines, and you'll live comfortably ever after.

Keep calm and carry on. Beware of danger, true love, and real life.

Play it safe. Never charge down a mountain. Don't run, don't leap, don't go too fast. Be wary of opportunities and new perspectives. Above all: stay the course.

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Let the Wave Crash Over You: One Year Later

Readers: One year ago today I lost my brother, Ken. This new post contains my one-year reflections. Like the first time I told the story, it’s written as a direct letter to him.

***

Dear Ken,

I’d say that it’s hard to believe a year has passed, but the greater truth is that it’s hard to believe it happened at all. When I think of it now, as I do every day, my mind still runs to the same place of shock and disbelief.

There were days during the year when I thought about it less than others, and maybe some days when I began to look forward. As today’s date approached, though, I reverted to that place of disbelief where everything feels suspended in time.

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If You Have No Challenges, Maybe It’s Time to Change Your Life

Have you ever walked around endless airport highway ramps for more than a mile? When it’s after 10pm and you’ve got your carry-on bags with you?

Yeah, so I did that the other night. Short version: when you arrive in DFW and are staying at the off-airport Hyatt Regency, you’re supposed to take the SkyTrain to the C gates, and then hike through the parking garage to the entrance. I’ve done it that way before, and it’s not terribly difficult.

This time I was hanging out in the D terminal, working from my favorite U.S. airline lounge, and I decided to walk outside and skip the whole SkyTrain thing. How hard could it be? I’ve been to DFW, oh, I don’t know—several hundred times if not more. Sure, it’s a big place, and there was that time I got lost trying to return a rental car and missed my flight, but still.

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If Everyone Becomes a Non-Conformist, Won’t We All Be Conforming?

I used to get this question a lot, sometimes framed in skepticism but other times just curiosity. The simple answer is that not everyone wants to become a non-conformist, or any other particular means of self-identification. Plenty of people are happy with the way things are, which is the definition of conformity. It’s not always a bad thing.

It’s also like asking, what if everyone wanted world peace? It would be wonderful If everyone wanted world peace, but not everyone does. People generally operate in their own interests, and some people benefit from conflict and strife. It’s no surprise that the world is full of constant conflict.

Being a non-conformist, or just a rebel in general, isn’t about fighting for the sake of fighting. Nor is it usually about rejecting an orthodoxy or culture. When it is about those things, the rebellion is usually superficial and short-lasting.

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Reflections at the End of a 30-City Tour (At Least For Now)

Just a couple of weeks ago I was going from city to city, a different one every day.

I had the routine down: every afternoon I’d roll into a new place, usually arriving by air and then transferring to Uber or taxi to my hotel. Settling in, I’d do an hour or so of work and catch-up, then change my clothes and head to the venue.

Sometimes the venue was a bookstore, other times a co-working space, and every now and then a theater. The 6pm-10pm was usually fully occupied with the event, which runs two hours start to finish but for me there’s always pre- and post-work.

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It’s Not About Overcoming Your Fears; It’s About Acknowledging and Moving On

How do I overcome my shyness? How do I conquer my fears? I want to take a big leap, but I can’t bring myself to approach the ledge… what do I do?

These and similar questions fill my inbox on a regular basis. Many of us long to overcome fears and limiting beliefs, because we think that these are obstacles in our way.

And here’s the thing: it’s not about overcoming. If you're shy or introverted by nature (I am, too) you don’t “get over” these things. In fact, they aren’t things that you’re supposed to “get over.” They’re part of who you are, and they can be weaknesses or strengths depending on what you do with them.

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Hope, Expectations, and Winning the Lottery

" Most people know that the lottery is not a good investment plan. It’s not rational to invest large amounts of money in lottery tickets, because you’re almost certain to lose no matter how much cash you spend at the gas station or convenience store.

Buying a single lottery ticket or two, however, is actually quite rational. Most of us don’t play the lottery as an investment in anything other than dreaming. For a few minutes after you buy the ticket and before you scratch off the numbers, or maybe even for a few days if the winning numbers aren’t announced until later, you have the opportunity to walk around with a dream in your pocket.

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Revisiting Montana, 25 Years Later

If you didn't love your childhood, you probably don’t love the place where you grew up. Maybe you tried to get as far away as you could. Years later, maybe you realized it wasn’t the place that was so bad, it was just the experiences you had at the time. Or maybe your beliefs were confirmed: that place really was designed to produce misery, and if you have any say in the matter, you’ll never go back.

These thoughts were on my mind as the Delta Connection plane from Salt Lake City touched down in Bozeman, Montana. I felt jumpy and anxious on the short flight, as if I’d had too much coffee or not enough sleep. This being book tour season, both of those things were probably true, but they weren’t the only source of the discontent.

See, I lived in Montana—the eastern, flat part—for several years as a child. I have very few happy memories from that time, and most of those involve playing video games or riding my bike around town by myself. They are memories of escapism, not of friends or community or anything that felt like “belonging.”

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The Resumé of Failures

For every success, there are countless failures. Yet when we look at someone from the outside, especially someone who’s been particularly successful, we may not see the failures.

Scientist Melanie Stefan issued a challenge for academics to share their “CV of failures,” a formal listing of all the programs from which they were rejected, the funding they didn’t get, and the journal articles that weren’t published.

Here’s how she explains the idea:

"My CV does not reflect the bulk of my academic efforts — it does not mention the exams I failed, my unsuccessful PhD or fellowship applications, or the papers never accepted for publication. At conferences, I talk about the one project that worked, not about the many that failed."

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