That question again! Here we are at World Domination Summit, and the event brochure has space to write “Why I am Unconventional” as well as “Why I am Remarkable.” I find that the first is easy to answer while the second is imponderable. At a different convention a couple weeks back, we partnered up and were supposed to tell each other “what makes me great.” I vapor locked and couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Is this easy for anyone? Yet how can we live up to the premise of WDS otherwise? “How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?”
I turned to my husband, someone who really is quite remarkable, and said, “What’s great about me? I can’t even ride a unicycle!” He snorted.
It always seems so easy to notice the remarkable in other people. Gassing people up is one of my main talents. Sometimes I meet people who seem never to have been complimented or thanked for anything for years on end, they’re so surprised and pleased. It’s a skill that can be learned, for instance by doing a lot of evaluations in Toastmasters. Give someone an accurate and highly specific compliment and you can not only make an instant friend, you can even reframe that person’s self-concept entirely.
You know you’ve caught them agreeing with you when their mouth starts to twitch.
Last year, I went to a meetup I particularly enjoyed, and I wanted to give feedback to the woman who came up with the idea. She did the whole feminine thing of resisting any and all perceived compliments. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “That’s not a compliment, it’s an objective fact. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone else at this event. Look at how much fun they’re having! You’re good at this and you should own it.”
We’re supposed to be modest. That’s true in some cultures more than others, but bragging is frowned upon. We’re not even supposed to admit when we’ve given to charity, as though keeping it a deep dark secret were somehow the most effective way to support their cause. We’re especially not supposed to be ambitious (doubly true if “we” are female), admit to being good at anything, or show an interest in money. This is why it can be so hard to find out that the people in your social group have so many special talents!
Has this happened to you? You bring up a random topic in conversation with someone you’ve known for years, only to find out that they can play piano/speak a third language/have a black belt/ran a marathon/lived overseas/served in the military/rode an ostrich/survived driving off a cliff. Why didn’t you tell me?? A very weird example of this happened when I was married to my first husband, we bumped into an acquaintance of his at a bus stop, and they started up a rapid-fire conversation in American Sign Language. I had ZERO idea that my lawfully married mate knew how to sign at all. What, this wasn’t interesting enough to you to share with me?
We come to a place like World Domination Summit attracted to the concept of dominating the world. In some way. In some group probably? It can’t be done while hiding our talents and rare gifts, awkward as it might feel. When we go to Mars, someone has to be the captain and someone has to be the engineer and someone has to be the geologist. When we start our own band, someone has to sing and someone has to play the tuba and someone else has to play the piccolo. Step up and state your skills.
This is easy for tiny kids. Who is a good singer? MEEEEE! Who is a good dancer? MEEEEE! Who can draw a picture? ME ME ME PICK ME! Then we start to grow up and be realistic and practical and all that jazz. In other words, pick up our share of the burden of conventional, ordinary, mundane, boring old regular daily life. Clean out the lint trap - but don’t sculpt it! Wash the dishes, but don’t reinvent the dishwasher. Fold that fitted sheet, but not into origami. Turn in your taxes, but not in the form of interpretive dance. (Pennies, though).
It started in line, waiting for registration to open for the afternoon. My hubby and I struck up a conversation with the other people in line. In under five minutes, we had invented something ludicrous and everyone was laughing. I don’t want to say what it was because I want to use it in a movie, but I will share that it led to another idea, an automatic treat-launcher for dogs. Sort of like an aggressive toaster. I can say freely that this is something remarkable about WDS, the way that any combination of people in any size group can instantaneously morph into a conga line, improv comedy, a brainstorm, a singalong, or a heady conversation.
The first meetup I attended, Make Friends with the Lens, was about learning to overcome fear of being on camera. I looked around at all these gorgeous, fascinating people, and I recognized everything they had to say about feeling awkward and self-conscious, and I thought, WHY? What are you worried about? Just keep talking! Then I caught myself in my familiar old thoughts about my own physical appearance: Asymmetrical, frizzy, unfashionable, et cetera. On playback, I was astonished to realize that, while I think of myself as speaking in a high, squeaky voice, I actually spoke in a low register. I have work to do as far as feeling confident on camera, but I did walk away believing that I will sound perfectly fine when I launch my podcast this year. There’s an audience for everyone, and it’s variety and uniqueness that draw the response, not plasticity or conformity. Why follow multiple shows that all look and sound exactly alike?
My hubby and I are leading two meetups of our own this year. Whatever about us that is remarkable enough to teach, we’re putting it out there. Isn’t that our job as humans anyway?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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