The Do Lectures are hard to describe. Some say it’s like Ted meets Burning Man on a farm. Others will say it’s about uniting the Doers of the world and sharing stories. Whatever you do, don’t call it a conference though. Where else can you go sleep in a Tipi with strangers, shower outside and hear the most amazing stories?
That description alone is sure to raise eyebrows among many in the business world.
I would say it’s part business, part creative with a heavy dash of woo.
Everyone is on equal ground as there are no name tags. Speakers, volunteers and attendees co-mingle, sharing some of the best food you’ll ever have in a stunningly beautiful place. Mid-July in Hopland, CA is hot. It was 105 during the day, but don’t worry, it was a dry heat. And that didn’t matter because the opportunities to connect and learn and share were infinite during the weekend.
There are talks and workshops. And even a music video.
You leave changed forever. Your mind expanded. The real world isn’t the same again. And that begs the question, what is the real world?
The speakers came from all walks of life sharing their struggles on the way to accomplishing their goals and feeding their souls. From profit to non-profit to art and travel, The DO offered eclectic perspectives on what it means to be human, to connect and live your best life.
The concept elevated at the start was the notion of the Two Films of your life and which do you want to live? The first is the safe film. Predictable and with little risk. The other is where you stretch and grow and DO. Not to mention Be. Which would you prefer? Certainly at the DO, the safe path is not the chosen path.
What are you doing if not connecting?
“There are times in your life when you play small. And it doesn’t serve you” – Anna
The Do is not the place to play small.
Jedediah Jenkins, traveler and writer, talked about how routine is the enemy of time. It’s about getting out of your routine. The calendar should not be your boss. Either write the book you need or do something worth writing about.
What are you willing to spend 10,000 hours doing? Make people get goosebumps and feel it.
Roda Ahmed talked about the power of stories to change the narrative. Through her experience as an African American child growing up in Norway, she’s made it her mission to change lives one story at a time. She worked tirelessly to create a children’s book to be published soon telling the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. She quoted Mae: “Our knowledge shapes our world.”
My other favorite quote Roda shared was from Lily Tomlin: “I always wondered why someone didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.”
Powerful words that set the tone for what’s possible when you set your mine and heart to it.
Veronica Scott of The Empowerment Plan showed us how you can take a ‘silly idea’ and no plan and radically change people’s lives. She started on the quest to help the homeless of Detroit by designing and producing a Coat that turns into a sleeping bag. Through tenacity and the desire to improve her own life, she ended up hiring more than 50 homeless with a goal to hire 600 in the coming four year. They get meaningful jobs, a purpose and she’s delivered 15,000 coats to homeless in Detroit and around the world. And she’s just in her 20s. Her story shows us how the dots connect in reverse.
Mara Abrams helps businesses and people connect and find their flow. She runs a consultancy called the Flow Collective and twice yearly chairs and Incubater between Cubans and Americans in Cuba. She had these words of advice:
- Flow = diplomacy
- Finding your flow requires turning off your inner critic.
- Seek mind-blowing experiences; no multitasking
- Turn boring tasks into play
- Be. Do. Be. Do. Sit with it.
- Embrace the hustle
- Connection + joy + meaning + purpose = flow
Artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums talked about how covering the walls of an abandoned housing project drew thousands of people in New Orleans. When kicked out of the first, took over a second and on the final day of a 3 month showing 10,000 people came.
“When you see boundaries as opportunities the world becomes a limitless place.”
He believes that the artist’s duty is to reflect the times. Art for arts sake should be challenged.
Brian Lindstrom, documentary film producer, talked about how the power of story can spark dialogue and change in the world. He does this through his films on social injustices which are stories of love, beauty, grace and redemption. He talks of kindness and its transformative power telling the time as a child when his father bought him an ice-cream cone and he wanted to share it with another kid who couldn’t afford one. His father didn’t want him to do this and he ended up dropping it on the ground so neither he nor the kid could have it. But he felt bad and suggested that you should Always share the Ice-Cream.
Jerri Chou was one of the first speakers I met. She walked in with the most radiant, engaging smile. She’s the creator of Feast, a dinner series of 600 around the world and a 400 person conference. She struggled with being a whole person and came to the realization that her desire to make something big was so that people would appreciate her. She discovered she had buttons to root out and talked about how each of us is like Swiss Cheese with holes we need to fill.
She asked us to think about who we would be if we didn’t have to do anything at all. And what better way to look in the mirror than with our relationships?
Jerri suggested we choose the feelings you want to create for ourselves. She practices internal yoga in which you visualize energy and tune into those you aspire to. Choose what you want to represent.
Jacqueline Sharp of Fort, a reclaimed furniture business in SoCal reminded us that we’re 100% responsible for what we do with our experiences. It’s potential vs. perspective and looking at things a little differently. When you’re in a hard spot, change the way you’re thinking.
We are born with innate understanding of beauty and truth. Go to your kid for source of beauty.
John Finger of the Hog Island Oyster Company started with $500 of saving plus $2000 borrowed from family into a Benefits Company of 200 employees. His two thriving restaurants consume more than 1,000,000 Oysters from his farm annually.
From the start he’s focused on clear principles that drive his culture and distilled it down to this:
- The “How” Matters
- business the right way
- Fun is important (no joking)
- Great food
- Exceptional Service
- Authentic Relationships
The way in which we (Hog Island) achieve results is just as important as the results. They ask two questions: Do we have enough Oysters? Do we have the right people?
Miki Agrawal of Thinx, was introduced as the salmon at the front of the stream.
She is a force to reckon with. Filled with almost uncontainable energy and wearing a hat emblazoned with “Holy Shit, We’re Alive” she said we each have about 21,000 days. Will you choose to be lit up?
After launching three restaurants she took on an industry that had only seen two innovations in 100 years: Feminine Protection. After 3-1/2 years of development, she launched and has a team of 36.
Through her passion and company, she’s working to help women and girls around the world eliminate shame. The closest thing to achieving bliss is helping another human.
“Are you in the ring my friend?”
Like John of Hog Island, she operates with some simple, powerful principles:
- Use Accessible relatable language.
- Iteration = perfection
- Choose radical authenticity
- Be unbelievably fridge worthy.
Always doing, she asks 3 questions before jumping in:
- What sucks in my world?
- Does it suck for a lot of people?
- Can I be passionate about this issue, cause or community for a really long time?
When it takes 10 years to be an overnight success, purpose is your best motivation. And something I believe fervently, you are the average of the 5 closest friends you keep.
Pro-hockey player Andrew Ference wrapped up the talks with his story of using his position and voice to change the world. In this case, turning the NHL green. He’s now a partner in a Venture Capital firm focused on seed startups around sustainable change. To him, environmentalism makes common sense. With two kids, his goal is to make kids better than us.
His life lessons for the next generation included:
- Beat to your own drum.
- Never give up even when you’re winning.
- Worry about what you can control; you can’t control others but you can influence.
- Influence takes time. Play the long game.
- Talk is cheap; you are what you do, not what you say.
And then they wrapped with an amazing evening of food and music. On Sunday we ended with another amazing brunch, more conversation and way too much coffee. Oh, and a little music video.