When I told people I was going to a conference / retreat / ideas festival / adventure in rural Victoria in Australia, people looked at me like I was mad.
"Do Lectures? What’s that?"
After I went to the Do Lectures in Wales in 2014, I explained the experience as something that’s hard to explain but easy to love, once you’ve taken the plunge:
The spirit of Do is hard to explain but easy to love, once you’ve experienced it. It’s a small and intimate event that’s not quite a conference, not quite a festival, not quite anything we’re used to. You’ve probably never heard of the speakers. You’ve probably never been asked to hand-write answers and draw a self-portrait to apply just to attend. You’ve probably never camped in a tent at a conference. You’ve probably never taken a workshop on rabbit skinning.
But you’ve probably never had so many great, meaningful, fulfilling conversations with interesting, talented, accomplished people. You’ve probably never had food, coffee and wine as good, each with a story behind where it came from, how it was prepared, why it’s there. You’ve probably never experienced lectures so personal, so heart-wrenching, so stimulating to the soul.
Do is about conversations, and everything about Do encourages interaction and conversation among everyone there, speakers, attendees, organizers, staff, volunteers. Everyone is there for a reason, and everyone has a story.
So when Samantha Bell invited me to come to Australia and share my story at Do Lectures Australia, I was floored. Another Do Lectures, another continent, another great round of conversations, another opportunity to listen and talk to some genuinely interesting people. And a bit of nervousness.
I’m not a naturally comfortable public speaker. I spent most of my youth shying away from speaking in public, content to keep my answers and questions to myself or save them for one-on-one interactions. It’s not something that comes easy to me, but slowly I’ve built up the confidence and ability to speak in public. And I’ve come to enjoy it: I’ve enjoyed all the talks, panels and classes I’ve given the last couple years about really esoteric technology - native advertising, the Internet of Things, financial modeling, venture capital, fundraising - but I’ve never really given a talk about me, my story, and my path.
Talks at Do are unlike talks I’ve seen anywhere else; as I explained last year:
When you look at the speaker list, the names don’t jump out. But when you’re there, listening to people, the stories do. The lectures aren’t the most polished and professional, and they aren’t the most intellectual or focused. But they are real. Heartfelt. Amazingly intimate and open. Sharing their stories, how they came to find what they do and why they do it. And worth every ounce of your attention.
That’s a high bar, and to be honest, I didn’t hit it. But at least I was real: I talked about learning by doing, acknowledging the process of learning and mastery and accomplishment that comes from dedicating yourself to learning. I talked about how I learned about the power of doing from my parents, how I taught myself to be a photographer, how I learned financial modeling, website development, and basically taught myself every skill I use today. Throughout my life I’ve optimized for learning and experiences rather than money, and I talked about the pros and cons to that approach. I talked about how I use rejection and friction as a fuel - "If you’re not hearing no, you’re not doing enough." - and about how I value and elebrate the hours and accomplishment spent learning and building than the titles and external marks of success. I talked about how I embrace the varied path I’ve taken in my life even as I wouldn’t wish my path on anyone. Watch my talk here.
Courtesy Mark Lobo Photography
Preparing for the talk, Do Lectures
My view from the stage, Do Lectures
My talk, visualized, at Do Lectures
Telling my story was hard. Even today I have a nagging discomfort with my talk, about how it could have been delivered better, crisper, without the mistakes and stops and starts and doubts about what I chose to talk about and what I left out. It wasn’t intellectual or focused or packaged. But then I guess that’s the spirit of Do.
If you ever have a chance to go to Do, do it. No expectations, no preconceptions; an appetite for conversations, a desire to share and listen, an open mind, an open heart. Just go.
My favorite talk from Do Lectures Australia was by Dennis McIntosh, watch it here. Listening to his story is well worth it.