World-Domination-Summit-2015-Armosa-Studios

Finding Your Own Way at the World Domination Summit

World-Domination-Summit-2015-Armosa-Studios-collage

All photos in this post were taken by the amazing Armosa Studios

It’s 2am in local time in London. I’m wide awake thanks to the abrupt time change (yesterday we were in Portland). Perfect time for a post.

Ever since Michelle and I quit our jobs and our conventional life pathway 4-years ago, I tend to have an annual freak out. This happens about once a year that centers around this question, “What am I doing with my life?”

It usually occurs during a lull in our lives. I find myself looking at countless Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to tell me what I should be doing with my life. I start to compare. I start to wonder if I’m doing the “right” things. Am I living the “right” way?

The World Domination Summit (WDS)

A year ago, Michelle and I participated in our first, World Domination Summit (I tried my best to explain what WDS in this previous post from last year).  It was the first time since college that I felt I was right where I needed to be. I was surrounded by others who were asking a similar question to what I was except that WDS had a much better way of asking it:

“How can we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” 

That’s really what I was trying to figure out. I’ve been trying to write my own story, determine my own life path to follow, and embrace what it means to be me in a world that says otherwise. Our world is dominated by conventional thought that says success looks a certain way, usually centered around money, possessions, and fame.That our life story should take a specific path; e.g. you grow up, you go to school, you get a job, you get married, you retire, and you live out your days doing something until your story ends. I’m not saying this is a bad life. What I’m saying is that this is not my life. It just so happens that there are many others who believe life could and should be different.

That’s why being at WDS is unlike any other conference in the world. No matter who you are whether you are an attendee, an Ambassador (volunteer), or core team member, WDS some how unites us all to challenge these conventional themes. We celebrate and learn from each other’s unique pathways. We know there are so many different ways to live our own lives. We want to define success in our own terms.

Every year for the past five years, people have gathered in Portland at this summit to create a special experience. No matter where you come from, where you are at, you are reminded of how special it is to be you and you find connection with others working through similar, big life questions. WDS has reminded me that no matter what cool or unique things we are each doing in our own lives, we are also universally tied together as human beings.  The simple truth is that we are all human and all struggle to make sense of what our lives should be about.

What’s next for us? We aren’t exactly sure other than to keep doing what we are doing. We’ll keep living unconventionally until it becomes apparent that we need to make a change. What we’ve learned is to be open to evolution. Our lives are a process, not so much a goal or destination to be achieved. WDS has encouraged and reminded us that the only “right” way to live our lives, is our own way.

Chris Guillebeau: Author, Adventurer, and WDS Founder

Chris Guillebeau: Author, Adventurer, and WDS Founder

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-Jedd-and-Michelle-Stage

We helped coordinate an event called the unconventional race

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-Kid-President

Kid President taught us to not be afraid

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-Michelle-Jones

Our friend Michelle Jones launched the Wayfinding Academy at WDS

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-WDS-Team

The WDS team gets together at the closing party

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-World Record Attempt

We broke our third world record, this year was the most people in breakfast in bed at the same time

World-Domination-Summit-Armosa-Studios-Ambassadors

WDS is made possible because of our amazing Ambassadors (volunteers)

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

Indie-GoGo-Wayfinding-Academy-Your-Way 8.37.25 AM

The College Experience Re-imagined: A New Path for Students

Recently, Michelle and I have joined a team working on a project called the Wayfinding Academy. It’s a new college we are helping to start in Portland, Oregon that will provide students with a 2-year hand-crafted, personalized college experience.

Why are we doing this?

In another life, I worked as a college Admission Counselor. My job was to identify and recruit potential students for the university that I worked for. It was my job to help the students learn about the school I represented, help them determine if we were a good match, help them understand the admission process and requirements, walk them through the financial aid process, and hopefully, welcome them to the next year’s freshman class.

I loved my job.

I loved my job because I had a great college experience. It was everything I could have hoped for. I made amazing, life-long friends. It helped me grow personally and professionally. It challenged me to look at the world with new perspectives. I had great professors and mentors who challenged, supported, and inspired me. I was part of a school that believed in helping students discover their vocation. I loved my job because I got to share with potential students about my personal college experience. It was my hope that they would love their college experience as much as I did, that it would be a transformative experience.

WFA Planning Team Retreat

WFA Planning Team Retreat

So why would someone who loves higher education, who loved their college experience, want to start new model for college?

As an Admission Counselor, I saw that the current higher education model was great for some, but not for all. In addition to the rising cost of higher education (making accessibility difficult or increasing incurred debt), I have talked to so many people that did not feel the current model best served them (maybe you or someone you know can relate).

They took classes that didn’t interest them or didn’t help them discover their passion.

They had to choose a major before they knew what they liked or were best at. Or they changed their major so many times, they had to pay for an extra year of school.

Some are now working in jobs they don’t like, to feel like their degree was worth it or led to believe that success is about money, prestige, and owning things.

Others graduated but have never worked in their field of study. Some even end up working in a trade they love that doesn’t require a traditional degree in the first place. They wonder why they paid so much money for an education that wasn’t applicable to their work. Did they just pay for a piece of paper?

Then there are the stories of students who felt they were forced to go to college by convention, pressured to take part in some sort of rite of passage unnecessarily or before they were ready.

On top of all this, there’s the out-of-control rise in the cost of education; students are leaving college with so much debt. They’re told that going to college will get them a job after graduation, but there’s really no guarantee.

Wayfinding_Academy-Website-Screenshot

Wayfinding Academy Website

The Wayfinding Academy will be another option. Not a replacement for the current model, but a different way. It will help students explore options and discern their own path to follow, while providing a core curriculum that will prepare them for life, no matter what field they pursue.

Some students will continue on to a four-year college afterward, but some won’t need to. Instead, they’ll pursue a trade, become an entrepreneur, or master an art. Either way, they’ll have chosen their path thoughtfully (intentionally) and started to gain real-world experience outside the classroom.

We were fortunate to have a great experiences in higher education both as college students and as professionals. It’s from these experiences we believe that a different form of college should exist. We want to make that happen. We believe that college should be transformational, personal, customizable, and accessible. There should and hopefully will be a better way to serve all of the students that the current higher education model is not working for.

Can you relate to the frustration that many feel with the current higher education model? Are you interested in learning more or helping us get the school up and running? There’s three ways you can help us.

  1. Subscribe to the WFA newsletter: We have some exciting plans we will be announcing soon. This is the best way to keep up-to-date with all the latest news: Subscribe here
  2. Follow WFA through social media: We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  3. Share WFA with someone else: This is the best thing you can do to help us.


What do you think about the current higher education model? How was your college experience? Do you know someone that can relate to this? We’d love to hear any of your thoughts in the comments below.

 

_MG_8774

7 Things I’ve Learned in 7 Years of Marriage

This past Sunday, Michelle and I celebrated 7 years of marriage.  If those 7 years are any indicators for what’s to come in our relationship, I can only say, “it’s going to be an incredible adventure”.

Our relationship is an adventure. A wild, fun, challenging, crazy at times, wonderful adventure.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in these past 7 years of marriage it has been that you never stop learning or growing. You could choose to be absent in your relationship, and some do, but the greatest gift of marriage is the growth in yourself and with your spouse that comes from this partnership. I can’t imagine a marriage without this. A marriage is an active partnership.

That being said here are 7 things I’ve learned from our relationship (and from the experience of other couples that we respect) that I hope will be somewhat helpful whether you are married, in a relationship, or preparing yourself for one.

1. Choose to Be In Your Relationship, Everyday
The months leading up to our wedding was very stressful for me. It might have been because I’m an emotional person. It had nothing to do about the planning of the wedding. I think it had everything to do with commitment. Marriage is and should be sacred. The vows we take, the words we say to commit our lives to each other is no small thing. Those truly invested in their marriage know how scary this is. The deeper you invest, the bigger the risk (of being hurt, but more importantly scared of losing the person you love the most).  Knowing this, you decide how active and how present you want to be in your relationship. You determine if your relationship is worth the risk. This is the foundation for our relationship.

You should be the one in control of your own life, only you can decide if you truly want to be in a relationship with another person. That is why marriage is powerful when two people individually choose to share life together; to be present and active in each other’s life. This isn’t easy, especially on the days, seasons, or times that life is challenging and the last thing you want is to share life with another person.

I have seen that the best times in our relationship is when we have been intentionally working on it. No matter what argument we get into, not matter what is going on in our lives, knowing that we both are choosing to be a part of this relationship gets us through. Again it’s not easy, especially when you might be frustrated with your partner. It’s not easy in general. But it’s an important practice to realize that EVERY day, you have a choice. Everyday you can choose to be a part of your relationship or not.

2. Work on Communication 
The simplest and hardest aspect of any relationship. We all communicate one way or another, but do we communicate well? I can’t tell you how many times we’ve miscommunicated and how frustrating those times have been. Everything communicates something (even silence). It would be amazing if your partner speaks and understands your unique language. They probably don’t.

Thankfully we’ve gotten better over the years to be more patient with each other, to understand that certain styles or behaviors come from ingrained, learned programming, and that we can change this. We’ve worked on our communication in very intentional ways such as counseling, advice from mentors, and making time to talk about how we talk to each other. We know we have a long, long way to go. But we’re hopeful.

Recently we met up with another, wiser, more experienced couple who are good friends and mentors to us. Even after 35+ years of marriage they said they are still learning to be better communicators. It’s encouraging to know. Becoming better communicators is something that we will continue to work on for the rest of our lives and I know we’ll see the benefits from it.

DSC02696

The time we went to Banff, Canada

3. Create Memories and Share Experiences
There seems to be a growing trend where people are realizing that tangible things, stuff, items, do not make people happy or fulfilled. When I look back on the most meaningful times in our relationship, it centers around the experience and memories we have created together. It’s as simple as that.

4. Find Common Values
Many people are amazed at how different Michelle and I are. One of us talks a lot, the other little. One of us is emotional, the other not so much. We approach and experience life very differently but what we have in common is our beliefs and values. This has united us.

We knew a couple once that were amazing together. They loved each other. They enjoyed each other so much and people enjoyed being around them as a couple. But they had one major issue that we knew would be trouble for them. They had very different core values and beliefs. They thought it wouldn’t be a big deal since they had so much fun together, but the more they thought about sharing life together, the less they found they could agree on, not matter how much they liked the other person. While your personality is important, your core values are the foundation that make up your identity. It drives your passions and interest. It guides you to be the person you want to be. No relationship is worth sacrificing your values and beliefs.

5. Forgive & Forget (the small things)
There is a passage in the Bible that says, “love holds no records of wrong…”. Unfortunately for Michelle, I have a bad habit of not forgiving and forgetting the small things. The things that really don’t matter in the long run. It’s something I’ve been made aware of over these past 7 years and something I’m working to get better at.

One of the best models of this has been my awesome mother in-law. I’ve seen it a couple of times over the years when my father in-law will do something that drives her crazy. However, her patience, willingness to learn about why he does what he does (and maybe her years of experience) allows her to move past that insignificant moment. She knows his heart and true intentions. She doesn’t let small, meaningless things divide them. She can communicate from a calm, rational space. Most times, it’s best to forgive, forget, and more importantly, to move on.

6. Reconcile Differences with the Intent to Learn Principle
When we got engaged, one of the first things we did was go to pre-marital counseling. Thankfully we did because we learned one of the best tools on how to resolve conflict in any situation with a principle called, “the intent to learn”. No matter what topic or situation you are in that has conflict, the best way to communicate and to work it out is to be willing to learn and listen to the other person. You may not agree with them. You may not like what they have to say. But if you can express and approach the conversation with genuine interest in the other person, for what they are talking about, you will be more likely to have a productive and meaningful exchange versus an argumentative one. That’s all we want in those situations; to be heard and to be respected.

DSC02642

so thankful for our family and friends

7. Have a Community of Support
From what I’ve seen from couples that I admire and respect, they have great relationship outside of their marriage. What I mean by that is they have a great support network they can lean on and learn from (and share life with). A marriage seems to work best with balance. Though Michelle and I love to spend time together, we deeply value the time we get to spend with family and friends.  We’ve been so blessed by these relationships. We all need support. We all need people in our lives that we can share our challenges with and to be there for others when they need assistance.

When we got married, one of the things I’ll never forget was how I felt to be surrounded by our family and friends. They knew our lives before we were married. They have been there for us since then. We know they have our back moving forward. We hope we offer that same love and support to them.

BONUS: Becoming a Better Person
Since meeting Michelle I feel that I have become a better person by choice and by default. Because of our natural differences, Michelle and I bring out the best and the worst in each other but more importantly, we help each other grow in the areas that we need it most. Your relationship should do this. You should want to help the other person be the best they can be. You yourself should want to be the best person you can be. When you do this, you become life partners.

Have some helpful advice for anyone in a relationship (or just for us)? We’d love to hear about your experiences and valuable life-lessons that you’ve learned. Let us know in the comments below.

 

Simply-Itentional- Tiny-House-Living-Experience-05

Tiny House Living Teaches You Valuable Life Lessons

For the past two weeks we’ve been house-sitting a tiny house (and dog) for a good friend. This experience has taught us a lot about tiny homes in general, but more importantly, taught us a few important life-lessons as well.

Living in a tiny house helps you focus on what matters.
I can see now why tiny living is so attractive to people. Tiny living is a way to simplify your life and focus on the decisions and things that really matter. For example, if you are wondering whether or not you should buy something while living in a tiny home, you just ask yourself a few simple questions, “will it fit inside the house?” “Is it functional?” “Is it necessary?”

These are questions that many people forget or don’t ever think about when making any purchase. This process helps you focus on what you really need.  What i’ve discovered after living in a tiny home is that we probably don’t need as many things (or space) as I thought I would to be happy and comfortable.

Tiny homes make you actually use the stuff you have.
If you decide to live in a tiny house you have make some tough choices because you can’t fit everything and anything you want. You have to be selective and strategic. Hopefully you would bring things that you need, things that you would actually use on daily basis. Tiny homes force you to think this way. Most things – if not everything – in the tiny home has a place and purpose. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth having. Problem solved.

Tiny homes make you clean/deal with your stuff.
Well, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. However, imagine you need to make lunch but you don’t have any space because you forgot about dishes from breakfast (and there’s no dishwasher to hide or wash dishes later). Plus, if you don’t wash those dishes, you may not have many extra dishes to use in your small cupboards. Living in a tiny house, you do realize the importance of doing things sooner rather than later.

Your stuff has no space to hide and so you either deal with it or deal with the consequences of it. I learned this the hard way.

valuable counter space would not exist unless you clean up after yourself often

valuable counter space does not exist unless you clean up after yourself

Tiny homes make you aware of how much water you use daily.
The tiny house we are staying in gets water from a hose. Waste water from the sink and the shower collect in a plastic bin that needs to be dumped out whenever it gets full. This is an excellent system to measure how much water you use on a daily basis.

Knowing that the plastic bin we are using to collect water is about the size of a file cabinet drawer, I have cut down my shower time to prevent water from overflowing. Even though I already tried to make a change in my showering habits, I overfilled the container the first couple of times. I also overflowed the container the first couple of times I tried washing the dishes. In other words, I didn’t even realize how much water I was using. Now, I’m not using more water than I actually need.

Because we use environmentally safe soap for our showers and dishes, we can dump the container of water into the yard to dispose of it. I estimate that we typically do this 3-5 times a day. Again, this is being conscious of our water usage and without having a flushing toilet. Imagine how much water we’d be using if we were in a regular house.

Speaking of toilets….

Tiny homes make you deal with your sh!t! What?
Unless your tiny home is connected to sewage, there is a good chance that you will have to manage your own human waste. For many of us living in a developed country, we never think about our waste. We literally flush it down some magical pipe and never think about where it goes or what happens to it.

In this tiny home, we use a bucket, plastic bags, and wood chips. Additionally there is a wooden box, toilet seat, and seat cover – but that’s it. No flushing water. No heated toilet seat like we had in Japan. Once the bags are full, we tie it up and throw it out with the rest of the trash.

The rap group Outkast said it best, “I know you like to think your sh!t don’t stink, but lean a little bit closer and see the roses really smell like poo, poo, poo.” Yup. And that’s a good thing to be aware of and to learn how to deal with it. Let’s face it: everyone poops. So why do we get so freaked out about it?

(Note: The pine wood chips and air fresheners really help so that your tiny home does not smell, in case you were wondering.)

Tiny homes force people to become better communicators *Bonus for living with another person in a tiny home*
If you want to grow in being better at relationships, live in a tight space with someone. Hopefully if you live in a tiny home with someone it was by choice and that you wanted to grow and learn with that person. Hopefully you like that person. There’s nowhere to hide in a tiny house. Amazingly, you can achieve somewhat of a separation of space (i.e. be in the loft while someone works at the desk below) and some sense of privacy, but compared to a typical-sized home there’s obviously no comparison.

You are forced to learn how to communicate better. “Can you pass me this?” “Excuse me.” “Hi. I guess we are talking because we see a lot of each other.”

Simply-Itentional- Tiny-House-Living-Experience-04

living and working in closer quarters = relationship building

I think tiny house living is a great option. It’s another perspective. A different way to live life.

You might think that tiny homes are for single people or couples without children but there are families living in tiny homes with young and older children. I was reminded by Michelle’s mom that Michelle’s aunt and uncle raised their two boys in an apartment that was around 500 sq. ft.. And of course, many people in Europe and around the world live in smaller homes.

You might read some of the things above and think, “it sounds challenging.” and it is,  but in a good way. It’s also a lot of fun and satisfying.

Let’s not forget that tiny houses are not just the ones on wheels. The average sq. footage for an average American home is 2600 sq. ft.!! We are currently living in 112 sq. ft. and our dream house is about 900 sq. ft. or less.

I know it’s not the right fit for everyone, but it does make wonder why we don’t challenge how we live. In our troubled world we need to find ways of living that is more sustainable and less wasteful.

Homes don’t have to be so big.

Living in a smaller space has helped us develop an awareness and skills that can help us have a more fulfilled life. It forces you to declutter and let go of things you don’t need and start to focus and hone in on the things that really matter. You live with more intentionality and appreciation, which are two things that conventional living is great at devaluing.  You start to appreciate that life isn’t about what is easy, but about what makes you more alive.

Tiny homes help people relearn what it means to live.

Could you live in a tiny home? Have you thought about downsizing? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Healthy-Choices-Simply-Intentional-Eating-Habits-1

Just Because You Can, Does It Mean You Should?

When it comes to intentional living, this phrase, “just because you can, does it mean you should,” is extremely important and helpful.

Our world today wants us to do the opposite. It wants us to not think. It wants to take control of our choices and decisions and it does it under the clever disguise of ease. They want you to believe that life should be easy and that life is easiest when you don’t have to think.

Some might say that the ideal life is one that is the easiest. That if only we had more money, more things, or better looks, or a special talent, etc…life would somehow be better. So when we get to a point that we can do something that we weren’t able to before, we believe we should do it.

Maybe you got a new job or a raise and you can now afford to upgrade your possessions. Maybe you just got out of a relationship and are ready for a new one. Maybe you lost weight after working it off and think, “I can eat whatever I want now”.

Here’s the problem: none of these things are bad or wrong. The problem is not in the action itself, but the thought process that should happen before a decision is made, yet doesn’t happen. Do we think about the impact our decisions have on our lives? Do we see how little choices have huge, long-term effects? Do we take time to reflect on where we currently are in our lives, what we want for our futures, and how our decisions impact both?

Or do we give in to impulse? Do we live in the now like the world wants us to? I have and still struggle with this. It took me awhile to make any lasting changes in my behavior, but I figured out two things that help.

Be aware:
Be aware of your current situation when making a decision. What emotional state are you in? What is your history with these kinds of decisions? Most important is asking yourself why. “Why am I making this decision?”

Make decisions based on what matters to you the most:
Your priorities should be your guide. If your goal is to get or be healthy, then let that help you when making a decision. If your goal is to save money, then make a decision that works towards that goal. One of our favorite quotes is, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse”.

Before I committed to living an intentional lifestyle, I only thought about my natural cravings and tendencies before making a decision. For me, decisions were made solely on what would make me feel good, not necessarily what was good for me. There is a HUGE difference between the two (so I’ve learned).

There are two areas in my life where I have struggled with this. The first is with buying things- one area I have really grown in. The other is with food, and I still struggle with this daily.

One night of sushi. I love sushi.

One night of sushi. I love sushi enough to know I need control and limits.

What has helped me?

I ask myself, “Just because I can, does it mean I should?” Just taking a second to ask myself this has helped me to make better, informed choices. Each time I do this, I teach myself how to resist temptations and urges that I would have been susceptible to in the past (or didn’t even think about). I start building a track record of better choices and with that, my cravings lessen and the decision process become easier. The choice becomes clearer.

I become more in control of my life.

What do you think? Is this something that you struggle with as well? Are there areas in your life you could ask yourself, “Just because I can, does it mean I should?”

Let us know in the comments below.