Tess Vigeland on Her Remarkable Leap Year

Something which I haven’t previously blogged about but which has profoundly, deeply influenced how I think about the world around me is Tess Vigeland. You see, her speech at the World Domination Summit had a theme that would make most people uncomfortable: leaving a cushion-y position at a major radio station to do…well, she didn’t know what she was going to do. But if you read the text of her speech, you’ll see that Tess explains that it felt okay. That for anyone out there who is still searching for what they want out of life, it shouldn’t be this massive burden. It may be difficult to perform this release, but what we need to remember is that it will be okay, and perhaps even turn into the remarkable:

Why do I care what other people think? I KNOW I’m not supposed to care – but I do.

How do I get back to remarkable?

The ONLY way… is by redefining it.

And I think this is an exercise that’s going to take some time. We all know we’re not supposed to define ourselves, and our success, by money, by page views, by Twitter followers, by fan mail, by audience size. But if you have a job, it does define you in many ways. You spend a good chunk of your day at that job – whether that’s at home or in an office or out in the field. Your lifestyle is sometimes determined by how much that job compensates you. I’m on track right now to make one third of what I made last year. One third. I know that doesn’t define me… but it does contribute to how I see my own value. I like what money allows me to do in my life.

So I need to redefine what success means to me. I don’t know how to define that without an audience. I don’t know how to define that without strangers recognizing my voice in an elevator. If that sounds egotistical – well you don’t go into broadcasting without some amount of ego – it’s a performance, after all. And if I end up doing something that can’t or won’t feed it… how do I know if I’m succeeding? How do I know if I’m remarkable?

But I guess what I would tell you – wherever you are on your career timeline – wherever you are in your relationship with this thing you do for a living – is that you have to give yourself permission to grieve the end of something. And sometimes you have to work really, really hard to find what’s next. 

At the end of the year, in her most recent post titled “My Leap Year”, Tess elaborates how that fateful July 7 morning in Portland went when she gave this talk to a crowd of 3,000 people at World Domination Summit:

And here I was about to tell a bunch of strangers about my failure, about my self-doubt and recriminations, about my discomfort with uncertainty, about my sad lack of a life dream, about how I no longer knew who I was because I could no longer describe what I do.

Do not throw up. Do not throw up. Do not throw up.

I walked on stage and told the oldest joke in the radio book: “Hey! You all don’t look a thing like I thought you would!” When people find out you’re a radio person they know, it’s what they say. Guaranteed. So I told the joke. I know… it’s lame. A few people laughed. And I started to tell my story.

And I started to feel something in the room – in that huge performance hall. To this day, I can’t describe it. They were listening. Really listening. They laughed in places I didn’t expect them to laugh. They shouted out from the audience, answering my rhetorical questions with actual answers.

“Will anyone want to listen to me now that I’m not some famous national correspondent anymore?”

“YES!!! Woooooo!!!”

At one point in the speech I talked about the rollercoaster I’d been experiencing, the ups and downs of leaving a career to strike out alone, feeling successful one day and like a complete fraud and unmoored the next. They hopped right on that ride and joined me from one moment to the next. I was no longer afraid of throwing up. What I was afraid of was that I’d burst into tears right there on stage, because of this overwhelming sense of support, this indescribable empathy that I felt from the audience.

Thank you Tess for bringing such vulnerability to your life and sharing it with others. I, among with thousands of others, cannot wait to see how 2014 unfolds for you.

The Incredible Portland Karaoke Scene

“Here’s the important thing to remember about Portland. No one’s here to get rich. Unlike everywhere else in America. There’s a critical mass here of people here following their passions.”

The quote above is from one of the best pieces of journalism I’ve read this month; it is Dan Kois’s story on the karaoke scene in Portland, Oregon. I’ve only been to karaoke maybe five or six times in my life, but I love the city of Portland, and Dan’s experience resonated with me.

In the piece, Kois profiles John Brophy, who runs  Baby Ketten Karaoke in Portland and every week:

adds as many as 20 tracks to the Baby Ketten songbook. Some of these are songs he purchases from karaoke studios, not unlike any karaoke jockey, or K.J., in America. But many of them are songs hand-assembled by Brophy, much as he’s doing with “Electioneering” — B.K.K. originals that Brophy constructs either because the studios that recorded “official” karaoke versions did bad jobs, or because the song is such an obscurity that no studio has ever recorded a karaoke version. For example, if you’d like to sing Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” the Gregory Brothers’ “Bed Intruder Song” (with full Auto-Tune), Danger Doom’s “Sofa King” or Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” Baby Ketten has them all. (I know: I saw people sing them.) Your local karaoke bar doesn’t.

There are just so many things to learn from this article, such as the popularity of “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a 1972 epic written in gibberish by the Italian performer Adriano Celentano, supposedly to mimic how English sounds to the Italian ear. The lyrics are pure gibberish, and the original music video is below:



In the piece, Dan meets Addie Beseda at Baby Ketten Karaoke. Here’s a clip of her nailing “Prisencolinensinainciusol”:



This paragraph was excellent, but you have to watch the video clip below to fully appreciate it:

A tall young man in a puffy jacket swayed up onto the stage, then kicked into the lyrics — but instead of imitating Jack White’s rock ’n’ roll keen, he sang in a rhythm-and-blues croon. The song was instantly transformed from dirty garage rock to bedroom soul. It sounded incredible, as if the song were written that way in the first place. When it was over, Justin bowed, accepting our applause, then replaced the microphone in its stand and walked out the door, never to return.

The slow rendition of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes mentioned above:




Dan Kois with a beautiful conclusion on the city of Portland:

Portland isn’t just the capital of karaoke, I was realizing. The Japanese influence, the small-business climate and the abundance of bands don’t really matter. Portland is the capital of America’s small ponds. It’s a city devoted to chasing that feeling — the feeling of doing something you love, just for a moment, and being recognized for it, no matter how obscure or unnecessary or ludicrous it might seem to the straight world. It is the capital of taking frivolity seriously, of being silly as if it’s your job.

I’ll be back in Portland in July 2013 for the annual World Domination Summit (here are some readings to get you familiar; here is my summary from Cal Newport, who spoke at WDS 2012). I am going to spend a few days outside the conference doing touristy things, and certainly on my list of things to do this year will be to check out the karaoke scene in Portland. Who’s with me?

J.D. Roth on the Power of Personal Transformation

J.D. Roth gave the closing keynote at this year’s World Domination Summit (WDS). I’ve followed J.D. Roth’s Get Rich Slowly blog for some time, but I wasn’t familiar with J.D.’s story. At WDS, Mr. Roth gave a remarkable speech titled “The Power of Personal Transformation“:

One day in algebra class, the girl behind me — Janine was her name — the girl behind me wrote something on the back of my shirt. I kept turning around to ask her to stop, but she kept writing. The other kids kept snickering. After class, I went to the bathroom to see what she’d written. There, in big block letters, was the word DICK. She’d written DICK on the back of my shirt.

That’s who I was. I was the bottom of the junior-high pecking order. I was a nerd. A geek. A loser. The other kids thought I was a dick. And slowly but surely, I began to believe them. In fact, as eighth grade progressed, I sank into a deep depression. I missed school. I withdrew. I became suicidal.

I remember coming home from school after one particularly horrific day — maybe even the same day Janine wrote the word DICK on the back of my shirt — I remember coming home to our trailer house, searching the cupboards for something to eat. I opened one of the kitchen drawers, and there I found a sharp knife. I took it out and sat at the table. For maybe five or ten minutes, I sat staring at the blade. I ran it over my wrist once or twice. “I could kill myself,” I thought. “I could kill myself and this would all be over.”

Fortunately, I didn’t have the guts.

Instead, I put the knife away and went to my bedroom to read X-Men comic books.

That was a turning point for me, a key experience in my young life. As I sat at the table with knife in hand, I made a decision. I knew I wasn’t a dick. I knew I was a good guy. Why didn’t other people? I decided to change. I decided that the next year, when I started high school, I’d do new things. I’d make new friends.

And so I did.

I am happy for J.D.:

After I paid off my debt, I began to wonder how I could apply the lessons I’d learned to other parts of my life. If I could transform my personal finances, could I transform my fitness? My personality? My relationships? Turns out, the answer is “yes”. In fact, it’s a resounding yes.

But the biggest change of all, and the most important one, is that today I’m happy. That’s probably the defining facet of my existence. A decade ago, I was unhappy. Even a year ago, I was unhappy. Not today. Sure, there are things I want to change, but have no doubt: I have an awesome life.

J.D. talked about the three components for making a striking personal transformation:

  • The power of yes. Yes is an open mind. Yes is a willingness to try new things. Yes is allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
  • The power of focus. The ability to focus only on those things that are most important.
  • The power of action. The strength to work hard, to get things done.

It was an incredible speech. I think the video might be available eventually, but for now, the best thing you can do is read J.D.’s speech on the Get Rich Slowly blog. It’s a must-read.

World Domination Summit 2012: Readings

This past weekend, I attended the World Domination Summit. This was my second #WDS (I blogged about last year’s experience herehere, and here). I will post thoughts of my own about this year’s event a little bit later, but I wanted to highlight these five posts by other attendees that have resonated with me so far:

1) “10 Things I Learned at the World Domination Summit” by Elana Miller:

There is no great time to create, so you learn to keep creating, even if you don’t feel like it. If you wait around for the creative well to flow before you start doing anything, you might be waiting for a long time. People who learn to put in the work even when they don’t feel like it are able to chip away at their goals, one small step at a time.

2) “The $100 Bet” by Rami the Gutsy Geek. Everyone in attendance at #WDS this year received a $100 gift (investment) as the event concluded on Sunday afternoon. Chris Guillebeau, the founder of World Domination Summit, encouraged us to do something unique and inspiring with the gift, with the underlying themes of community, adventure, and service. What kind of story will you tell? So I liked the bet that Rami proposed:

More importantly, when you trusted me with $100 in cash to kickstart a goal, well, I couldn’t let you down. But I’m a competitive guy, and “here’s $100, go live a dream” doesn’t work for me as well as putting my pride on the line.

Instead, I’ve opted to turn the money into a bet, with 10-to-1 odds in your favor.

Here’s the deal: I bet you $100 that by July 5th 2013 [editor’s note: July 5th 2013 will be the opening night of WDS next year], my book will be ready for publishing.

I may not have an agent or a publishing deal, but I will have a fully finished manuscript.

3) “Don’t Stop Believing” by Brandon Sutton. Brandon provides some detail on how he was chosen to go on stage and sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to a crowd of 1,000 attendees:

As surely as I write this, the music started, and Journey’s massive hit song, Don’t Stop Believing began to play. Chris got the crowd started as the rest of us provided backup. A few lines into the song, Michelle nudged me forward and Chris turned around and handed me the microphone.

This is probably a good time to mention that I’m not a fan of karaoke, have never sung karaoke, and haven’t sung in front of people since I was a little kid in church.

But there I was, on stage with a live microphone and 1,000 people singing along to one of the songs that defined an entire generation. After the initial shock wore off, I embraced it and really got into the groove. The music carried me away to a place I never knew existed, and the inner performer in me assumed the role.

Lunging forward to reach out to the crowd, the words and emotions poured out of me like a raging river. It was something I never in a million years expected, but wow did it kick off the weekend with a bang. Talk about vulnerability!

Brandon also gave a heartfelt presentation about Kids of the Gulf, a documentary film featuring two kids that are determined to have a positive impact in the Gulf coast region in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010. I encourage you to check it out.

4) “World Domination Summit 2.0 and 8 Ways to Take Action on the Inspiration” by Farnoosh. I wanted to highlight this passage, which rang true for me last year and might happen again this year (and I have the feeling for others as well):

Oh yes, the stories. Inspiration was at the heart of every story. Stories like overcoming breast cancer and living to play it in a humorous song on the guitar, or building a water charity that helps deliver clean water to the poorest villages of Africa after wasting away the first part of life as a night-club promoter. Stories of waking up to a miserable career after 20 years of service to a company and turning things around because it’s never too late. Stories of starting businesses and making sacrifices and building something that makes a difference in this world.

Stories of not taking no for an answer and not playing by the conventional rules and systems, stories of finding solutions rather than playing a victim all your life.

Stories of believing in the infinite power of your dreams, and the true potential within your reach.

Inspiration is the easy part. You just have to be open to receiving, to hearing stories, to watching and observing and listening, and you will be filled to the brim with inspiration.

What comes after inspiration, now that’s not so easy. That’s the part where things stop looking sexy and shiny and sweet. That’s the day after the conference. That’s the long afternoon when you are home alone staring at your monitor and trying to re-capture the moments.

5) “What 1,000 Boomer’s Kids Did This Past Weekend” by Ken Solin at the Huffington Post. I really enjoyed Ken’s perspective on the event:

I don’t recall any speakers talking about making money beyond following your dreams and hopefully making a few bucks. The speakers preached being doers, not talkers. These young men and women already know something I only discovered in my sixties: Life isn’t just about stuff. They could teach their parents something about that.

For the first time in a very long while, I felt hopeful about America’s future. With men and women like those attending the WDS Conference, perhaps there’s hope after all. Their global approach to problems on a very personal level feels like a huge shift from the apathy that abounds in America regarding Third World people.


If you’ve found any other inspring/interesting posts recapping the event, please leave a comment below. Thanks!