Alt Summit: Amazing Moment #4: The Life List

by Whitney on January 31, 2013

Background story, for those of you just now joining me: I made my first “Crazy List” when I was 16 years old, thanks to a book called Put Your Heart On Paper. You can tell I was 16 because of a) the handwriting, b) the underlying teenage angst and c) I misspelled the word gorgeous. That doesn’t matter though. I’m proud of the fact that I had the audacity to dream some crazy stuff.


So on the final day of Alt Summit, when I saw that there was a workshop called The Life List, I thought I’d go, for several reasons. First of all, I love lists. Second of all, I typically connect well with people who like talking about big ideas like life. Thirdly, the agenda said it was led by Maggie Mason, and somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered that she fell under the category of “people who might be a big deal so if I run into them at Alt, so make sure not to ask them how long they’ve been blogging ’cause they might know Dooce personally” (which I think Maggie does).

I seated myself a couple of rows back from the front. There were twenty or so others scattered around the room as well. We were doing that thing where we make sure we keep a seat between us and the next person, because let’s face it: we were all probably pretty nervous about talking about something called The Life List. As we assembled, Laura Mayes stood at the front of the room and told us to all move closer together.

My instant thought response to that instruction was “YAY! I love interactive exercises!” and I jumped to the front row. Maybe a little too eager. But if this is what I thought it was, I was all over it. Lean into vulnerability. Lean into dreaming big. Lean in to making things happen. Lean into better, not bigger. Lean into challenge. In short, STEP OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE.

Laura Mayes probably thinks I’m some creepy weirdo.

Then, Laura and Sarah Brown proceeded to tell us how Maggie was “not well”, ie, had the flu, but how she believed in putting crazy stuff out there and then watching, letting, making, crazy stuff happen. They talked about how The Life List was an evolutionary list–somethings would get added to it, some things would come off, but all of it had to get out there. Out of your head, out of your heart, and on to something else: paper or the internet, either one seemed fine.

My kinda talk. This is stuff I believe in.

And then they challenged us to write a list of our own. And share three things off that list with the entire room. A room of, for the most part, strangers. A few people I had met, but for the most part, these were people who barely knew my name four days prior, and I was now asking myself if I was willing to bare my soul to them.

Outside the comfort zone. Lean into it. This is the stuff that could, maybe, might, turn into amazing.

I looked at my list. Do I pick the superficial things, like weigh 135 pounds? Or the really audacious things, like own a house in Vail with heated driveways? Or perhaps I pick something with a greater good theme to them, spiritual maybe?

I was the third person to talk. As the people before me finished, my heart started pounding. I’m not a crier I’m a recovering crier, and I felt the tears well up in my eyes. It had been a wonderful, but rough, couple of days. I had been called out of two keynote sessions because of some serious phone calls. Scary conversations about business and my life. So far, during the course of the trip, I’d cried to the accounting department of a major corporation, my precious friend and roommate, Amber Housley, during Erin Loechner’s presentation when she mentioned the Day Designer, and now here I was about to go sobbing again.

I had not packed tissues. Crying was not on the Alt Summit agenda that I received.

My turn came. I looked down at my list and I picked my three points, all of them doable within 2013, if I’m crazy enough to dream that big. I could barely start talking about the first. I really can’t even mention what it is here on the blog. If you’ll allow me to be vague, I have two specific people that I want to do something really big for, because they’re small business owners, and I know what that feels like, and because I feel in my heart it’s the right thing to do. I just can’t do it right now. Literally. It feels like the impossible. But the room supported me, through my tears and all. Yay for women who dream big and crazy, right?

I composed myself and moved on to my next point: write a book. Also doable within 2013. Already started. Get busy, Whitney.

And then I went on to the last point. Briefly, I explained that my friend Amber had been encouraging me to put a workshop together. Over the course of the entire Alt Summit experience, she had been challenging me to go home, make some phone calls, and put together a workshop experience based on the Authenticate work I’ve been doing lately: helping women dig deep to uncover purpose, pair it with values, and develop a once-and-for-all why statement. I told the room that Amber wanted me to reach out to the design and blogging community and ask for a host in any city that Southwest airlines flies to, and see if that host could get at least five women together, and that if they could, I’d fly to that city and do a one-day workshop on living authentically.

As soon as I said it, I heard a voice behind me say, “I’ll host.” And then another, “Me too!” and then another, and another, and another and ya’ll, THEN I SOBBED. Hands to my face, shoulders shaking, people WANT to support this. They want to support me.

Over the past eighteen months (a story I’ll tell at the Authenticate workshop), the hardest part has been feeling worthless. Like I don’t add value, to anything. Like I’m not a contributing member of society. I’ve been humbled (gracious, the humble pie eating is getting OLD), extremely grateful to the women in my life who have listened, hugged me, hired me, and believed in me, but I still haven’t been able to kick that feeling of worthlessness.

And in that moment, in that ballroom full of women, sharing their hearts, I didn’t feel worthless. I felt like I had something to offer, and they were willing to help me offer it to the world.

If you were sitting in that room, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, friends, I’m going to do it. I’m going to offer an Authenticate workshop in any city that I can fly to Southwest airlines on. If you’d like me to do a workshop in your city, and you think that between my efforts and your efforts that we can get at least five women to participate, contact me to become a host for your city. The cost for attendees will be $300 per person, and will include lunch and beverages. The host will attend free, in exchange for helping me find a place to host the workshop, helping round people up to attend, and helping me to make various food and beverage arrangements. I’ll have to do the workshops during the week (no weekends), and I can start them during the last week of March or any time in April. I’ll bring worksheets! And tissues! And we’ll dig into our hearts and help each other uncover all the ways we can live authentically.

If there is anything The Life List exercise taught me, it’s that there is a community out there that wants to be a part of making incredible things happen. It reminded me that there is power in putting dreams out there: on paper, on the internet, it doesn’t matter. Just get it out. When you do, you’ll find a whole community of people out there who want to help others live their dreams.

This concludes my Alt Summit wrap-up post series, but stay tuned. I’m chock full of inspiration at the moment, and can’t wait to share more.

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