The whole time I was preparing my Keynote speech for WordCamp Asheville, the song, Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads kept playing in my head.
It wasn’t until I was on my drive up through the Mountains, on the phone with one of my writer friends, that I saw why that song had been so persistent. “How did I get here?” kept repeating louder and louder.
“And you may find yourself in a shotgun shack
And You may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “How did I get here?”
So there in the car, less than 24 hours before show time, I decided to switch things up and open my talk with those words. I even played the music as I walked up on the stage.
It became clear that my whole talk was about the decisions that we make. Some decisions we make may seem monumental, others inconsequential, but, looking back later, we see that they were pivotal in altering the course of our lives and in some cases the world.
I told two stories of what can happen when you follow up on your aspirations with practice, dedication, and grit. I also spoke about the importance of saying yes to opportunities that you know in your heart of hearts you should take even when accompanied by fear and uncertainty.
The first story was how Matt Mullenweg, at age 18, made decisions that created a phenomenal community in addition to a web development platform that powers over 22% of the websites in the world.
Next, I told the story of the journey, which led me to that day and that place, standing in front of two hundred people at a tech conference, quoting the Talking Heads.
For two weeks before this talk, all of my fear had been knotted up in my right shoulder, front and back. I speak all the time so what was I afraid of now. First, I wanted to be able to remember what to say. Next, I wanted the passion of my beliefs to show through to encourage people to step out and take the risks that will lead to their fullest potential. I also wanted people to know that the important decisions are never easy choices to make.
I wondered why I was this adamant about I doing this talk that literally gave me pain in my neck. Why was it so important?
It is true that WordPress has given me a new career and community. It has allowed me to do work that I love weaving together my interests in psychology, design, and technology. And as if that isn’t enough, WordPress is a family affair for me. My son is a web designer who works with me at New Tricks. My daughter’s work with WordPress in restaurant marketing helped her to land a job as a brand manager for a major corporation. And my husband just launched a side business, Last Chance fitness, with a WordPress site. How great is that?
But, I am not sure I know the real answer yet as to why I had to do this talk. I do know this is another example where I was compelled to do something really hard, even though I don’t know why.
I will leave you with something I do know. I believe in this manifesto that everyone receives when they come to work for Automattic, the company that Matt built that powers WordPress.com.
It is a good creed for us all to live by.
I will never stop learning.
I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me.
I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers.
I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.
I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.
I will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.
I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.
Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.
Go forth, make decisions and conquer your fear.