I’m spending my day watching the livestream of WordCamp U.S because, well, I kind of felt like I had to since I work for WordPress.com. Given the developer audience, I was assuming most of the topics discussed were going to be way over my head. But the very first talk I tuned into was a developer opening up about his personal struggles, sometimes causing him to bend toward depression, and how he’s grown to rely on his relationships and his honestly with himself and others about what he’s going through in order to push forward. He was not a sad guy; he was an open guy. It felt more like I was a fly on the wall at an AA meeting than a developer conference. But suddenly this whole community started making more sense to me. WordPress.org is the definition of open source. In order to be a part of it, you have to believe in sharing, in the idea that we’re better together than we are as individuals, that everyone is capable of making strong contributions. And for it to really work, that philosophy can’t just be relegated to your role as code developer; it has to be something that you feel with more depth. It’s made for quite a lovely day (made even better because I’m able to listen to all of this while getting all of my Christmas wrapping done with the kids off at school!)
All of this reminded me of a book my godparents gave me for my 13th birthday: Desiderata. Like any good book or poem or movie you read or see when you’re young, you’re likely to get something more out of it if you read or see it when older. I actually don’t remember what I took from it at 13. (If I’m honest, I was probably wondering what terrible thing I’d done to just get a poem for my birthday from godparents who typically gave me really nice clothes! )But it must have made some sort of an impact, because when I was a senior in high school and had to design and carve my wooden plaque which still remains on the Middlesex wall today, I took a phrase and illustration from that book.
Heady for an 18-year-old. Or maybe not, but certainly heady for the kind of 18-year-old I remember being. But yes, I have a right to be here. You have a right to be here. We all have a right to be here. Couldn’t agree more. So I just re-read the whole poem. And despite its very philosophical nature, I think most in both corporate and especially political America today would benefit from the three minutes it takes to consume. So if you’re reading, here goes (but then go buy it, because the simple illustrations bring even more meaning):
Go placidly amid the noise & the haste & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull & the ignorant: they too have their story. Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Pretty powerful, right? Makes me cry. Hard to believe it was my company conference that compelled me to search for it on my bookshelves after years. I’ve been to tons of conferences over my career – some good, most shit. But they were always focused on me as an advertiser, a marketer, a service provider. This one focused on me as a human being. (And get this – it cost only $40 to attend live, and $0 to livestream… that says a lot too!) And that’s why I could listen to a bunch of developers (mostly) whose daily work I don’t and never will get, and still get so much out of today. That speaks volumes about the culture of my company. I really get the culture. And I really dig it. And I can’t wait to bring it to life in communications in 2017. Yes, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.
If you want a taste of what I experienced, I’ll update this page with the recorded talks. I’d check out these in particular for the Desiderata kind of stuff: Managing Your Iceberg, HeroPress: The People of WordPress, You Are Not Code, Finding Your Voice By Blogging, Care And Feeding Of Your Passion. And remember, no matter what happens or who says what, you have a right to be here.