It’s 8pm on the night before the big event, and I’m having second thoughts.
The World Domination Summit, an annual conference of remarkable people, kicks off the next day with an attempt at a world record. We hope to create the longest human floating chain – beating a record set in Italy of 542 people.
When they first announced the attempt several months ago, I was excited and signed up with no hesitation.
But now, of the people I’m hanging out with, I’m the only one going. The others think it’s a neat idea, but that’s all. They have no intention of joining in.
Maybe they’re right about not going. It could be to cold. It could be a silly idea. There may not even be enough people to set the record, and I’ll waste my morning on a failed attempt. Maybe it would be better to use the time for something else – such as resting in preparation for the conference.
But I made a commitment to participate. I don’t want to go back on that. I decide to wait and see what the weather is like in the morning.
will you follow them
or will you instead
(Inspired by Andrew Warner)
The morning of the big float, I look out the window. There’s not a single patch of blue. The whole sky is covered in a blanket of white and gray. The air has a slight chill.
Do I really want to do this?
But I’m already up. I might as well get ready, head over to the river and see what’s happening.
Outside the hostel, I run into three others who are wearing swimsuits and holding towels. They’re also heading to the river. We set out together.
Their conversation is full of energy.
“This is going to be so amazing.”
“I can’t believe we’re going to set a world record.”
“What a great way to start the conference.”
“We’re going to completely destroy the existing record.”
“I can’t wait.”
As I listen, I can’t help but feel their excitement. This is going to be amazing.
what gives you energy
what gives others energy
(Inspired by Darren Rowse)
A short bus ride and walk later, we arrive at the riverside.
The staging area overflows with people. There’s a group pumping up the inflatable tubes we’ll be floating on. There’s the kayak safety crew receiving last minute instructions. There are the event volunteers, directing people where they need to know. But most of all, there’s a long line of people waiting to register.
We might just break this record.
The wait is long, but it’s OK.
There’s lots to talk about. We each have projects and dreams we’re excited about. It’s good to have conversations with a small group of people. I get to know more about the people I’m standing with.
don’t forget to
even though you’re living
(Inspired by Tess Vigeland)
We reach the front of the line, and I receive my lucky inner tube and lifejacket. With both in hand, I head toward the dock.
While waiting for my turn to get in the river, I marvel at logistics behind the event. Volunteers direct traffic, helping people get into the river and join the chain. Kayakers glide along the river, making sure everyone stays safe. Medical staff stand by to offer first aid if needed. Media people take photos and video. And officials prepare to verify and validate the record. The effort and planning involved is evident.
A single person could never organize such an event by themselves. It requires everyone working together – everyone doing their needed and important tasks. Without the whole team, it would be chaos.
put people first
they’re what create
(Inspired by Bob Moore)
Into the water we go. We grab onto the tow ropes and use them to make our way down river. Ahead of us, the chain has already started to form. Behind us, people follow into the water.
This is happening. We’re doing it.
For the next hour, we float, waiting for the rest of the people to get in the water. We pass the time by sharing stories and telling jokes. We talk about the current experience – our shared experience.
I’m glad to be a part of it. Maybe it was a risk to come down. We might still miss the record – we won’t know until the end whether we have enough people. But there’s something about taking a chance and not knowing for sure how it will work out. There’s something about being a part of a real experience.
For it’s in those real experiences that connection happens.
what if you never
never risked a real experience
never faced a failure
never took the chance
never found out
that people are actually nice
(Inspired by Jia Jiang)
There’s no avoiding the fact anymore: my tube has a leak. I’m sitting much lower in the water than everyone else.
Fifty feet away, a kayaker floats with a spare tube. I signal him. Yet he’s too far away to see or hear me. He’s paying attention to something else.
I’m not alone though. The people floating next to me rally in support. They start yelling out too. The call goes down the chain and soon catches the attention of the kayaker. He paddles over.
I successfully leap into the new tube, and everyone around give a big cheer.
In the company of others, I’m riding high now.
take people on a journey
from what is to what could be
up and down like waves
ending on a high
(Inspired by Nancy Duarte)
The horn sounds, and we grab the hands of those next to us. This is the big moment. For the next five minutes, we have to stay linked as the officials float by and validate the record. They make sure it really is a floating chain.
We’re all there together. Each person in the chain matters.
We’re all connected. Each of is a part of something greater than we are.
The horn sounds again. We let out a big cheer. It’s official. We did it. At 621 people, we broke the record!
Together, we accomplished something big – something none of us could have done on our own.
us, you, me
connected to each other
is how we should be
(Inspired by Steve Schalchlin)
Dripping wet and carrying our inner tubes we make our way back downtown. I’m sure the passing observer would find us a bit ridiculous looking with our inner tubes and towels – especially on a cloudy morning.
They’re right of course, the whole event was a bit ridiculous. Floating on a river with six hundred other people is not a normal activity.
But I don’t mind. Many of life’s greatest moments happen when you step outside of the normal – when you join up with others and take part in a bigger story.
when characters act
daring to risk adventure
great stories happen
(Inspired by Donald Miller)
PS: If you want to see more, go here for a short video of the World Float.