Praxis Magazine is launching a series of interviews with Members who are building the future. We are starting with Cameron Wiese, writer, host of the “Build the Future” podcast and architect of the upcoming World’s Fair. You can find more of Cameron’s work on his twitter @camwiese, his website cameronwiese.com, and read his essay It’s time to build: A New World’s Fair here.
What is your heroic project? How will this project change the world?
The heroic project I’ve embarked on is the development of a new World’s Fair.
I believe that the impact of this fair will shift our culture to the point where people get excited about building again. In the short term, this will get ambitious projects started.
In the long term, however, we can’t possibly predict the outcomes of the serendipitous interactions and experiences people will have. Ten years after the Fair, we will have hundreds of thousands of people come out of the woodwork to talk about how the World’s Fair inspired them to start companies, projects, or to simply take responsibility for improving some aspect of their lives or communities.
“I want to shift our culture so that people are optimistic about the future and want to participate in building it.”
Which trends do you see that make you optimistic about humanity’s future?
Everyone wants to ignore all the incredible technology being built right now. We’re on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs in genetics, computing, robotics, biology, transportation, we’re even building rockets again. Nobody wants to talk to us about Mars and the COVID vaccine, the fastest vaccine to date. There’s so much to be excited about and too many people want to focus on the negatives. That’s why the fair plays a fundamental role introducing people to what’s possible, showing how much progress we’ve made and how far we have yet to go.
The caveat is that the people who want the world to be better will eventually realize we have to step up and do something. Large sectors of the media, corporations, even governments in some respects are not going to do anything to help improve the world. It’s been said often, but too many people with large amounts of responsibility are incompetent and unable to deliver results.
It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. Once everyone reaches this understanding of the 21st century and the necessary response, this call to action, the responsibility that accompanies it, I believe it will totally permeate our culture. The people leading the companies, organizations and institutions of 2030 will all have been shaped by this experience and realized that to lead the world, we have to start operating differently.
Who have been your biggest role models and what have they taught you?
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a ‘personal board of directors.’ That seems to work better for me than any singular role model. The three people on my board of directors are Walt Disney, Teddy Roosevelt and Miyamoto Musashi. Walt Disney for obviously his optimism, Teddy Roosevelt for his sense of adventure and leadership, and then Miyamoto Musashi for strategic thinking and discipline and pursuit of the Way.
What opportunities existed on the frontier that you wish could be found today?
We’ve lost our ability to pursue our own path without a lot of friction. In the American frontier, it was easy for people to say, “hey, you know what? I want to do something new. I’m tired of the status quo. Now I’m going westward to explore.” If you really want to pursue that kind of path of freedom and independence today, you have to get creative.
The other thing that I think about is the spiritual losses. There’s a certain kind of struggle to life on the frontier that’s been lost today. Struggle today is “Uber didn’t arrive on time so I missed my flight. They’re out of my coffee beans at the grocery store.” We don’t have life-or-death struggle, so we’ve lived lives purely asking for happiness. That cannot be the end of our lives.
In what ways do you consider yourself a leader? How do your peers at Praxis help push you to be a better leader?
That’s always an interesting question because I think leadership is not always something you can talk about: It’s something that is pulled from you when the circumstances demand it. In my case I want people to pursue challenging things. I want them to play their own game. Leaders lead by example. There’s this dichotomy that you always have to lead from behind or from the front, but right now I want more people to do what I’m doing, which is taking risks that are hard and leaning into struggle.
With respect to Praxis, I think it helps that everyone is wicked smart. In order to play a valuable role, I have to be on top of my game. I have to strive to learn more, to think deeply, and not only take myself more seriously, but take everything more seriously. Ultimately I have to always be bringing my A-game to keep up with my peers.
What hobbies or interests do you pursue in your spare time?
For myself I get into these all-consuming projects which present great challenges and whatnot. But if I had to step out of my work, I really enjoy anything that gives me a shot of adrenaline. Things like snowboarding, mountain biking, sailing, skateboarding, hiking, et cetera. I love the gym when I can get to one and I strive to be consistently doing jiu-jitsu, but that’s not always practical right now.
There’s this term ‘high-performance lifestyle,’ which is doing things and setting goals for the challenge and being active. I’ve done things like Goggins challenges in the past as part of this pursuit. So if I can balance active adventures with the work I’m doing, and then investing in relationships with the people around me, then all of the different parts of my life tie neatly together.
What was your primary ambition before you began your heroic project?
Before the fair I was doing growth and ops consulting. I had spun out of a startup and then started traveling and consulting, but I eventually learned that it was totally meaningless. There’s this great section in Zero to One which talks about if you’re in a job where the role is purely transactional, it’s not a good use of your time even from a purely financial perspective. You’re definitely developing the best relationships of your life when your work is what you love. Dysfunction arises when you check out of your work and start operating totally solo.
That experience made me realize I want to work on something where one, I can build up a team, and two, something that’s extremely mission oriented. I need my lifestyle to be one with meaning, purpose, and challenge. That then made me ask, ‘what do I actually love doing the most?’ I can do growth ops, onboarding funnels workflows, increase customer retention and onboarding activation rates like crazy, but it’s time for me to find that in my group and bring people together. In-person. Through physical events and experiences.
Getting back in touch with that facet of my personality shaped what I decided to do next. An events company that works with my personal mission to inspire the building of the future. That unfolded into the World’s Fair. When I asked myself, “What’s the peak? Where is this kind of media and events company going?” The highest mountain to climb from here is building the World’s Fair and continuing to run them such that we can actually set a target on the future. We want to build, operate, celebrate, and then find the next big project. Then we need to iterate that cycle forever.