How Your Digital Life can Make Your Physical Reality AWESOME!

Image by Carole Smith, available under CC BY 2.0.

How Your Digital Life can Make Your Physical Reality AWESOME!

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals, Portland

Last week, one of my students shared a revelation he’d had with me:

“I am a geek!”

“Haha… I know, Rami,”

“No, I mean, I realized after launching my blog last week that I really am a geek. A proud geek! I think I’m going to start wearing more geek accessories. Check out this game controller belt I found!”

It’s funny. I noticed a similar pattern in myself a while back. Sure, I’d always been a multipotentialite (though I didn’t know that word at the time), but building a community around multipotentiality actually made me a bigger, prouder multipotentialite in real life too.

Like Rami deciding to wear more geek accessories, once I launched Puttylike, I began to consciously schedule my life around variety. I also started spending time on only the pursuits that mattered to me. I quickly felt a greater sense of purpose.

And that anxiety I used to feel when the urge to change directions would creep up? Gone. I know what that is now. It’s part of who I am- the best part.

You Must Put Yourself Out There

Instead of hiding the things that make you unique, feature them. That’s when life gets good, when you stop trying to be the person you always wanted to be (referred to by some as your “best self”) and embrace, really embrace, your true nature- the person you always were.

That’s what blogging does. It strengthens that part of yourself that made you feel different, the part of yourself that made you worry in the past and made you want to hide.

That’s why it’s scary, but that’s also why it’s worth doing.

Taking it a Step Further

Not only does putting your identity out into the world give you a stronger sense of self, it also makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger: a community.

The community I found through Puttylike exceeded my wildest expectations. I now have a ton of new scanner friends scattered across the globe. Some of my best friends, the people I tweet with all day long and collaborate with, are people I have yet to meet IRL. But I feel closer to my puttypeep than I do to all but a handful of people in my physical world.

Creating a Physical Version of this Digital Community

Right now my life consists of a colourful buffet of incredible projects and meaningful work. I have amazing like minded friends that I connect with on Twitter and on the blog. My digital life is almost entirely in line with my physical reality- ALMOST.

The only thing I’m lacking – really lacking – is a physical manifestation of this digital community. It would be amazing to hang out with passionate, creative multipotentialites in real life too, not just online.

This got me thinking… What if I could turn this digital community I’ve built into a physical community? Hm.

And so a new project begins.

The Puttypad

On June 2, 2011 (5 weeks from now) I will be moving to the other side of the continent: Portland, Oregon, land of bloggers, artists and creative entrepreneurs. I will be finding an apartment with my friend James (whom I’ve never met IRL but have spent countless hours Skyping/writing with about business, humanity and the magic of the universe).

This is not where it ends though. Our plan is to start off as roommates but quickly expand to a full-on intentional community– a space where multipotentialites can live and work together, plus a hang-out spot for visiting multipods from out of town. This will essentially be a physical version of the Puttylike community. There will be cushy chairs, white boards, plants, work space, a writers’ room and a treehouse out back (which I’m insisting on. :)

I also want to include/launch a production company made up entirely of scanners. I’ve met too many puttypals with incredible filmmaking, writing, design and musical abilities. We need to come together and build something BIG.

Chronicling Our Experience Online

Of course this project wouldn’t be complete without a digital reflection of our physical space either. The wheels are turning, but we’re throwing around the idea of a weekly video show. Is that something you’d be interested in?

The Future

I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen when I touch down in Portland, but I’m excited to find out. I’m fully expecting bumps and revelations along the way, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s time for an experiment, a new adventure.

All of the awesome experiences I’ve had in the last 7 months: the sense of increased purpose, the amazing lifestyle, the fun projects, the new friends, and now this big life change, came about by taking the thing that made me feel different – my multipotentiality – and putting it out into the world.


Have you built your own digital home yet? How has your digital life impacted your physical reality?

Is a weekly video show broadcast directly from the Puttypad something you’d be interested in? Anything else you’d like us to include in this project?


  1. Cotton Candy says:

    “That’s what blogging does. It strengthens that part of yourself that made you feel different, the part of yourself that made you worry in the past and made you want to hide.”

    Oh so that’s why I’m terrified. haha

    Love, love, love the Puttypad idea! Maybe I will live in Portland at some point after all. =) A supportive community of other creative explorers sounds so nice.

    Also, I totally second the vote for a treehouse!

    • Emilie says:

      Haha maybe I didn’t express that properly in that one line. What I meant is that blogging makes you more confident about the things that used to make you insecure. :)

      And right on, there will always be space in our treehouse for scanner friends!

      • Cotton Candy says:

        Don’t worry, you did express yourself properly. I was agreeing that it’s scary to showcase your ‘differences’ & to express your full self online.

        & yay treehouse! =)

  2. Morgan says:

    This all sounds SO fantastic! Have you heard of The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau? He actually resides in Portland, OR and recently he had this HUGE convention there of people who are all Non-Conformists. I wish I was able to make it, but even though it was such a good price, it was still a bit expensive. His blog and books and everything is just so fantastic.

    But I’m not leaving this comment to gloat about Chris, I’m leaving it because you remind me of him. And with your future desire, I KNOW you can make it a reality, especially with you moving to Portland and all. I was born in Portland and raised in Eugene, OR, so I’m a bit jealous and also know that you’re going to fit in just fine. :)

    You can make the digital world come into manifestation. I did that with my voice over friends many times. We took the forum world and turned it into the real world. And it was always a blast.

    You are quite the inspiration to all. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Morgan,

      Yeah I know Chris. He’s a friend, and total inspiration. Thank you for the comparison! I’m actually going to the World Domination Summit. It’s my first stop when I arrive in Portland. It was sort of the catalyst that lead to this whole move actually. I bought tickets back in October and then thought, hm.. maybe I’ll stick around and try out the West Coast for a while. But that’s a story for another blog post. :)

      Wow so you’ve built a voice over community? That is so so cool!

  3. james says:

    Morgan, did you mean the world domination summit? That hasn’t /quite/ happened yet… I think it’s the only major Chris. G. event down in Portland scheduled around this time. Looks like a blast!

    I’m coming from a bit of a different place, but this is going to be about bringing my digital life into reality too. I’m tired of not having any young entrepreneurs to collaborate with, it’s time to start banding together and making a bigger impact than I’m able to make alone.

    Can’t wait to get this rolling Emilie:). Big things are coming!

    • Emilie says:

      That’s totally in line with my goals too. I like that we have a slightly different focus and different talents, with plenty of overlap on both counts. You’ll teach me business and I’ll teach you how to sing so that we can harmonize along to Cat Stevens while nailing white boards to the wall! Heh.

      Seriously though, partnering up with people who have different skills, but are on similar paths is what it’s all about. That’s how you become unstoppable.

      Thanks for the comment, roomie. :)

    • Morgan says:

      Yeah I realized I might have put the summit into the past tense, but didn’t mean to, I know it has yet to happen. :) My bad! But yes, that is what I’m talking about.

  4. Ooh ooh ooh! You’re coming to Oregon! I’m in Eugene, just two hours south. And my best talented scanner friend is about to move up there–I’m forwarding this to her.

    I definitely want to hear more about this!!!! I want to hang out with scanners!

  5. My process has been similar with a few differences. I came to Chicago for grad school, was dissatisfied with being a “grad student,” (you know, the identity of the downtrodden intellectual, living on top ramen, nose in a book with NO MONEY and very little connection to the outer world) and began blogging.

    Well, then the blogging opened me up to a huge online community of innovators- people that are doing things differently, living life with passion and are monetizing their online lives for real life sustainability. It opened up my view to both new opportunities in technology, but how I could use that technology to be the person I wanted to be (and make a living doing it). I connected with people who “get me” and inspire me.

    I thought by moving from California to Illinois would change me in a different way than expected. I didn’t expect to develop an online community and network that was more fulfilling than the new offline contacts I had made (dear fellow academics, no I DO NOT want to talk about your thesis while we’re at happy hour). I didn’t want my whole life to be about being a “student” and it doesn’t have to be..I am so much happier now!

    And yes Emilie, video=fabulous!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Shannyn,

      Blogging opened me up to a lot of new ideas too. It’s amazing how much great stuff is out there. Once you start honing in on your uniqueness, values, etc. you begin meeting people who are on the same path. Or maybe they’re bit further along or on a similar, related path that you had never even considered! It’s really awesome.

      Also your story about moving away for school is interesting. Often we know what we’re looking for, we’re just not sure how to get it. That’s why it’s good to experiment. When I went to Denmark last fall I was looking for community, but didn’t find it at ALL. However, like you I discovered an online community. And that whole experience abroad plus my new insights online are what lead me to choose Portland for attempt #2.

      And um I know exactly what you mean about academia. ;)

  6. Cara Stein says:

    What a fun idea! Do you have any idea how you’re going to do it? Buy an apartment building or something? It sounds like a blast, in any case.

    I’m kind of afraid being in Portland for the WDS will make me want to move to Portland. I’ll be interested to see, and hear from you in the longer term, whether the city really lives up to its mythos.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Cara,

      At the moment we’re a little fuzzy on the “hows” of the operation. :) We’re going to see what we can find. We’ll probably rent though, maybe even see if we can join up with a pre-existing house share (apparently there are a lot of these in PDX).

      Yeah, the #WDS is going to be quite something. Thinking about it is sort of overwhelming. I think it’ll literally be a real life version of Twitter. Heh.. Same people and all, just in RL. I can’t even imagine what the Twitter stream itself will look like during the summit! Wowza.

  7. Emilie, are you in touch with Havi Brooks? Her Playground in Portland sounds somewhat similar. (I get to experience it in June.)

  8. Great ideas in this, Emilie. I know you’ll rock this hard. You have my best wishes and good luck magic headed your way.

  9. Hey Emilie!
    AWESOME POST!!! It was awesome when you had mentioned this to me on skype and it is even more awesome to read about it!!! I am definitely going to be visiting you and James in Portland and we’ll hang out and write on white boards and I’ll brainstorm w you guys and it’ll be AWESOME!!!!

    I love your vision! Way to think big, embrace your talents and your personality, and live with passion!!! It is inspiring!!!
    – LAUR :D

    • Emilie says:

      Yes yes!! I will continue to recruit you by the way! :) If you ever decide to stay put for more than a little while, you’re moving in. Lol.. And certainly you must come for a drop-by, brainstorming and treehouse building session! Loveit.

      I was thinking about your blogging road trip and how that’s a great example of your digital life enhancing your physical reality.

      Crazy opportunities come out of this stuff eh? Oh and on that topic, I decided that sadly I can’t go. It conflicts with all my Portland plans (i.e. all this stuff we’re talking about here). Sucks having to choose between two awesome opportunities. But hey, not a bad problem to have, right? :)

      Anyway, I can’t wait to hear all about it!

      See ya Laur!!! :D

  10. Susannah says:

    This was a great read, the life plans are really exciting! It’s so funny, I sort of had an idea like this recently, but in my mind it was associated with a university for some reason… Not what you’re up to, but would you consider a lending library? Public events like interactive workshops and lectures? With a good space the sky really is the limit. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Susannah,

      We might consider a digital lending library of some sort. (Haven’t you heard, publishing is dead?) :P But yeah, public events I’d be down with. Another thing on my life list is an educational program for high school students to teach them about solopreneurship, alternatives to the work/life model they’ve been taught, etc. James is also very passionate about education, so we might start working towards something like that.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      • Susannah says:

        Ack, don’t say that about publishing to an old-skool poet! I like my dream world and its tactile paper chapbooks…

        Great that you’re into the education side of things – I’ve also found traditional methods frustrating, especially the law experience we shared. I suspect we’ll have a lot to say to each other about (re-)education down the road. :)

        • Emilie says:

          Self-publishing is alive and well. :)

          • Susannah says:

            True true. In paper as well as digital form. I love options! Of course I do – it goes with the territory. Lately I’ve been thinking about learning to letterpress…

            Have you seen an old movie / play called You Can’t Take it With You? It reminds me of the Puttypad idea a little. And it’s superfun and available through the Mtl public library system – I just returned it.

  11. Holli says:

    How exciting! You are so right on about how blogging can really help you find your focus or confidence in being yourself…i feel like I am just beginning to really see that for myself. And, I never considered myself one to cower for the sake of acceptance to the expectations of others. It just kinda creeps up on me, I think.
    Congrats to you and James for getting started on what will be an epic adventure! I look forward to seeing how it all develops. And, I am eager to visit the tree house some day. I will bring snacks!
    This is truly inspiring as I work on my own treehouse;)

  12. amber says:

    Hey girl!

    I want to part of project Puttypad!! So looking forward to meeting up IRL in good ol PDX! :)

    What part of Portland will you guys be looking for an apartment? A treehouse sounds so rad!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Amber! You definitely have to join up with us! Not sure about location. We’ll see what we can find and what prices are like. We’ll probably start out by finding a place for the two of us and then take our time hunting down the perfect spot for the Puttypad.

  13. Tom says:

    This is a great idea Emilie, and I am surprised this has not been done more often in the blogging community.

    I’ve met a few people off the internet from blogs/podcasts and it’s great how social media allows like-minded people with the same values to connect, so why not take this one step further and start a physical community?

    It will be very interesting to see what this community produces and I hope to be a part of this too, in some shape or form.

    With regards to a weekly video show, I think weeky video updates of the various goings-on and creative projects could prove very interesting.

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks! I definitely had you in mind when I was thinking about which multipotentialites I’d want in my writers’ room. :) Would love for you to be involved. When are you swinging by the West Coast again?

      • Tom says:

        I’ll probably arrive in Portland on the 20th of September, maybe a few days before, maybe a few days after and I will probably spend at least four weeks there, maybe longer.

        The writers’ room sounds great! I’m looking forward to meeting everybody and seeing how this project turns out, it’s gonna be a blast!

  14. I was talking to my students about “unleashing their inner-geek” and the great potential for polymaths today. Did you say quote above? It stuck. We even taped the phrase to the class wall. I love how malleable a puttypad can be.

    Glad to geek-out in many maths w/you, Emilie.


    • Emilie says:

      Nice! That’s awesome Mark! More kids should be encouraged to unleash their inner geek. I take geek to be somewhat synonymous with passion too.. like everyone should have something(s) to “geek out about”. I enjoy that usage of the word as well.

      And teaching your students about polymaths? Amazing!! It would have been so awesome if I had grown up knowing what my whole deal was. How old are your students?

      • 15-18 Yrs. Lit/writing/media. They are so passionately engaged in eternal conflicts re: their true self (the Geek), and the dissociative personae that they put on for their peers.

        I had one lovely breakthrough. A student, AU, was wrestling about whether to go into music or a more “worthwhile field.” We did a unit studying ‘The Suburbs’ by Arcade Fire. After many conversations he came to see urban planning as the ability to make a “geographic poem.”

        The old jobs won’t survive: they will die or be restored by cross-pollinators like AU.


  15. Nathan Agin says:

    This is really brilliant Emilie. I’ve just bookmarked your site to devour more content later. Excited to meet ya IRL in Portland @ WDS, and perhaps check out the Puttypad at some point – I’m in full-time nomad status right now, and always looking to meet creative, passionate people.

    Congrats on this vision and I’m excited to see it enter your physical reality!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Nathan!

      Thanks for all the awesome comments. I’m very happy you turned up here. I think we’re going to have one hellofa good time in Portland! I really love what you’re doing over at Nonstop Awesomeness too! Looking forward to digging in more when I have some free time.

      Looking forward to meeting in physical space! :)

  16. I wish I was going to WDS. Blarg…I feel like all the cool kids will be there and I’m stuck in boring-old Chicago. Sad.

    • Nathan Agin says:

      well i’m coming to chicago FIRST (will be there this Sunday), and would love to meet up with cool kids there. :-)

      • The cool kids are in Chicago- so glad to get some street cred! haha. What brings you to Chi-city and where are you staying Nathan?

        • Nathan Agin says:

          the reason: never been, and i’ve heard it’s awesome!
          where i’m staying: that’s part of the fun – no real idea. on the hunt for couches and low-cost places. reaching out to friends and friends of friends… :-)

          • Emilie says:

            Yey! Multipotentialite meetups around the country! Love it.

          • Chicago *is* awesome! I moved here in August of last year and am still learning my way around. I still get lost at times!

            I live up in the northern-ish suburbs (but still Chicago) over by Loyola, near Evanston. (that might help you find it on a map).

            If you’d like to meet up or need anything, please email me at! I’m in the middle of finals and could use a break here and there! So excited you’re visiting Chicago- still jealous you’re going to WDS (wish I’d heard about it in time!). :)

          • Nathan Agin says:

            will be in touch shannyn (awesome spelling, btw)!

            and if you REALLY want to get to WDS, follow the #WDS stream on Twitter – tickets are still flying around, and you have until May 10th to get one, before they lock it all down!

  17. Awesome, Emillie, absolutely love the idea!! I actually think about this a lot myself. Blogging and social media have connected me with so many amazing people, but I’m always left wanting something more. When I read a really awesome blog post by one of my friends, I find myself wishing we could grab a coffee and chat for hours.

    I guess that part is possible with Skype, which I need to get more used to using. There is just something about physically being with a person that is so energizing! I can just imagine all of the awesome ideas that are going to be flying around on your white boards and in the treehouse! I’ve never been to Oregon, but I hear it’s pretty amazing. Good luck to you out there…and yes, please document the experience to share with us!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey thanks Adrienne! I know what you mean. I definitely feel a closer bond to my Twitter friends and blogger buds that I’ve connected with via Skype. But it’s hard to work out logistically sometimes, everyone’s so busy. And you’re right, there’s really nothing like meeting up in person.

      I’ll make sure to capture/share as much of this journey as possible. Might even bring out my latent video production chops and make it a little bit dramatic. Hm..

      Thanks for the feedback!

  18. Rob says:

    Oh. My. God! This is the best idea I’ve heard in so, so, long!!! As you know, I’ve been finding the idea of an extended visit to Portland pretty sexy for a while now, but Visas, and costs of flights from the UK have been putting me off…

    But I know my best friend (IRL) lives in CA, with family in Oregon, and he keeps bugging me to head over to visit.

    SO, after reading this post, consider this my preliminary plan;

    Travel in Europe again come June. House sit in France for a couple of months when the weather turns nasty and hide away to really, REALLY push my income generation forward. Once I’ve got enough in the bank, I’ll be heading out to meet my friend, then soon after, PORTLAND BABY! If I can get a nice VISA, this’ll be a nice loooong stay, hopefully, and being a part of your community would be fucking AMAZING!

    So, reserve a place for me! And if you need any help with organizing, planning etc, you now my email address. I have a virtual assistant who can help you out for a few hours if you need any research doing at no cost (we don’t use all her contracted hours…).

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Rob!

      Your plan sounds incredible!! Also both James and I are really passionate about education. Portland could be the perfect place for us to start up that high school program we were talking about.

      You should get on the Visa thing soon. Just get the process rolling.

      I’m so glad you’re into this! I would LOVE for you to be involved. :)

  19. Omg. If I ever come to Portland I gotta live in your treehouse for some time!
    Is that alright? xD

    Amazing idea. We should try create more ‘headquarters’ like this all over the world :D

  20. Seth says:

    Well put, Emilie, well put.

    My digital home is more like a laboratory, a place to learn about, play with, and eventually share useful ideas with a really insightful group of people. I later use what I’ve learned in the lab to make my away-from-the-intertubes life a little better.

    BTW, the Puttypad sounds way cool, like a power plant of creative energy.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s cool, Seth. I think of my bedroom right now as an idea workshop of sorts. Similar concept. The best writers definitely apply their “online” learning and brainstorming to their “offline” lives. Otherwise it’s purely academic and people can tell. I always really like reading about what you’re up to over at HappenChance. Good stuff!

  21. Vanessa says:

    This is such a cool idea. I can only hope that even more people will create little hubs of creative intentional communities. The world seriously needs more of these (and people like you.)

    Congrats on this new step! I’m excited to see the plans unfold. If you’re ever in the Durham, NC area, you’re more than welcome to stay with us :)

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Vanessa! I might get in touch for advice at some point, since I know you have a lot of experience with the co-living concept.

      I’ll let you know if I’m ever in NC. I have a friend down there and I’ve heard good things. Shoot me a message if you’re ever in PDX. :)

  22. This sounds supercalifragilAWESEOMe!

  23. Kari Pederson (Aelione) says:

    Holy crap. This sounds magical. Now I want to move to Portland. Can I ask how you’re getting the funding for the space/ property? I’m interested in something similiar here in Minneapolis, but with a relaxed Zen/Yoga vibe for creatives and telecommuters who also meditate and do yoga, and who would want to have those things RIGHT THERE if they want to do them. It might be like a yoga studio/ meditation center/ workspace. I find, personally, that meditation and yoga help me come up with ideas. That’s why I thought it might be beneficial to put the two together. I’m also a Zen Buddhist with a (lapsed) yoga teacher certification. :)

    What do you think? Do you have any advice? I’m very new to this nebulous world and I don’t know anything about going into business for myself. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a market right now, first, and hopefully find partners in crime. :)

    • Ah Minneapolis, I’m heading up there for a friend’s birthday in about a week…any suggestions? I love me some yoga, so your idea sounds fab!

      • Kari Pederson (Aelione) says:

        Unfortunately my idea has yet to make it into the physical plane :) but as far as yoga is concerned, One Yoga is my favorite yoga studio. It’s a non-profit (!) that specializes in making yoga accessible to people who may not otherwise have access to it. It’s also in my ‘hood (Uptown). There are a ton of awesome places to eat and hang out here! One of my favorite places to eat is Common Roots which has wonderful, made-right-there-with-local-ingredients items as well as good coffee. Their macaroons are badass. Be warned, though— it’s hard to find a spot. Seriously hard. And it’s laptop city. One reason why Uptown needs a great coworking facility!

        Hope you find this useful! :) Enjoy your stay in Mlps!

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