How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?
Take a moment to think about it. What are you doing that sets you apart from everyone else? How are you living out your dreams? What are you doing to benefit humanity? If you don’t have answers to those questions, I would encourage you to explore and pursue the ways in which you can enhance your own life, as well the lives of others. Think about it.
The question above was the theme of World Domination Summit 2012, and the central hub around which all of presentations and workshops revolved.
The “don’t call it a convention!” was led by blogger/author/world traveler Chris Guillebeau who, in his welcoming speech, listed three things which this unbelievably diverse crowd have in:
- Facilitating community. These entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, nomadic travelers, charity founders, and unconventional people all enjoy connecting with other like-minded individuals and building a sense of community in whatever they do.
- Living adventurously. Whether traveling the world, taking on physical challenges, pursuing a career in art, giving their time to charity, or taking the risk of deviating from a “safe” career path, everyone in attendance thrives on that sense of adventure and forward movement towards the unknown.
- Valuing service. Everyone says they want to make the world a better place, but few actually act on that pretense. World domination is the equivalent to world service; those at WDS strive to do what they love while simultaneously helping others.
The descent into the city of Portland was beautiful. There were breath-taking snow-capped mountains on either side, a vastness of green pines in every direction, and the Columbia River below. When I arrived at PDX at 9am Friday morning, I was greeted by a cello player in the terminal and an abundance of smiles. The friendly locals pointed me in the right direction, and on the TriMet MAX I befriended visitors attending the Barbershop Harmony Society. (I’m going to use the word “friend” to describe most of my interactions in “The City of Roses” because the briefest instances of friendliness could incite the same level of openness I share with my closest friends. It was simply incredible.)
I arrived at my hotel and quickly unpacked, as I watched the cars, pedestrians, and street performers passing twelve stories below. I met up with some fellow WDSers at Prasad Organic Cuisine where “What’s your name?” was always preceded by “What’s your passion and why are you here?” I had a great conversation with a man I met there about life as we ate Korean Twist tacos from a food truck, and I even agreed to be video interviewed about the roles I play and my dreams for the future.
A group of us headed over to Pure Space for early registration, where we received our name tags, World Domination t-shirts, and backpacks filled with all kinds of goodies. Most attendees went into the event not knowing anyone, so it was easy to approach a stranger and ask them their story. Over the course of a few hours, I met individuals ranging from age twenty-five to sixty-five, and who traveled from all around the US and the world (Norway, Switzerland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Dubai, and more). Then a new friend and I wandered over to the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts, where we waited in line for 45 minutes to see what the hype was all about. The doughnuts are, in fact, amazing. I then ventured over to a meetup at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club, hosted by blogger and entrepreneur Corbett Barr, where I networked with even more new friends.
During the opening ceremony, I met even more people and we shared in-depth narratives and analyses on our views, goals, and what we hoped to gain over the course of the weekend. Being an adventure-loving group, we were also provided Ski Ball, sumo wrestling suits, a dunk tank, a marching band, food carts, and a bar.
Saturday began bright and early at 9am at the Newmark Theater. The morning was kicked off with a welcoming speech by Chris Guillebeau, during which the ringleader of the nonconformist circus attempted in encapsulate what the common thread that tied everyone there together. He thanked the speakers and the ambassadors, all of whom volunteered their time and resources without compensation. He then went on to present Brené Brown: research professor,well-recognized TED speaker, and author of the book The Gifts of Imperfection (reviewed here). She talked about vulnerability, wholeheartedness, and gratitude, and then went on to lead a group rendition of Don’t Stop Believing.
Next on the menu was Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water. After several years of living the highlife and partying for a living as a promoter, Scott realized he was unhappy and in need of a change. He volunteered abroad for a year, saw the terrible living condition in third-world countries, and vowed to take action. He not only started his own charity, but also reinvented the framework of charity, proposing a model of full transparency and promotion through social media outlets.
After a short break, Susan Cain, author of Quiet (reviewed here) and popular TED speaker took the stage for a conversation with Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. The pair discussed courageous introversion, conviction, creativity, and how to overcome fears related to introversion by pursuing projects you’re passionate about.
Photo by Armosa Studios
After a lunch break, which for me was Indian food from a food truck, everyone proceeded to their designated workshops. My first meeting was with Jaime Tardy, a business coach who interviews millionaires in an attempt to discern what brought each of them to where they are today. She believes the common thread is this: these millionaires exploited a skill that they already had and took action to live an enjoyable life on their own terms.
My next workshop was led by Sophia Bera and the group discussed financial planning for twenty-somethings. Her advice was basic and common sense: match your values to your money and allot your budget to the things you care most about, prioritize your spending, spend less than you earn, and think about savings and retirement while you’re still young.
The large group reconvened Saturday afternoon for the $100 Startup forum (reviewed here) led by Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation. Several of the successes mentioned in the book got up on stage and talked about how their businesses started (often accidentally) and what they’ve learned: essentially, take action, believe in yourself, and results will follow.
Next up was Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance and author of the book, Making Ideas Happen. He took the stage and talked about how most ideas never reach fruition, and then listed the ways in which to promote the development and execution of ideas.
Saturday evening, I went out for sushi with some new friends, and tried flying fish eggs for the first time. I then spent a significant amount of time wandering through the Pearl District, striking up conversations with the locals, stopping by the Waterfront Blues Festival, and exploring Christmas morning in heaven, more commonly referred to as Powell’s Books. I fell asleep with a smile on my face, and woke up a few hours later for the next rapid-fire day of learning and connecting.
Sunday morning began, once more, promptly at 9am. Blogger Chris Brogan kicked off the morning with a talk about fear, secret identities, and superpowers. Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of fear is not courage or bravery; the opposite of fear is surrender and being true to yourself regardless of what anyone else has to say on the matter.
The next speakers were Dan Noll and Audrey Scott, a married couple who have been fueled by curiosity to journey all around the world without a plan of action. Their hope is to interact with people on an individual level and understand their stories in order to alleviate fears and discover the kindness of spirit underlying all of humanity.
Next in queue was Cal Newport who, at age 30, has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and has published three books on study habits of successful students. Cal proposes that success does not come from following your passion, as popular culture would suggest, but rather that if something is interesting to you and offers different options for learning and advancement, you can use your valuable skills as leverage to obtain the things you want in your career and your life.
After a lunch break of handmade noodles and spicy chicken from a food truck in the park with my new friends, we attended our workshops for the day. I spent an hour with Sarah Peck and 30 other attendees talking about how to craft a winning narrative. We talked about what makes for an engaging story and how to connect with people. We examined the framework of the hero’s journey and how known territory is full of dreams that lead into the unknown, and how the emotional gap between what is and what could be can invoke an emotional reaction, and subsequent change.
Next, Christina Rassmussen shared her story of loss and rebirth. At age 35, her husband died of colon cancer, leaving her a widow and single mother of two. She talked about the different personalities that fear is made up of: the Survivor protects you, the Watcher observes and knows you, and the Thriver is the dreamer and visionary. When the thriver sends you out to pursue your dreams, the watcher will share her wisdom, and the survivor will keep you safe; however, it’s important that you listen to and befriend all three instead of falling into survivor mode and remaining stagnant in the waiting room of life.
Photo by Armosa Studios
Chris Gullibeau then invited to the stage a sampling of attendees who have done incredible things with their live. They’ve founded charities, started their own businesses, survived cancer and come out stronger, written a successful blog about life after college, taken up a new hobby and encouraged others to do the same, walked all the way across America, and filmed a touching documentary. There is no such thing as a representative group at WDS, because each individual is pursuing their own unique vision of what they feel they can both benefit from personally and share with others.
J.D. Roth, the founder of Get Rich Slowly, then took the stage and talked about the art of personal transformation and how changing yourself can lead to changes in the world. He proposes that the three keys to change are saying “yes,” focusing on the task at hand, and most importantly taking action.
All weekend, Chris Gullibeau hinted at a closing ceremony surprise. The weekend was full of amazing experiences, wonderful people, and opportunities for adventure, so most people we expecting something energy-charged and fun. Chris took the stage, and humbly thanked everyone for being a part of the weekend, particularly all those who volunteered their time and energy to organize and run event. He then shared that, unlike last year, they had made a small profit on WDS this year. In addition, an anonymous doner had contributed a significant amount of money towards whichever cause Chris saw fit. He hung his head for a moment, then smiled as his eyes met the crowd.
There’s a story of a wealthy man who takes a trip and leaves money with other men to invest however they’d like. The amount of money happened to add up to $100,000, and there happen to be 1,000 of you here. So I’m going to invest in each of you. As you leave, you’ll be handed an envelope containing a $100 bill and a note:
The $100 Investment
Thanks for making #WDS2012 a fantastic experience. We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different – it’s entirely up to you.
Photo by Armosa Studios
That was one of the most incredible and humbling experiences of my life. I’ve been entrusted with $100, and I feel obligated to doing something huge and lasting with the funds. I haven’t decided what yet, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time brainstorming and will continue to do so until the perfect idea presents itself.
After the closing ceremony, I went with a few friends to Tea Zone for happy hour where I tried a white tea-infused vodka hibiscus drink and bacon wrapped shrimp tacos, both of which were delicious firsts. Over dinner, we discussed business ideas, travel plans, and opportunities for furthering our education and building up a repertoire of new skills. We then headed over to the Crystal Ballroom for the closing party, which included Bollywood dancing lessons. The energy was incredible and it was so much fun that I might have to look into Bollywood dancing classes in Phoenix.
Photo by Armosa Studios
Even though I don’t drink coffee, you can’t go to Portland and not at least try it, so Monday morning, I walked a few blocks to Stumptown Coffee and had an incredible mocha. I then went to the Farmer’s Market and admired the beautiful flowers, fresh fruit, and baked good. I looked out my hotel window one last time before checking out and heading back down to the TriMet pickup location, where I accidentally purchased an extra ticket (any takers?) and received $17 change…in dollar coins. I proudly wore my WDS shirt, and was thus able to connect with two more individuals on the MAX to the airport including a well-known author and an aspiring entrepreneur. While waiting for my flight in the terminal, I exchanged knowing smiles with other WDSers and had a great conversation with another new friend in the neighboring gate.
As I boarded the flight, my smile began to fade. It’s strange going from an environment where it’s easy and acceptable to talk to anyone and everyone to one in which smiling at a stranger evokes strange looks. The takeoff was just as gorgeous as the landing – the combination of pines, the river, mountains, and clouds was ethereal. We went on to fly over the Grand Canyon; after visiting it for the first time about a month ago, that was an incredible experience. As we landed and the pilot announced an outdoor temperature of 113°, the young girl sitting beside me peeked back through the seat and chirped, “Mommy, can we stay on the plane and go back to Portland?” Yes, please.
Over the course of the weekend, I’ve sent out beautiful Portland postcards to blog readers all across the globe. Though overwhelming at times, the meetup was one of the best experiences of my life, so I’ve already eagerly purchased my ticket to World Domination Summit 2013 next July! Perhaps I’ll see you there.
I took pages and pages of notes, so expect most detailed posts in the next few weeks about what I learned and discovered. In the meantime, consider the following question:
How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?