I am sitting now on a bus** from Seattle to Vancouver after an incredible few weeks that ended withThe World Domination Summit in Portland. For those of you that have never heard of The World Domination Summit (WDS), it is essentially a conference for people that want to live a remarkable life in a conventional world. This is WDS’s third year, and brought together 3,000 attendees from around the world. It brings together bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs, and people from all ages and backgrounds in the spirit of community, adventure and service.
**SIDENOTE: I just noticed a WDS conference bag on the bus seat in front of me, and decided to say hello! I ended up meeting 2 really interesting gents from WDS, one of whom shared his travel hacking secrets with me. I was wondering why the heck he was flying from Vancouver to Boston — isn’t it cheaper to fly US from within the US? Usually, he said, but this was the only flight he could get for free 😉
I have followed its founder, Chris Guillebeau for several years, and had heard of the conference, but had never been able to attend in the past. This year, one of my incredible clients, The Wake Up Project, gifted me the ticket as thanks for the extra time I had been putting into their project. (They’re an organization that promotes kindness and mindful living… how appropriate!)
One of the pre-conference activities was actually a Guinness World Record attempt on the friday morning for the longest human floating chain (previously held by Viareggio, Italy with 542). We beat the world record with 620 people floating in inner tubes in the Willamette river! What an epic way to start a conference weekend. That being said, I was never so happy to be warm and dry afterward…
photo: Armosa Studios
Later that evening was the registration and opening ceremony at the Oregon Zoo. Yes, WDS rented out the entire zoo for the attendees, complete with a Marching Band on stilts. We picked up our swag bags, which included a messenger bag, reusable water bottle, blanket, socks, t-shirt, conference guide and maps, all beautifully designed I might add!
Photo by yours truly.
I had no preconceived notions or expectations about the conference. I deliberately didn’t research the speakers and workshop leaders. My only intentions were to get inspired and get out of my comfort zone. I was actually pretty nervous about the idea of being “on” for two and a half days with 3,000 strangers, but truth be told, it was way less intimidating than I expected. I felt like I was able to take something away from each speaker and presenter, and it’s certainly one of the first conferences I’ve attended where every session felt entirely relevant to me personally. It feels almost as though the content is tailor made for you, and every other person in that room. I quickly realized that these were my people; this was my tribe.
Me and Ben at the Oregon Zoo for WDS.
Nevermind the bizarreness of seeing all sorts of people in real life who I have followed on Twitter for many years, but I actually bumped into new people who I was already unknowingly connected to in strange and unusual ways. It was a reminder of the small the world really is.
Let me just put this out there: WDS 2013 was by far one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Unlike other conferences I’ve been to that tend to be tech-heavy, this conference had people of literally every background you could imagine with the common desire to be remarkable, and do more good for the world. You are constantly surrounded by incredibly inspiring creative people, and you can’t help but feel like anything is possible. I felt very emotional and overwhelmed during much of the conference, and got teary-eyed on more than one occasion.
This is just ONE level – there is an upstairs as well. Seriously… 3,000 is a lot of people. photo: Armosa Studios.
The speaker line-up was top-notch. Every single presentation was chalk full of wisdom and inspiration. There were even attendee stories, many of which were heart-warming, and without a doubt inspirational.
Nancy Duarte emphasized the importance of resonating with people through stories, and meeting them where they’re at.
Darren Rowse spoke about the importance of dreams, and how technological advances have given us infinite capacity to realize our dreams. Take responsibility for your future; ask yourself what you want the future to look like. He also emphasized that all big dreams start with a small step. Ask yourself each day which things give you energy, and what is giving other people energy? Small sparks can lead to big opportunities.
Bob Moore reminded us that being entrepreneur and serving people is a wonderful thing. Consider sustainability and giving back to your community, and you will be rewarded greatly.
Jia Jiang hit a nerve with everyone in the audience with his experiences and experiments with rejection. He reminded us that rejection is constant, and will never change. What we can change is how we understand and relate to rejection, and embrace that it is just an opinion, not an absolute truth. It was a reminder of how we tend to hold ourselves back from fear of rejection. Rejection itself is not crippling—the fear of it is! When you let fear of rejection take over your life, you are really just rejecting yourself.
Chase Jarvis reminded us that we are all creative, regardless of the industries in which we work. The education system is geared toward stamping out creativity, and yet, when you interview top CEO’s they all list creativity as the most important quality in a potential hire. He suggests that creativity is the new literacy. Creativity is the only way to solve the world’s biggest problems.
Tess Vigeland connected with the audience by telling the story of how she left an extremely cushy job for… the unknown. She was incredibly vulnerable and admitted that she felt immense fear but needed to surrender to the uncertainty.
Pamela Slim’s workshop was really useful for understanding why we procrastinate and ideas don’t turn into action. You have to turn your big idea into small, manageable steps, and take small actions every day. Get specific about what you want to achieve, and break it down into a project. Ask yourself who it’s for, and get really clear. Why does this project matter? Notice your thoughts, look at your own resources, and set up your environment. Most importantly, create a deadline for your project, and then a work-back schedule based on your deadline.
Gretchen Rubin spoke about the key to happiness being self-knowledge. She gives us a list of powerful questions to ask ourselves:
Who do you envy and why?
What lies do we tell ourselves?
What did you do for fun when you were 10 yrs old?
She also defines 4 types of people based on habits: Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers (that’s me!) Getting real with ourselves, and how we operate gives us more self-knowledge, allowing us to be ourselves, and remove the disconnect between what we are, and what we think we should be.
Andrew Warner spoke about the importance of getting feedback and listening to your audience. He introduced us to the idea of a counter mind (the negative chatter we tell ourselves) vs the true mind (what we know to be true once we diffuse the chatter). Write down those negative thoughts and ask yourself “is this true?” and “does it matter?”
And finally, the last presentation from Donald Miller, which was outstanding and moving. He gave us 3 questions to ask ourselves for our memoirs:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you want?
3. What happened when you went for it?
He spoke about what makes life meaningful, which at the end of the day, is connection with others; a project to help the world, or a project to share with others (obviously this is the cliff notes version). He also spoke about how our personality is really our core self with the outer layer of shame that comes from our experiences as we age. We use our personalities to cover our shame.
He asked “What if we are not the identities that we project?” and suggested that our protected identities isolate us. What happens when we operate out of our false selves? (Hint: it’s a recipe for disaster) Most importantly, he says that we are not our failures… and we are also not our successes. Finally: connection is the only thing that can heal our wounds.
I love how Lissa Rankin put it in the context of world-changers:
“Gretchen Rubin is saving the world by teaching people how to be happier, Don Miller is helping people rewrite the stories of their lives, Nancy Duarte is helping people tell stories that can change the world, Bob Moore is changing the world by putting people before profit, Jia Jiang is changing the world by helping people learn to take risks by getting comfortable with rejection.”
While I wasn’t able to meet all of the people I had hoped to meet, I did get to meet lots of interesting people who are pursuing their passions, and who will continue to inspire me.
One of the most touching experiences that I had at the conference was when I was standing on the street corner after Pamela Slim’s session, and came face to face with another attendee, making eye contact. We both said hello, and asked each other how we had enjoyed the session. We began chatting about our experience in the workshop, and it appeared that she hadn’t felt “heard” when it came time to exchange thoughts with the person sitting beside you. Before I even had a chance to ask her about her dream, she asked me about mine. She then asked me for my phone, and began to record my thoughts through an audio note using Evernote (which admittedly I hadn’t used in a long time!). She asked me some very strategic questions… and before I knew it, I had an outline for my next project recorded.
Something I have been putting on the back-burner for-EVER, this one woman was able to ask me just the right questions to help me get it out of my head and into a real plan. I began to get teary eyed; I didn’t understand how a complete stranger was willing to listen so intently, and know exactly what questions to ask to help me get articulate and actually create a plan of action!
It turns out, she is a career/business/talent coach. She basically helps incubate talent! I finally got to experience first-hand the work of a talented coach, and I finally understand a small piece of the value that they are able to bring.
She didn’t feel that she had been truly heard… and so perhaps she wanted to give the gift of “listening” to someone else. We talked about how listening truly is a lost art, and how many people are simply waiting to speak.
I could not believe the power she carried in very few words. It’s also incredibly useful to get honest feedback from someone that doesn’t know your history. Just straight up real, honest advice.
So I cried, and hugged this beautiful stranger for doing something so kind for me. When it came time to exchange details, she looked at my name tag, and gasped! She said “You’ve worked withAlexandra Franzen!!“ and I said “Yes!” and she said that she had visited my website previously, so she already vaguely knew who I was. (I later found out that she was staying with the business coach of one of designer friends. Small world it is indeed.)
What a day it was. It was so strangely powerful to connect and be vulnerable with a stranger — a talented one at that! We bumped into each other a few more times, and it turns out we are going to have lunch tomorrow afternoon in Vancouver. (Did I mention that she’s from Rome, Italy?) Funny how things work out sometimes.
The most interesting thing about the conference was hearing about the experiences that resonated with each person. With everyone being at a different place in their lives and “careers”, there was something for everyone.
Portland: awesomely unconventional.
The real value for me was in the shared collective experience. Being part of a group of like-minded people that don’t think your dreams are too wild or too big to achieve. With this crowd, anything is possible, and it really was a powerful reminder of what human creativity is really capable of.
I’m so excited for the new friendships I’ve made, and the inspiration to take action on the dreams that have been on the back-burner for too long.
Eternally grateful again to Jono Fisher of Wake Up Project for gifting his ticket to me. Thank you!
Chris Guillebeau, thank you for creating such an incredible event. I’ve already purchased my ticket for next year.