WDS is a gathering in Portland, Oregon, created and organized by Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, blogger, and thought-leader in the arena of non-conformity. I have long been an admirer of Chris’ and was thrilled to secure a ticket to his sold-out event.
WDS began in 2011 with 500 participants, doubled in size a year later to 1,000, and this year tripled to nearly 3,000 attendees. Chris’ vision in creating WDS was founded on three values: community, adventure, and service. His fundamental quest is to determine “how to live a remarkable life in a conventional world.” He naturally attracts creative professionals who are living on their own terms and making their mark on the world. The speakers at the event donate their time in exchange for the honor of addressing this thriving community.
I think the best way to describe the World Domination Summit is this: It’s Burning Man for creative entrepreneurs.
It was exciting and heady to be there, and I found myself hard-pressed to calm down enough at night to rest in preparation for the next day’s activities.
The energy at the event was crackling. I was rubbing shoulders with some truly remarkable people, some of whom I’ll discuss later in this post.
Here, in no particular order, are six of my key takeaways from the conference:
- To provide real value as an entrepreneur, you must pay attention to what is giving other people energy and find a solution to their problem. Darren Rowse of Problogger talked about the importance of becoming “hyper-aware of problems and obsessed with being useful.” He encouraged us to “create space to observe” on a daily basis, so that we are paying attention to what is happening around us and what things people are gravitating toward. When he first started his blog, he noticed that he was getting lots of page hits in a specific area of the site—reviews of digital cameras. So he went on to build out that area into a successful site of its own. In Darren’s words, “your current small thing could be your next big thing.”
- Even truly accomplished, well-known people are always in process, personally and professionally. Tess Vigeland, formerly of Marketplace Money, spoke candidly about how she listened to her intuition and left her coveted role as a highly-visible and respected public radio host and her challenging journey to find her next professional position. It’s easy to think that pros like Tess have it all figured out, and that they know exactly where they are headed and have all the resources and opportunities that they need. Her wit, humility, and openness to share what it was like to be a well-known figure in transition made me realize that we are all on a journey, ever-evolving, and becoming more of who we are and are meant to be.
- Talk about what is, not what could be. Nancy Duarte of www.duarte.com spoke about how Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Eva Perón, and even Jesus showed similar structure and themes in their most famous and impactful speeches. I learned that by talking about what is, and contrasting it with what could be—a la Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone or Martin Luther King Jr. talking about having a dream—is a surefire way to impact my audience.
- Rejection can be our friend. New entrepreneur Jia Jiang spoke about how being turned down for an investment led him to conduct an experiment to help him cope with the feeling of rejection. Every day for 100 days, he endeavored to be rejected by someone. He made some outlandish requests, including asking a pilot to let him fly his small airplane, asking a policeman if he could drive the police car and asking a Krispy Kreme employee to make donuts resembling the Olympic rings. Surprisingly, he found that even for his most outrageous requests, many people said yes, and that it was difficult to get a rejection 100 days in a row! His simple experiment made me feel braver to try things that I’m afraid of, and lessens the sting of possibly hearing the answer, “No.”
- Having a charitable aspect to one’s career is energizing. At last year’s WDS, founder Chris Guillebeau gave every participant $100 and told them to use it to “go start something.” One woman used the money to help brand, organize, and launch a summer camp for teenage girls to learn to design iPhone apps. What an inspiration! The enthusiasm and creative ideas from those who make charitable fundraising part of their professional lives lit a fire under me. How can I make a bigger contribution, to truly make the world a better place? I am percolating some ideas and feel fortunate to have such great examples to draw upon for inspiration.
- Being in connection with others is the way to make the contribution we truly crave. Being surrounded by this loving, engaged, and creative community for almost three days, I noticed that when people gather together to share common interests and values, it produces an atmosphere where transformative change naturally happens. Partnerships were formed and roots were laid for friendships to grow, long beyond the weekend. It is so freeing to know that I can be myself and connect authentically with other people and that they can appreciate me for who I am and what I bring to the table. It makes me feel like anything is possible and that the remarkable life I aspire to is within reach.
When I returned home, I felt even more grateful for the wonderful team helping me build and expand my company at this pivotal stage in my career and life.
I clearly got a lot out of my first experience attending WDS, so much so that I have already bought my ticket for next year’s event. I look forward to returning to the beautiful city of Portland, enjoying fleur de sel dark caramel lattes, strolling through Powell’s Books, and dancing the night away at the closing party, all while hobnobbing with some truly inspiring people. I can’t wait to see what I learn next year.
image credit: Armosa Studios and Chris Guillebeau