World Domination Summit 2015: My write-up
In July 2015 I travelled to the US to attend the World Domination Summit. WDS is an event for people focused on community, adventure and service and is the brainchild of the lovely Chris Guillebeau. The format of WDS includes the main event: 2 days of speakers plus opening party, closing party, numerous meetups, world record breaking attempts, and time to sleep in a hammock (yes!). There are also additional ‘academies’ (workshops) put on in the days before and after.
Firstly, how did I end up here? Portland. An amazingly cool city (after experiencing bits of Santa Monica and Hollywood) with great public transport, super trendy cafes and of course the annual World Domination Summit. I have read Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup but that wasn’t why I went to WDS for the first time this year.
For the last year and a half or so, I feel like I have been on a journey. A journey of me, who I am, what I want to do with my energy in the world, and what other opportunities are out there. I have been meeting lots of interesting people questioning the way things are and finding their own paths.
So given this exploration of entrepreneurship, WDS with its focus on people who want to ‘live remarkable lives in a conventional world’, drew me in. Oh and of course, I have a few friends in Sydney, who’ve been before, tell me how amazing it was for them. Oh and just the week before WDS I had actually left my job…
So I arrived in Portland with an open mind, not really knowing what to expect. I knew there would be great speakers in the main program but I also went along to three academies and wanted to meet all sorts of interesting, inspiring people.
Highlight 1: The vibe
It is hard to explain, and it sounds cliche, but there is something special about the vibe at WDS. There are really down to earth, creative and positive people inhabiting every corner. I think what it is really is that as a group of people there’s a sense of interest in and support for others, not competition or bitchiness. And some of the talks were emotional and heart-wrenching and people were comfortable sharing in this emotion. It’s not really tangible but, well, it just reminded me of this, from a classic Aussie movie The Castle:
Anyway, let’s just say the hosts Chris and Jolie, the team who put on the event and the attendees were all just darn constructive and positive. The hellos and the high fives (very odd behaviour for Australians) were genuine, I observed 🙂
Highlight 2: Academies and focus
As someone in a transition phase having left my full time permanent job and wanting to invest my energy in new enterprises, the academies I signed up for, were high priority.
How To Become A Location Rebel: Three Step Process For Building A Business You Can Run From Anywhere
He talked about the top three myths stopping people embracing the location rebel lifestyle:
- Myth of passion. Sean emphasised to do something easy to enable you to access the lifestyle you’re passionate about (rather than working only on the job that is your passion).
- Myth of travel. You don’t need to travel to apply this lifestyle. Sean travels 3-4 months a year (sound awesome to me!)
- Myth of difficulty. Embarking on a new way of working doesn’t have to be difficult.
Sean outlined his four-step process:
- Get skills. Like WordPress, copywriting, fundamentals of design, social media for business, content marketing, SEO.
- Start a blog. (Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend too says this is the most important thing for starting a new enterprise and this was the impetus for me starting this blog.)
- Start freelancing. And remember the three Cs. Number 1: Consistency. I think I got the next two a bit wrong because I have 3 more… Oops! Anyway, he talked about an equation but I like to think of these Cs as being more flow-charty. So the Cs of consistency leading to cash/clients & confidence and there’s a feedback loop where confidence leads to cash/clients too.
- Create the perfect lifestyle business – one that gives you passive income. Sean recommends gaining skills in online marketing here.
The workshop was followed by a hugely informative Q&A session. Thanks Sean! You can read his top ten tips from the academy.
Quick photo with Sean Ogle and my friend Helena Klanjscek (I’m on the left).
Jonathan Fields explored the Art of Becoming Known
Inspirer/writer/entrepreneur Jonathan Fields pushed us to ask the foundation questions as a start. Why do you want to become known? Why does it matter? What do you want to be known for? If don’t know why and what then whom do you want to become known to? How might becoming known limit what you can do now?
So many amazing questions to ponder but I agree foundational. Jonathan also talked about positioning, labelling (self and how others label you), and being really familiar with the unique levers (image below) you have to not just be different, but better so you can connect with your resonant story. Having this means that you can explain to people what happened to you and how this led you down this road. Or how something that happened qualifies you to help.
Jonathan Fields talking about the unique levers to explore for yourself.
Jonathan then covered many catalysts to becoming known including: credentials, association, being featured in the media, speaking, creating content, authorship, organising a tribe, endorsements, blowing people’s minds (say you’ll do something then do it awesomely).
There was so much more (and I have lots of notes to read through!) but a couple of other standouts:
- Don’t just position, hone. Become exceptional and don’t be a fraud.
- Leave people changed starting with you/who you are.
- Sell the outcome not what you are doing.
- If things don’t work, years down the road, think of what you learned, analse what happened. Then it’s not a waste. There is value in failing.
- Anytime you can gather data and react to it, do it. Do something rather than go around in your head. Just start.
I also attended a fabulous academy called: How to take action after WDS, by Pamela Slim and Rob Young. It was another highlight but I will cover it in another post another time.
Highlight 3: Main stage
What an impressive environment in the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It was pretty awesome to be sitting among ~3000 positive people with such a great lineup of speakers to come.
A mix of entertaining and heart-string-pulling content kept me engaged most of the time. I think I dozed off a little in only two talks. Ultimately a good indicator that it was fabulous as I was tired pretty well the whole time I was in Portland 🙂
Jon Acuff = truth delivered with funny
Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of five books including his most recent, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get Stuck. He encouraged us to think about our lives and what we want to do and to find our voices. He told the story of his realisation that he’d left behind his dream of being a writer. What he’d wanted to do since a child. One day the adult woke up one day thinking “If who I used to be could see me, would he clap or would he cry?”.
Particularly resonant for me was Jon talking about the difference between fear and regret. “They’re not the same,” he said. Fear is a today thing, regret lasts longer. “Will I face the fear of today or the regret of forever?”.
Jon also talked about misplacing his voice and how easy it is to get disconnected from it as we get busy, we run around with our phones, and respond to everyone else but also hide in that. He reminded us that in the ‘old days’, only doctors were accessible 24-7. He challenged us to consider that we are staying in motion, so we don’t have to face the things that make us emotional. “We hide in busy-ness to hide what the quiet will tell us.”
I reckon this is very true. From talking with people about why they do what they do and also reflecting on my busy times, it is easier to avoid asking the big questions. The answers can be scary.
Jon also talked about how most of us want everyone to like us. He said if you hate telling people ‘no’ you are not being true to your voice. He said “I’ve told someone no and they respond in anger, I thank them for confirming that I made the right decision”. The desire to please does not help with being true to yourself and ultimately doesn’t serve the world.
Jon Acuff rocking it.
Another clanger from Jon Acuff.
Some other Jon Acuff nuggets included:
- Bravery is a choice not a feeling
- Time won’t find you, you have to find it
- You can’t monetise joy
- When you see people as just your platform, you eventually stand on top of them
- Trying to make everyone like you is the quickest way to hate yourself.
To listen to more Jon, check out this The Moment podcast.
Kid President: Brad and Robby
Another huge highlight for me was Kid President. I hadn’t heard of these guys before my roomies showed me a couple of videos. This is a duo gig with Robby Novak as the frontman who stars in all the amazing videos and his older brother-in-law, Brad Montague, who films and edits. They are all about making the world a better place through small acts. They also founded Socktober.
In truth I wrote zero notes and I absolutely cannot wait until the talks come out online so I can watch it again.
What struck me most was how much Brad and Robby love each other, support each other and are a fabulous team. Brad spoke from the heart about his long running interest in videography and the serendipity of the partnership with Robby. He is so funny. Just look at this pep talk video.
- To be awesome, treat people awesome
- Treat everyone like it’s their birthday
- If the world were a twinkie, WDS would be the cream filling.
The Q&A session afterwards was absolute gold and I particularly liked:
Q. What do you think about the statement ‘cash is king’?
A. Don’t make money, make a difference.
Q. What is your advice to those who are afraid?
A. Don’t be afraid.
Megan Devine: lessons on helping people in grief
Megan’s mission, through Refuge in Grief, has been to redefine how professionals help people suffering grief.
“None of us know how to deal with grief. There are few stories out there that show us how to bear witness. There are things that can’t be fixed. There are no solutions.” Megan asked us to be brave by listening for pain but not fixing it and to go out into the world and ‘be love’.
Derek Sivers, Wow!
Derek Sivers was so down to earth and funny and seeing him was one of the most enjoyable for me! He was also very direct about his story and his advice. He told us about starting up CD Baby, an online music distribution store to help out his muso friends, which he eventually sold (about 10 years later) for $22 million, donating the money to music education programs.
He did quip that being a musician is just like being an entrepreneur: never going to have a job, no security, no health cover. But I think that’s a big part of his success; he has just rolled with the opportunities and challenges, come up with different ideas and gone with what has worked, but stayed focused on the problem he was solving for people.
Derek encouraged us to know what is most important to us. Sure put together business plans, he said, “but no one knows the future so your business plan is moot”. He emphasised the importance of EXECUTION as well as an IDEA, saying that an average or good idea with zero execution will give you nothing. Another golden nugget: “If you’re not embarrassed by what you launched, you’re too late.”
Derek Sivers’ IDEA x EXECUTION matrix.
What Derek has done is focus on solving problems for his customers and delighting them along the way. How cool is this guy to have written code into the email program that sends a personalised “CD Baby loves Sara@gmail” in the heading. He also committed to answering the phone by the second ring, letting people make changes to their listings late in the piece in return for sending pizza (humanising the transaction process), allowing customers to leave comments for musicians directly and passing these on, encouraging people to make extra requests and once responding to a request for squid.
He too talked about avoiding deathbed regret. This was one of a few major themes that came through all the talks. By design by the WDS crew or just because these are the kind of people that WDS speakers are?
- Find your voice to help you live the life you want to live
- Be mindful of how you track through life, be kind to yourself and challenge the myths you might believe
- You can start a revolution but nothing will happen without action
- Let go of the fear of today to avoid the regrets of forever
- Embrace the haters, or that not everyone will like you
- Thank you Lewis Howes for speaking so openly about your journey dropping the mask and asking what it means to be great.
- Jeremy Cowart is doing incredible, moving work with his humanitarian photography.
- Controversial Vani Haris aka Food Babe.
- Asha Dornfest from Parent Hacks.
Highlight 4: Party, socialising, connections!
Kicking off on Thursday night, the Punchbowl Social event (hosted by Sean Ogle) enabled me to meet up with many of the Aussie and Kiwi folks at WDS. It was a super fun night and I met a bunch of people with interesting stories including: an accountant working online, a travel hacker who won her ticket to WDS, a podcaster, life coaches, graphic designers, writers, people travelling the US and the world (some established ‘digital nomads’, others still exploring what they’ll do).
Then there was the socialising at the Welcome Party, in the queues to enter the theatre, over lunch, at the Portland Experience (where they bring in some food vans and wineries/breweries to the park for us to try), on the Portland Spirit Cruise, and of course the amazing closing party with DJ Prakesh. I danced like no-one was watching and it was frickin awesome!
Drinks and food at the Portland Experience.
Video from the closing party after the balls were released.
Leading the charge into a bar that was still open after midnight (until 2am) reminded me of my younger years 😉 What fun being in a drinking establishment full of awesome WDSers (and a couple of locals… I’m sure they were there somewhere)!!
Late night tipple after the closing party.
I met so many people who are travelling on the paths important to them. From film producers, photographers, to people running mental health programs, PR pros, ecommerce/IT people, tourism operators, coaches, writers, artists, event managers, engineers, scientists, students…
I learned something from or felt inspired by each and every person I talked to. And it was ok that I felt more connected to some than others. What’s nice about WDS is that everyone is so supportive so even in those moments when I felt a little bit out of place or awkward, it just didn’t seem to matter that much.
Travelling to WDS on my own (while I knew a few other friends and stayed with three wonderful ladies) meant I had less of a strong feeling of being drawn to be in a ‘safe group’ and a lot of freedom to meet whoever was around and to take up opportunities. Be they dancing in the park with three other free spirits to grabbing famed food van snacks with a bunch of ‘old hat’ WDSers to drinking beers with random people I started talking with because they were there. How wonderful. WDS really helped me get better at being with new people.
Highlight 5: World records
I’ve never been involved in an attempt to break a world record. How awesome to be part of the largest group of people in the world to eat breakfast in bed and put on lipstick!
Breakfast in bed buddies!
Lewis Howes applying lippy to Chris Guillebeau (on the big screen).
Highlight 6: Being open and inspired
This one is just a simple, personal highlight. I found it a highlight that I found a place where I could be myself (even in my more reserved way), open about my thoughts and feelings (even when they weren’t always OTT ‘isn’t this the most amazing thing ever!!’ type expressions) and open to rambling conversations with new people… WDS helped open up some old interests that have been close to my heart but buried. And I really enjoyed being inspired by lots of little moments.
Were there lowlights for me? Only a couple of small ones in my opinion.
I found the event had just a tad too much Christianity/religious undertone for me and I just didn’t find any meetups that quite flicked my switch. Maybe I just missed the ones that I would have loved but one I did go to turned into a self-promotion sales pitch by the person running it and that was disappointing (people left before the end of it).
This was a spectacular event and I am very glad that I made the long trip from Australia. I’m very grateful to all who were involved in putting it together. I know how tough big events are and you just made it flow! To all the people I spoke with, thank you for sharing a bit of you and your energy!
I don’t know if I’ll go back next year; simply because I think my 2016 might open up with things that will make travelling to the US quite a challenge in August… but you never know!