It's always fun to tell people "I was at the World Domination Summit," and wait for the quizzical look or blank stare that follows. A giant gathering in Portland, Oregon of entrepreneurs, dreamers, travelers and those voted "least likely to expire while toiling in a cubicle" by their senior high school class, WDS is a brilliant whirlwind of top-notch speakers, attendee-led meetups on a range of topics, and fast friendships developed with like-minded people.
A month's worth of activity crammed in to a week
"Official" activity is centered around talks by speakers like AJ Jacobs, who spent a hilarious year trying to literally follow all the rules in the Old Testament; Scott Berkun*, a best selling author who set me straight on narrative bias, and entrepreneur Jadah Sallah, founder of Simple Green Smoothies, who challenged attendees to put aside our fears and take imperfect action.
* I was pleased to recognize, after seeing him on stage, that Scott had been part of drinks and conversation a few nights previous. That's right: some of the speakers at WDS are also attendees. Writers: They're Just Like Us!
Attendee-led activity consists of dozens of meetups, most in the downtown Portland area, on topics like entrepreneurship, business coaching, fitness, nutrition, international travel and writing.
What WDS is NOT
- It's not a tech conference. Thanks goodness for that. I can do without hearing about another App that's going to "change the world by making it easier to notify your Facebook friends every time your cat sends a tweet." There were plenty of techies in attendence, but I overheard no talk about servers or coding. There's nothing wrong with either, but for every WDS there are fifty tech conferences to choose from.
- There are no sponsors. That's right, zero. You won't see corporate logos plastered everywhere. It's all about the people and the events.
- It's full of whimsy and irreverance. From setting the record for most people doing yoga together, to a closing party where I heard a Bollywood-Knight Rider mashup, fun is a priority. Also, apparently Darth Vader made an appearance.
A good problem to have
The main problem with WDS, if it can be considered one, is overwhelm from the sheer number of meetups and fascinating people you'll meet. For 4 days straight, I had trouble extricating myself from the "WDS Zone" because I kept running in to more people I felt compelled to talk to.
Imagine you're a huge film buff, and you've been given license to wander around Hollywood film sets and talk to anyone you meet. "Oh hey, it's Josh Whedon. Nice to meet you. Tell me about the challenges of filming the fight scenes in 'Serenity'." Only you're not meeting actors or directors, but rather, interesting, inspiring people like you, all of whom have an engaging story, dream, or challenge to share. Some are very successful, others are on their way, but they're all striving. And positivity is infectious.
My challenge is to keep the momentum going. It's easy to be excited about possibilities when you talk to twenty people per day, all of whom say "right on!" It's harder when you're back at your desk, staring at a blank screen and wondering what to do next. My current challenge is to complete my book on self confidence and dating and get it published. To stay inspired, I'll continue connnecting with my newfound friends and colleagues, and remember the great lessons and insight from my WDS week.
Do you need an endorsement?
The day after the 2014 conference ended, I bought my ticket for next year's event.
Should I attend?
If you're finding your own unique path; if you're curious about Portland, OR; if you want to make new friends from around the United States and the world; if you have unique insight, talent or perspective to share, then yes.