World Domination Summit 2013: Recap and Learnings

Friday night @ Oregon Zoo
Friday night @ Oregon Zoo
I’m not a big fan of the word “learnings”, but prefer that over “takeaways” (reminds me too much of my corporate days).

First and foremost – I LOVED Portland. Like Austin plucked and planted in the Pacific Northwest: food-truck culture (and boy do I love food trucks), liberal/quirky/hippy vibes, a very walkable downtown, and a shared love of bookstores and coffee shops. Oh, and $2.50 to get from PDX airport to city center. In Austin we complain about the heat. In Portland maybe they complain about the rain. High-class problems :)

What is World Domination Summit, aka WDS?

I describe it as a low-key TED. You can also think of it as a conference for lifestyle entrepreneurs, travel hackers, serious bloggers, and artists of all stripes. Terms thrown around here include “highly sensitive people” and “multi-passionate introverts” which should give you a sense for temperaments and personalities.

WDS was started by Chris Guillebeau, to me a lower-key Tim Ferriss (in no way a dig at Tim, just that Tim is a very successful self-promoter).

I was inspired by Chris’s goal to visit every country in the world. He’s launched online products, published books, and now runs the fast-growing WDS. Last year there were 1000 attendees. This year? 2700.

What is the conference like?

3 days of talks, workshops, parties, informal meetups, and random fun (like yoga in the park and food cart tours). All capped off with 2000 people dancing Bollywood-style in Pioneer Square on Sunday night :)

While I didn’t meet many software entrepreneurs, I met jazz musicians, DC policy analysts, life coaches, and travel photographers. The diversity is breathtaking and a good way to burst the startup bubble.

JD Roth and Leo Babauta
JD Roth and Leo Babauta

Speaker highlights

Here are notes from my favorite sessions:

Gretchen Rubin – I enjoyed The Happiness Project. Gretchen believes a key to happiness is self-knowledge, and to that end asked us 3 questions:

  1. Who do you envy and why?
  2. What do you lie about?
  3. What did you do for fun when you were 10?

She has an upcoming book on habits (I’m currently reading – and loving – The Power of Habit) and described a framework for how people build habits:

  1. Upholders – respond readily to inner and outer expectations (this is Gretchen)
  2. Questioners – always ask why, must be persuaded something makes sense
  3. Rebels – resist expectations, even self-imposed ones
  4. Obligers – respond readily to outer expectations, want to please

I’m definitely a questioner – one of the 2 most common (along with obligers).

Nancy Duarte – she shared insights from 4 of history’s greatest orators:

  1. MLK’s “I Have A Dream”
  2. Jesus – forget which one
  3. Evita Peron’s 1951 rally in front of 2mm people (!!)
  4. Steve Jobs’s iPhone product launch (crazy what it says about society today that he’s included with MLK and Jesus)

Her main point was that great speeches are about “what is” (to empathize and connect) and “what could be” (selling the dream). Jobs spends an enormous % of his time on “what could be”. MLK peppers his speech with metaphors and historical allusions. Peron takes

Finally, I really enjoyed Darren Rowse’s talk. Funny, passionate, and full of insights, including:

On feeling like a failure at 25:

Part of it is people telling me I can’t do it. Part of it is experiencing failure, which sparked fear. Paralyzed by multiple passions”

On starting to blog:

“It gave me energy…helped me develop my voice…I loved it”

On becoming successful:

“All of the big things that happened to me…started as very small things”

And sharing a quote he liked:

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made”

That’s it, folks. If you were also there and we didn’t meet, please reach out!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.