I was walking up the sidewalk outside the concert hall in Portland, Oregon, during a break between sessions of the World Domination Summit, stretching my legs and getting some fresh air. I saw a dark-haired, friendly-looking woman headed my way and I exclaimed “You’re Mindy!”, just as she smiled, “You’re Joanna!” We laughed as we recognized each other at the same moment. She was Mindy Crary of Creative Money, and we were delighted to meet each other in person so serendipitously, after having become acquainted online in the past few months.
This was one of the key pleasures of WDS2013 for me: connecting in person with lovely folks I had previously only known online. It happened over and over again. I loved it.
The World Domination Summit, the brainchild of Chris Guillebeau, is a gathering of people who are all committed to “living remarkable lives in a conventional world,” in whatever way is most meaningful to them. For me, living a remarkable life means serving my community of those who find spiritual nourishment in their connection to the earth. It also means earning my living through the expression of my gifts of writing, art-making, and community-weaving. For others, it might mean starting a non-profit to bring clean water to Africa, or writing a novel, or teaching girls how to build apps, or building a business as a creative entrepreneur.
I’m one of those people who is not really crazy about the name “World Domination Summit.” The word “domination” translates to “patriarchy” and “power-over” to me. But I’ve started to think about the name of this event as a tongue-in-cheek way to focus on growing the good, instead of feeling despair about everything that’s wrong with the world. If we are “dominating” the world by living meaningful lives, I’m all for it.
One of the speakers — and I’m sorry to say I cannot remember which one — said that there are really only two components to a happy, fulfilling life. One is to be connected to community through relationships (all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones). The other is to have a project of some kind (or a lifetime’s series of projects) that gives you joy and keeps you engaged. There were at least 3000 projects in this year’s group of attendees! And boy howdy, did we have that community thing down.
The event was intense. In scaling up from 1000 attendees in 2012 to 3000 this year, there were a few logistical hiccups along the way. I found I missed the “smaller” group of 1000. But, as Chris said, if they had capped it at 1000 people again, two-thirds of this year’s attendees would not have been able to come.
Last year, I was deeply impacted by Brené Brown’s presentation, and by the $100 investment Chris made in each attendee. (He gave each of us 1000 attendees a $100 bill, and told us to go out and change the world.) I came home last year saying that the event gave me hope for the future, especially in seeing how many young people were joyfully committed to living lives of community, adventure, and service. This year, the older crowd was much more in evidence, perhaps exemplified by one of the main stage speakers. Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, age 84, is still going strong and living his own motto of “people before profits.” That’s what happens when you live what you love. (And eat really good oatmeal, as Lunaea noted.)
Living an extraordinary life isn’t limited by age, only by courage and by love.
I met a young woman named Amy when I sat next to her in the auditorium early Saturday morning. Later that day, I saw her take the main stage to share what she had done with the $100 Chris gave us last year. It’s hard to believe this radiant young woman was once suicidal. But she was, and now she helps others to battle depression through becoming physically fit. She used her $100 to start “The 30×30 Project,” raising awareness of and gathering donations for suicide prevention. She wrote a beautiful blog post about her experience of speaking in front of 3000 people on the WDS stage.
As she talked, I was incredibly moved, and I found myself posting to Facebook:
Amy, age 30: “All you have is this moment — don’t wait to start living your extraordinary life!” (Sums up #wds2013) Wish I’d known that at age 30, so glad I know it now.
Like last year, I am grateful to have been in the presence of a crowd of people who are committed to living remarkable lives. The energy and enthusiasm of this group makes you believe that it really is possible to change the world for the better, one little step at a time.
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger (dressed as Superman, a childhood dream) challenged us to ask ourselves what one small thing we can do to move ourselves a step closer to our dreams. Tess Vigeland, former NPR host, spoke to the necessity of making peace with uncertainty (a favorite theme of mine). Nancy Duarte showed us how to craft presentations that will help audiences resonate with our work. Jen Lee, producer of the splendid film “Indie Kindred,” celebrated creative collaboration between artists instead of competition. (I loved watching how supportive the women in her film were of each other, because it reminded me of how much I cherish my own creative friendships.)
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, challenged us to remember what made us happy at age 10, then do that again. (At age 10, I loved to read, to make art, to climb trees and to swim. Oh yeah!) Jia Jiang stole all of our hearts by telling us about his experiment in embracing rejection in order to desensitize himself to it.
Steve Schalchlin, who rebounded from a death sentence due to AIDS, sang: “Anything is possible in the bonus round!” The last speaker, Donald Miller, a bestselling Christian author, ended his speech by acknowledging that the WDS community exemplifies the values that his Christian community strives for. He got a standing ovation.
After all the speakers were finished, the entire audience of 3000 toasted Chris, each other and our own dreams, with sparkling cider.
The weekend was capped on Sunday evening by 2000 or more folks all dancing Bollywood-style, for the sheer fun of it, in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square. Here’s a video Craig shot while we were there dancing.
This morning, I can’t get enough of silence and solitude.
It’s good to be home, finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, taking another step closer to my dreams, celebrating the present moment.
Yesterday, on the New Moon, my mermaid sisters and I launched a fundraiser to help pay the medical bills for our beloved Nora Cedarwind Young. She is truly living life in the bonus round!
And so I ask you, dear Readers, these questions:
- What does it mean to you, to live a remarkable life in a conventional world?
- What made you happy when you were 10 years old? Can you bring those activities into your life again?
- What project might excite you and fill you with joy?
- How might you live out the WDS values of community, service, and adventure?
- What is one small thing you can do today to move closer to your dreams?
(These questions were posed or inspired by various speakers at WDS2013.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
(If you’re wondering what I did with my $100 bill from last year? I kept it on my altar for months, waiting for the “just-right” bolt of inspiration to strike. Then, very recently, it became clear. I invested it in Nora’s comfort and healing process. Sometimes, waiting is the just-right thing to do.)