On being remarkable (or World Domination Summit 2013)


How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?

So goes the tagline and the refrain for the World Domination Summit, a curiously-named conference organized by Chris Guillebeau and located in my home town.

If you can answer this question, you can leave early.
If you can answer this question, you can leave early.

WDS and me, a brief history

I first found out about WDS in 2011, its first. While I missed the conference, I spent a lot of time watching and rewatching the highlights video. I saw smiling people hanging out and discussing important projects, playing ping pong, doing yoga in the park, in short, being pretty awesome.

While I had both curiosity and desire, the cost and my own insecurities meant that I missed obtaining a ticket for 2012. But when I received an email calling for volunteers (or “ambassadors” as they were called) I realized that I had finally found my niche. I could volunteer and get a chance to sneak a peek at this event without having to pay or without feeling like an impostor! I could show off Portland to people! It was exactly what needed to happen.

Volunteering at WDS 2012 was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The highlight, of course, was the $100 Investment, the Oprah-like moment at the closing session where everyone was informed that they were about to receive a $100 bill. I was one of a dozen or so people handing out the envelopes containing the $100 bills. As I had about 150 envelopes in my bin, I can say that I held $15,000 dollars in cash that day. Not bad. The looks on those people’s faces as they received their “investment” were the most moving part of the experience. Faces white with shock, some giddy, some crying.

After last year, I finally decided that I would buy a ticket and attend for real in 2013.

Enthusiasm worth spreading

The best way I can describe WDS is by saying that it’s like living inside of a TED talk. And I don’t just mean the speakers, fantastic and thought-provoking all. I’m talking about the conversations that happen in the halls and outside on the sidewalks, between strangers and friends alike. No one is complaining about their job, except to talk about their plan to escape from it. No one is talking about the perils of flying, only how they went around the world on frequent flyer miles. No one is talking about the dull day-to-day nature of things, except to talk about how that was how things used to be and how better they are now or will be in the future.

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In short, this was a conference filled with enough inspiration (and inspirational people) to be quite overwhelming. (They did have hammocks where you could go to relax though.)

Back to the question

So how do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?

First of all, what does it even mean to be remarkable, much less how does one achieve it? What I do know is that there are parts of me that are my own, that don’t fit into to the conventional ways. By allowing these sides of myself to flourish, I in effect allow myself to become more of what makes me myself and less of what makes me like everyone else. Will that be remarkable? Perhaps. But it certainly won’t be conventional.

I’ve also focused on one overlooked word in the refrain: It’s we who live it. By that I mean: together.

I was a part of a group of three thousand people in one space, all of whom are questioning their own lives and trajectories. It’s not just the tired cliche of surrounding yourself with smart/positive people so that you will become smart/positive, though there may be something to that. It’s that enthusiasm, excitement and good ideas are contagious, and they spread when there are people around who are receptive to receiving them. One person can be remarkable on their own, sure, but when you get a critical mass of those people together, ideas get strengthened, more things are possible, and the energy feeds on itself to enable everyone to be able to accomplish more than they could on their own.

Whether it’s thousands of dollars raised for charity, new ideas for how to help those in need, or even journeys of self-discovery to make one’s own world a bit more wonderful, the World Domination Summit is a nexus for people who believe that the way things are is not as good as the way things could be. And unlike most people, they’re taking action and doing something about it. This is a group I’m happy to align myself with. While we are all on our own journeys, we are sharing them with each other. Living them out together. Which I’m convinced makes more things possible. Now that’s remarkable.

Yes, that's three thousand of us toasting together, a first for the 100 year old venue. (It was only sparkling cider.)
Yes, that’s three thousand of us toasting together, a first for the century-old venue. (It was only sparkling cider.)

But enough about me. Did you attend WDS? What did you take away from it?

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