My friend Chris Guillebeau never rests. Over the past few years, he’s written a best-selling book, visited every U.S. state and Canadian province (except Nunavut, but why quibble?), and traveled to more than 150 countries — all while maintaining a popular blog.

Not one to rest on his laurels, last summer Guillebeau hatched a plan to bring a bunch of dreamers and writers and entrepreneurs and travelers to Portland for a convention. He wanted to call it the World Domination Summit. Last weekend, Guillebeau’s plan came to fruition: A horde of passionate people spent the weekend learning from each other at the Portland Art Museum.

The pursuit of happiness
Everyone I talk to wants to know what the World Domination Summit was about. It’s tough to describe. It’s true that many of the 500 attendees were bloggers, but it wasn’t a blogging convention. A lot of the folks were entrepreneurs, but the summit wasn’t just about building a business. There was plenty of networking, but that wasn’t the primary focus. Ultimately, I guess, it was about working — by yourself and with others — to craft a better world.

Perhaps this chalk art from Gwyn Michael says it best:


Make your own world. I love that.

I’ve changed a lot over the past five years. I continue to change. I read new books, I meet new people, I go new places, I discover new ideas. All of these things have a profound impact on who I am — and who I want to become. I’m learning that to be happy, I do have to make my own world.

I used to live for what I thought others wanted. I did what was expected of me. But more and more, I’m doing what I want. So long as I’m not abridging the freedom of others, I believe this is my highest aim: the pursuit of my own happiness.

The speakers at the the World Domination Summit talked a lot about making your own world and pursuing happiness, whether that means becoming an artist, traveling to foreign lands, or paying attention to the small details that make daily life joyful. Our speakers included:

Most of these folks also led workshops or meetups. Other workshop leaders included David Fugate, Michael Bungay Stanier, Laura Roeder, Mark Silver, and Kim and Jason Kotecki.

But that’s not all! The conference also included an opening party complete with ice sculpture and Adam Baker‘s RV. Plus tours through downtown Portland on the evening of the annual Starlight Parade. And what conference is complete without Bollywood dancing? We had some of that, too:

Leo Babauta and Chris Guillebeau, dancing to “Jai Ho!”

Behind the scenes
A conference of this size and scope doesn’t just happen. A small team spent over a year planning to make sure the event would be outstanding. The primary movers behind organizing the summit included:

You’ll note that each of these folks has been featured in some way at Get Rich Slowly in the past. It was a great team to work with.

During the final weeks, we brought in Michelle Jones, who helped organize TEDxConcordiaUPortland, at which Chris spoke in early May. There’s no question that Michelle was the missing ingredient we’d needed all along. It was her presence on this team that caused everything to come together.

Chris Guillebeau, with Michelle Jones watching over him.

Many WDS attendees remarked on how smoothly the conference ran. I’m glad it seemed that way! There were a number of speed bumps during the weekend. There were things we forgot to prepare for, things we never anticipated would go wrong, and problems we thought might happen — but hoped wouldn’t. We coped with them quickly and quietly.

At one point on Saturday afternoon, we were wrestling with three problems at once, including a fire alarm in the main museum building next door (which could have led to an evacuation of our building) and, worst of all, the news that Neil Pasricha, our speaker for Sunday morning, was violently ill and wouldn’t be able to talk. (Update: This was the third emergency.)

While the attendees were in their workshops, the planning team met in the lobby to come up with an emergency plan. It was awesome to see how we worked together to develop a solution:

That’s Chris G. listening raptly as I make some brilliant suggestion.

I think everyone on the planning team agrees that this was the moment that everything came together: We were acting as one unit toward a shared common purpose. Together, this small group kept the conference on course, and the results were terrific.

Mondo Beyondo
The post-WDS buzz has been amazing. From what I can tell, the conference exceeded everyone’s expectations. It certainly exceeded mine. (I was the resident skeptic on the planning team.) In fact, the World Domination Summit blew me away.

I am not the same man I was two weeks ago. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true. The summit has given me the courage and conviction to follow my dreams. During a quick two-minute speech last Sunday morning, I talked about the power of yes. But last weekend, I also learned the power of no. I realized it’s okay to decline the things I don’t want to do so that I can pursue the things that matter. (Sort of like conscious spending — but with time and people.)

Jen Lem and Andrea Scher

Also on Sunday morning, Andrea and Jen from Mondo Beyondo gave an interactive and engaging talk. At one point, they had participants pair up to share stories about peak experiences. One partner listened for keywords and repeated them back. The storyteller then chose one to write on her body with permanent marker. (I wrote “inspiration”.)

At the end of their talk, Andrea and Jen had a surprise: Taped to the bottom of every seat in the room was an affirmation. Mine was: You are loved more than you know.

To me, this was the most perfect moment in a perfect weekend. It embodied so much of what I experienced at the World Domination Summit, which wasn’t about dominating the world at all. It was about learning to build my own world — and helping others build theirs.

I’ve been carrying that affirmation with me all week. In fact, it’s by my side right now. Even though my head is filled with big dreams and big ideas, Real Life has already begun to encroach upon my perfect little WDS bubble. But that message — “You are loved more than you know.” — reminds me of the weekend and the things I learned. It keeps me focused.

I’ll be back at next year’s World Domination Summit. In the meantime, I’ll be working hard to make my own world.

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