Return from WDS

I returned yesterday from Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit (“WDS”), a gathering in Portland, Oregon, of people who want to change the world. It’s basically a long weekend experience focused on community, adventure, and service. It is entrepreneurial. It is creative. It is a community devoted to making both personal and social change.

This year was special, though. It was my second WDS, and I was unsure of how I would perceive the weekend and events. Making it more challenging, but simultaneously more special, was the decision to bring my fifteen year old son with me. By seeing WDS through his eyes and discussing his perceptions, I was hoping to find greater inspiration … and also share it. This decision made my WDS experience much more profound. Let me explain.

At my first WDS, I participated in the events, attended the sessions, looked to feel the blatant enthusiasm that surrounded me, and I kind of did, but it wasn’t genuine. I really didn’t connect with it as much as others. Sure, I was motivated by the speakers. Loved listening to all of them. I was absolutely able to see the gems, but for me they were in the rough. And it was especially odd because some of my most admired colleagues from Asheville were also in attendance. While good, it wasn’t great. Regardless, I registered for WDS 2014.

Upon arriving with my son, we did some obligatory Portland sight-seeing (Voodoo Doughnut, Adidas, and Powell’s Books). Friday morning brought with it a yoga session where, with 807 excited and amazing people, we shattered the world record for the longest yoga chain! I expected to meet people, but I didn’t expect to make my first conference friend because of my t-shirt (I wore a guitar store t-shirt and met a player). My son, who didn’t participate in the yoga, joined me for lunch then registration.

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Our excitement was building but for me it meant more to watch him engage in conversation. They typically went something like, “what do you do and why are you here?” For me, I want my son to craft an extraordinary life. What a better place to start to develop his thoughts on his future than with 3000 independent and creative people? That was exactly what I hoped he would get out of WDS.

When the sessions started both my son and I were enthralled with AJ Jacobs who charged us to not focus on the few things that go wrong when so much is going right. The speakers continued to bring relevant messages. A couple favorites were Jadah Sellner and her charge to “take imperfect action”, and Michael Hyatt with his design-driven life.

We discussed meetups but largely stuck to the concert hall to listen to the speakers. As we struck up conversations with other attendees, we developed a special kind of an elevator speech of what we were doing. More importantly, it allowed him to hear everyone else’s story (~ies). But I was not only watching my son. This year, I was really participating. I was making notes of ideas to follow-up on, concepts I want to explore, and authors I need to make time to read. I was open to more people and they returned this with their own openness. I made connections.

For us the weekend concluded with the closing celebration, but on Sunday night when my son asked me if he could come back, I can’t tell you how proud I felt. Not only did I bond with my son in a way I had not yet experienced, not only was I able to serve my son as a guide, but I was also able to witness a glimpse of the man he is going to be. He was brave to join me for a weekend not truly understanding the purpose. He was open minded to listen and take the many messages to heart. He was smart to take advantage of all the information available to him. And, I was impressed with his ability to choose the events he wanted to participate in. I thought I was giving something to my son by bringing him with me to WDS. But the gift given in return has impacted me profoundly more than I envisioned. This year, I got it .. and I am very excited to return next year.

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