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My World Domination Summit 2022 (WDSX) Recap: A Conference for Unconventional Living

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far, it’s that you should never say no to an opportunity to learn and grow. So when I heard in 2019 that World Domination Summit X in Portland, Oregon, would be the last one, I jumped at the chance to grab tickets for my wife and me!

We were all set to attend WDSX in 2020 and then the pandemic happened.

Fast forward to May 2022. The event had been delayed for two years, and we had already decided that we were not attending. But the Universe had other plans (obviously). Long story short, we struggled to find buyers for our tickets so with only three weeks before the event was scheduled to happen – we reversed our decision and booked our flights to Portland.

This conference is all about unconventional lives – a topic near and dear to my heart. In this recap, I’ll share some of the highlights of WDS X, as well as the lessons that resonated with me most.

Tue 28 Jun 2022 – Saying Bye to Portland and WDS

I struggled.

My mind knew that I had to pack and that I needed to board a train to San Francisco in less than seven hours.

But my heart was heavy, and a part of me knew that packing my suitcase and backpack was me conceding that one of the most incredible weeks of my life was finally over.

I glanced at the clock on my laptop… 07:44.

I was enjoying a waffle sandwich at Hawthorne Asylum just thirteen hours earlier during my final meet-up at the World Domination Summit.

Surrounded by kindred spirits and masterful storytellers, I was encouraged to share the experience that I had with interviewing my father about his life.

I had a captive and engaging audience for the first time in years, and my heart was racing. 

I recalled how my father swam nearly 4.8 km (3 miles) across the Mekong River from Laos to Thailand, with his 6-month-old son (me) hidden inside a rubber tire. He risked his life to save his son from the clutches of a potential life with the incoming Communist regime.

What I loved most was seeing my comrades’ eyes wide-eyed and sparkling and their jaws dropping in disbelief as they not only listened but re-lived my story in their own minds.

Then came the questions…

“How did you feel hearing these things from your father for the first time?”

“What made you even come up with the idea of interviewing your father?”

“Did you already have a list of questions prepared before the interview?”

All of these questions and others expressed the same thing – “TELL ME MORE!

At one point, Marsha Shandur, aka. The queen of storytelling workshops says, “I’d love to work with you to tell your story. Email me.” 

She then pulls a business card out of her purse and slides it across the table.

Jeffrey Harry, who co-facilitated a great meetup with Sara Surani that I participated in, then adds:

“I’d love to hear YOUR story, like a behind-the-scenes of your experience interviewing your father. “

This surreal interaction reminded me of one of the key messages from this final WDS… there’s power in owning and sharing your story.

This was one of many spontaneous and delightful moments I experienced during WDS X – the tenth and final World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon.

“What were your most memorable moments of the World Domination Summit?”

This prompt was given to attendees during a post-WDS reflection meetup that I attended. The meetup was titled “WDS Experience Reflection and Transference Walk and Talk”.

As instructed by our facilitator Iggy Perrilo, we paired up and shared our reflections with our partners while walking around the park.

I started by sharing how I first came to WDS in 2014. This was my return journey and my second time here. The first time was a different experience because I didn’t know what to expect. And it just blew me away. This time I’m at a different stage of my life. My wife Cindy had joined me, and so did our friend Colleen from Vancouver.

Interestingly enough, I was going through a life and career transition in both occurrences.

So what were my most memorable moments of this WDS?

Well, I could tell you about…

The 5K Fun Run

I joined a 5K fun run meetup with other attendees and found myself running by the gorgeous Willamette River for at least two kilometers – something that I hadn’t done for years due to lingering pain in my knee and right foot during the pandemic. I walked the remainder of the circuit with my wife, enjoying the fresh morning air, and tranquil surroundings (and taking snaps and selfies along the way of course).

River View from Eastbank Esplanade

Crazy dancing dinosaurs

I could also tell you about how right afterward, we found ourselves at Pioneer Square watching three hundred and eighty people dressed up in inflatable T-Rex costumes dancing to Queen’s “We Are The Champion” and Bollywood music. It was a sight to behold! (Oh, and that crazy event also broke a World Record).

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(Photo courtesy of WDS)

Inspiring speakers

I could tell you about how the fantastic keynote speakers and how they moved me to tears, made me laugh out loud and left me in awe of their stories.

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(Photo courtesy of WDS)

Serendipitous Encounters

I could tell you about serendipitous encounters and human connections – like when I sat on a couch at the Opening Party and met a lovely elderly couple from Eugene, Oregon. And how they shared their magical story of somehow ending up as singles on a cruise in Croatia together, and how it’s 100% possible for divorcees in their fifties to find love.

Re-connecting to what it means to be human

Those are fantastic and beautiful moments, but the most memorable moments for me were those that moved me at my core.

So there we were, walking and reflecting together around the park. My sharing partner answered the question by voicing,

“I really felt seen.”

As I nodded in agreement, I realized this was also one of my key takeaways.

She continued,

“I hadn’t given myself the space to process or really acknowledge what’s happened. The emotions just came flooding out. What spoke to me about that is that there’s a lot that I stuffed down, and a lot that’s hidden, that I don’t always create the space for.”

These words directly reflected how I had felt since the pandemic began and why WDS X was so important for many of us.

The world had just gone through two years of a global pandemic, and many of us are still navigating the aftermath and grief of what felt like the loss of life as we knew it.

For me, WDS X was a significant opportunity to reconnect with my tribe – a group of people who understand, support and see me.

It was a chance to remember that I’m not alone in this world and that others are going through similar challenges and transitions.

It was a reminder that we are all in this together and that by supporting each other, we can create a world that is kinder, fairer, and more just for everyone.

Eight moments that mattered most to me personally (and the lessons that came from those)

While I had many incredible moments throughout the week, eight, in particular, stand out for me:

1) Being honest and vulnerable in a circle of men during a meetup titled “Men Connection Meetup: Exploration Behind Our Emotional Armor” hosted by Joaquin Ortiz.

Takeaway: When men openly share their feelings with other men, it creates a deeper level of connection and understanding. It also allows us to see that we all have emotions and feelings (and that it’s ok to express them). Regardless of our gender, sharing circles like this can help us feel seen, heard, and understood.

2) Openly sharing my fears with a small group that included two new friends and my wife as part of a meetup in the park titled “Embracing your fears: With WE, not ME.” This was the meetup hosted by Jeff and Sara (whom I ended up serendipitously sitting next to at the Food carts meet-up during our last night in Portland).

What happened a few days later was even more of a surprise. One of the attendees whom I shared my fears with at the meetup sent me a private message on IG that read:

“I appreciated being able to hear your fears yesterday. you were the most human and friendly person I met during the whole week. I’m sure you’re going to figure out who you are and that transformation will be so much better than pre-COVID and better, more content and confident than you could even imagine. I believe in you and am excited to see where this next chapter takes you. Thank you for being kind.”

Takeaway: We often assume that we are alone with our fears, but the truth is that everyone has fears. When we openly share our fears with others, it helps us to realize that we are not alone. It also allows us to see that there are others who can help us through our challenges.

3) Having honest conversations with total strangers at the Ask Deep Questions meetup hosted by my buddy Jan Keck. During that meetup, we were instructed to pull a card from the Ask Deep Questions deck and answer the question on the card. We did this for three rounds, each time with a different partner.

So with different partners, I shared the last time I listened to my intuition, one of my most embarrassing moments in high school, and what I do even though I don’t want to. I also got to learn about each of my partners in a way that made me feel much more connected to them than I would have with simple small talk.

Takeaway: Asking deep questions opens the door to deeper conversations. It allows us to see that we have more in common with others than we may realize. These conversations can help us feel connected and seen. But you’ve got to first gauge whether or not the other person is ready and willing to go there. Often when you go first, it encourages the other person to follow suit.

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(Photo courtesy of WDS)

4) The great conversation that I had with storytellers and folks that I admired during the Post-WDS Food Cart Eats meetup (mentioned at the top of this post).

Takeaway: By sharing our story with others, we can help them to see that they are not alone. We can also inspire them to share their own story. When we listen and share with curiosity, not judgment, we can create a human connection.

Also, showing up to meetups like this – especially if you’re not feeling particularly social or comfortable – can lead to possibilities you didn’t even know existed. You never know who’s going to be showing up too and what connections you’ll make!

Post-WDS food cart eats meetup at Hawthorne Asylum (one of the best food truck spots in Portland)

5) Sharing this crazy WDS adventure with those who know me best – my wife Cindy, and our friend Colleen (both first-timers at WDS). As well as reconnecting with my friend Vitalia who was with me at WDS 2014, and my brother from another mother Jan (one of my best friends when I lived in Toronto in 2009).

friends at world domination summit
L-R: Me, Jan, Cindy, Colleen, Vitalia (taken at our fave ice cream spot in Portland – Salt & Straw)

Takeaway: Sharing unique experiences with people close to you can help to create even stronger bonds. It adds to the rich tapestry of your existing relationships. It can also help you to see the world through their eyes and understand them in a deeper way.

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(Photo courtesy of WDS)

6) Dancing like nobody’s watching on the street corner with my wife.

During the Opening Party, my wife and I were crossing the street and came upon a busker playing a song that I recognized. Cindy also expressed that she missed dancing. So I immediately invited her to dance with me on the street and proceeded to salsa with her to the song. We could see passersby smiling and filming us with their smartphones, and one couple even walked up to me and handed me some cash (which I thanked them for but didn’t accept)!

This one act of spontaneous dancing rekindled the spark that has always been there between Cindy and me. It was a beautiful moment that we shared together, and it was only made possible because we were both open to going with the flow.

At the Closing Party, I danced my butt off, something I hadn’t done in many years. I absolutely love the feeling of freedom that comes from moving my body to music. This is something that has been missing from my life for far too long. My wife even commented that she loved the energy that I had as it was something that she hasn’t seen in a long time.

Takeaway: Dancing is one of the most freeing and joyful experiences that you can have. When you let go and allow yourself to be in the moment, you can connect with your true self. This connection can help you to feel more alive and present in your everyday life.

Do what you love and don’t care about what others think. Life is too short to worry about what other people think of you. When you do things that make you feel alive, it shows in your energy and in your attitude.

We all have an inner child that needs to play and have fun. Let yourself loose, be silly and enjoy life!

Speaking of spontaneous dancing, here’s a music video that I put together with the help of a whole bunch of awesome WDS’rs during WDS 2014:

7) Interviewing someone about their journey.

On the first day of attendee-led meetups, I participated in a meetup titled “Play the Jitters Away!” hosted by Luis Serrano. The description of the meetup read:

“We are most comfortable with what we know, but progress is made in the unknown!

Join this PLAYshop where we will explore getting out of our comfort zone and getting more comfortable with the unknown.

Through various games and discussions, we will play, connect and grow together!”

It was precisely what I needed to kickstart my WDS week.

Fast forward six days and during one of the break periods between the keynote sessions, I found myself on a park bench chatting with Luis 1-on-1 for the first time.

So I asked him if he’d be cool being interviewed for my Transitions podcast about how he got started in facilitating play workshops for adults, and he said “yes”. For five or so minutes I got to learn more about why Luis does what he does, and the steps he took to get started on the path he’s currently on.

Takeaway: Interviewing someone about their journey is a great way to get to know them on a deeper level, and it can also help you to gain clarity about your own life and the choices that you’re made (or are making). It’s also a lot of fun!

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(Photo courtesy of WDS. That’s Luis in the middle with the green glasses and dino puppet)

8) Learning to say NO to FOMO and practising self-care

One of my favourite things about WDS is the variety of attendee-led meetups. There are literally dozens of meetups that you can choose from each day.

The problem is that this can create serious Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and shiny meetup syndrome (WDS’s version of shiny object syndrome).

And SOS is something that I struggle with in my regular life.

I had even considered hosting my own meetup but decided against it (thank goodness!).

So when I looked at my schedule the day before the first day of meetups, I saw that I had signed up for at least four meetups per day. I knew immediately that this wasn’t going to work for me.

Laurie Ann Silberman, an OG attendee, shared this advice in the WDS app:

As WDS energy heats up it’s easy to forget your plans for self-care and avoiding the FOMOness of it all because your mind is whispering (or screaming) “You need to maximize this experience!”

Just remember:

– having an extended 1 on 1 conversation with an interesting person is also an experience.

– skipping a large meetup & joining a few people for coffee/a meal/drinks is also an experience.

– a walk down and around the waterfront, or in one of the parks is also an experience.

I am sure you can think of other ways to experience WDS and still self care. Please share your ideas here.

This goes out with special love to my introvert peeps. 💕

This was a timely reminder and I took it to heart. So I went about removing one or two meetups per day and put self-care above burnout for the first time in a long time.

On the morning of Day 3 of WDS, after joining the 5K fun run meetup and watching dinos dancing I returned to NW Portland Hostel (our home for the week – which Cindy and I absolutely loved. Side note: our dorm roomies just happened to be fellow WDS’rs Rebecca and Dana).

I was feeling spent after the over-stimulating morning so I unregistered myself from the two remaining meetups on my schedule for that day… and took a two-hour nap.

After my rejouvenating nap, I went for a walk around the neighborhood, found myself a store to purchase Hop transit cards from, and grabbed myself a habanero-flavored cider from the nearby supermarket. Then I proceeded to plop myself down on a plot of grass in the dog park nearby, drank my cider, and observed the dogs playing in the park.

That was the best decision ever!

Takeaway: Self-care is important, especially when you’re attending a conference (or any event) where there’s a lot happening and you want to make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to say no, even if it means missing out on something. You’ll still have an amazing time! The alternative is burnout and that’s not fun for anyone. When your health comes at the cost of your happiness, it’s just not worth it.

So… what’s next now that WDS has come to a close?

My new friend Jeff Harry posted this in the WDS X FB group:

(and I’m re-sharing this with Jeff’s permission)

“As this WDS experience comes to an end, it makes me think of the concept of beautiful sadness.

There is an inherent beauty in sadness, especially when an experience comes to an end. It makes me wonder if it has to end to allow us to cherish our WDS memories even more and put that inspiration into action.

If the WDS experiment was about how to live a remarkable life in a conventional world, it would have been the conventional choice for World Domination Summit to go on forever. There is nothing remarkable about that choice. By ending, WDS has now cleared a path for WDSers to create the next iteration in building a community connected by service and adventure.

I think it can be both nerve-racking and exciting (Nerv-cited) to not know what is next, as it challenges each of us to come up with that answer.

Now, we may attempt to recreate what we’ve experienced this past decade, and we will probably be disappointed because “it just isn’t the same.” But maybe that isn’t the point. WDS is asking what is the next remarkable step each of us is willing to take in our lives, and how do we want to do it with the community we cultivated here? It’s not an easy question to ask, but it sure is an exciting and remarkable one.

So, at the same time that I am really sad that it is ending, I’m also excited to see what adventures we come up with next. Thanks, everyone, for creating such a magical experience at WDS! I’ll never forget it.”

“Beautiful sadness” is an apt way to capture the emotion I feel as I write this.

The thing about WDS is this – you can be as wild, introverted, weird, loud, or different as you want to be.

Because at the end of the day, we are all just human beings trying to live our best lives and create a world we can be proud of.

That’s what I love about this community – it is full of people who are unapologetically themselves, curious, and are living remarkable lives.

One attendee shared this in a post in the WDS group the day after the event was over:

“I didn’t get what I wanted but got what I needed. I had multiple breakthroughs and surprises in areas that were not on my radar. Also made some great new connections. And I am very grateful!”

I can 100% relate.

Where am I headed from here, and how do I need to be to get there?

During the post-WDS reflection meetup, our host Iggy gave this question as our final prompt to ponder.

Now that I’ve had some time to consider it, here’s what’s coming up for me.

To me, WDS created the space to enjoy living, and this past week is a huge reminder that we can all create room for serendipity and human connection. We can all lead remarkable lives of our own design.

So a few actions that I have in mind for the next few months are:

  • Enjoying the rest of our time in the US. Cindy and I are traveling to San Franciso next, and we’ll be there for a week.
  • Email/message WDS attendees that I connected with and promised to follow up with.
  • On July 10 we’ll fly to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and begin the next chapter of our life together. We’ll have to find somewhere to live, find our tribe, and build some kind of routine.
  • Sharing stories of life and career transitions featuring interesting individuals on my Transitions podcast.
  • Writing and publishing my weekly Authentic Marketing newsletter.
  • I also want to develop a daily writing habit, while diving deeper into storytelling frameworks.
  • At some point, I’d like to experiment with giving myself a daily creativity hour for 30 days. I heard about this when a WDS’r posted about it in the WDS group.
  • Find a remote coaching and/or marketing role supporting a tech company that supports community builders.
  • Stay connected with my WDS peeps via the FB group and Discord channel.

To get there, I need to be:

  • Intentional
  • Curious
  • Committed
  • Flexible
  • Supported

To me, a big part of creating a remarkable life is staying connected to the spirit of adventure, community, and service (the values central to the whole WDS ethos).

I’m excited to see what the next decade brings for all of us (even if you’ve never attended a WDS event). Thank you for being part of this community! Now let’s go out and change the world, one tiny action at a time.

Parting thought:

“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted” ~ William Bruce Cameron


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