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The World Domination Summit Saved My Life

Today is September 12, 2012. It’s been 100 days since my mom passed away. It’s also been 100 days since the first day of the World Domination Summit. This is the story of that night and that weekend.

I recently attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, in what was the largest collection of totally awesome people I’ve ever been a part of. J.D. Roth wrote the best explanation of the weekend that I’ve seen so far:

“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.”

The World Domination Summit was one of the best weekends of my life. I jumped out of an airplane, jumped off of a bridge, and for the first time in my life found myself around people like me. It’s not always easy living life on your own terms and conditions. From time to time you get negative energy thrown at you for no reason. I sometimes get people telling me to “grow up” or “fit in better” or people who think I’m a “reckless risk taker” who doesn’t value his life. Everyone at the conference who I met wasn’t like that though. They “get it.”

They realize that life is meant to be lived. They understand that all the fears, limiting beliefs, and doubts you acquire throughout your childhood are meant to be smashed through. They go against conventional wisdom to live remarkable lives. And they have an incredible ability to give. By the end of the conference, I had the love and support of 500 like-minded individuals, several of them who I became instant best friends with.

The conference officially kicked off on Friday night, so I decided I would book my plane ticket a day early to go explore Portland a little. Five months out from the conference, I received a message from Joel Runyon asking me if I wanted to go skydiving with him. Actually, his post was called I’m Jumping Out Of A Plane at WDS – Who’s Coming With Me? (which is even more awesome because he would have gone even if it was just him).

Quick tip: This is a great lesson in how to market events. Make something awesome and ask if anyone wants to join along. This is much better than asking around if anyone wants to do something. I’m actually using this approach with starting a group for young professionals at my company in New Brunswick. I’m sure it will be a success.

Coming back to the story, I signed up for the skydiving trip on Friday and a similar bungee jumping trip on Monday. I had never done either before but figured if I was going to be out there I might as well do it. Finally June rolled around and I found myself on the way to Portland with no idea of how the weekend would go.

Friday morning came and I found myself outside the Portland Art Museum with 40 other people ready to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I started to recognize some of the faces from the blogs that I read. Whoa, isn’t that Jenny Leonard? And Nina Yau? And Matt Gartland? After some mild approach anxiety I ended up having great conversations with almost everyone there. My initial observations of the group were that they were: 1. Happy, 2. Profound, and 3. Alive.

Jumping out of an airplane was everything I thought it would be. Exciting, terrifying, and totally awesome. The free fall was actually a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. I ran out of scream halfway down.

Me: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!” *deep breath* “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!”

Take That Air!

After an awesome day of skydiving and connecting with our little group of daredevils, I made it back to the Portland Art Museum just in time for the kick-off event. I had a blast meeting another couple dozen bloggers, entrepreneurs, mavens, and superheros. Thoroughly stimulated I walked back to the hostel, excited for the next two days of official programming. I think I even made it to bed early that night, drifting off to sleep with dreams of inspiration and adventure floating about.

Then I got the call.

I actually missed the first three or four calls. I’m a deep sleeper. Like Rip Van Winkle deep. When I finally answered the phone it was sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning. I don’t even remember if it was my dad or my brother first, but I know I talked to them both. There was a lot of crying, commotion, and voices in the background. All I remember was hearing the words: Mommy’s dead. The rest is a blur, but I remember I managed to calm them down, talk them through things and then went back to bed. How I went back to bed I don’t even know. I don’t remember actually going back to bed, just waking up.

The following morning, still in shock, I slept walked down to the Portland Art Museum. I sat down in the room with 500 people and doubted my ability to stay there. I’m an extreme extrovert. I love to meet new people and learn about their stories. But when I sat down I just heard deafening noise and started to have doubts about being there. Thoughts running through my head at the time were: “Should I even be here? I don’t know if I can talk to anyone. Is this just a dream?”

Then Pam Slim came on and opened the conference with 45 minutes of what seemed to be a presentation written just for me at that moment in time. She opened with having us walk around and greet each other for three minutes by giving hugs. I can never thank her enough, because that’s exactly what I needed at the moment. Her speech then left us with many reminders of the goodness of life. One of gems I wrote down in my little WDS notepad was, “Your job as a parent is to teach them to be independent.” This brought me comfort as I thought of how well my parents raised me and prepared me for a life on my own. She also turned us onto the website Go ahead and click on the link right now and spend a minute looking at the pictures. How could you look at that site and not be happy?

Over the course of her presentation, I found myself coming back to the strong, safe, peaceful, optimistic place I usually find myself in. After her presentation I walked over, shared my story, gave her a hug and shed the only tears I cried that weekend. So thank you Pam for everything, you are a saint.

Other little gems I scribbled in my notepad from the conference include:

  • “Openness is our greatest human resource.” – Danielle LaPorte
  • “Neediness is the experience of the heart in thirst. Make friends with your neediness. It’s ok to be tired. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be who we are.” – Mark Silver
  • “Making comparisons is a colossal waste of time.” – Karen Walrond
  • “Adventure occurs when we embrace possibility.” – Karen Walrond
  • “Regret is always optional. It is a choice.” – Pam Slim
  • “The best way to build your blog is to only create powerful posts.” – Leo Babuata
  • “Take bold, consistent action in the face of uncertainty.” – Jonathan Fields
  • “Anxiety is an anticipatory emotion, if you stay present it can’t creep in.” – Jonathan Fields
  • “In my twenties I was worried about what people thought of me. In my forties I didn’t care what people thought of me. In my fifties I realized that they weren’t thinking of me all along!” – Woman in audience during a Q&A session

Another huge highlight of the conference was a presentation by Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen from Mondo Beyondo. I can’t even put into words how amazing their presentation was, it was pure deliciousness. They basically took the entire room through a coaching session in an incredibly powerful manner. One of the exercises they had us do was to partner up with someone and describe a peak experience from our lives. Our partner then wrote down all the emotions from that story and from that list we came up with one word that signifies us. We then ritualized that word by writing it on our body. My saying was “Smash Fear” which I wrote largely across my left forearm. After several other exercises, they closed and left us with a blessing. Actually they left us with 500 handwritten blessings taped to the bottoms of our chairs. An enormous task of love totally worthy of the standing ovation they received at the end. I was lucky enough to be sitting next to an empty seat so I snagged two of them. They are two of the very few things I have on my fridge today.

Happy Fridge

Aside from the fantastic programming, I was also inspired by the stories and accomplishments of the people I met during breaks and lunches. Some of these include:

After the conference wrapped up, I went bungee jumping with another dozen or so conference goers. Evidently a prerequisite of world domination is jumping off of really, really tall things. After each of my jumps, I couldn’t help but think about my mom as I swung from a bridge on a giant bungee cord through a beautiful gorge. I was lucky to be alive. I was lucky to be experiencing this moment. I still get that feeling every day.

After bungee jumping, I spent the rest of the afternoon adventuring with Jenny. Despite having just met a couple days prior, we chatted away for hours like old friends. She even drove out of her way to drop me off at the airport. Good peeps.

Sitting on the plane ride home reflecting on the whirlwind of amazing speakers, workshops, interactions and adventures, I felt better again. That strength has carried through well past the conference and continues to strengthen me today. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I had gotten that call in my apartment by myself. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it.

So yeah, the World Domination Summit saved my life.

I’m looking forward to seeing what it does for me next year. Or what I can do for it.