I spent the last four days in Portland attending the World Domination Summit (a congregation of people living remarkable lives in a conventional world). It’s my second time – immediately after the first one I attended (2013) I bought tickets for myself and my mother to return this year. Since I wrote a little about my experiences last year, I met a few people who had already visited my blog.
A lot of people said something like
I didn’t know if it was for real – I couldn’t find any online reviews or details except stuff like “it’s so awesome, you have to go.”
So I promised I’d write a “real” review of WDS, not just glowing praises but a fair and balanced perspective.
But that was before I lost my mind.
I went into WDS 2014 already having a very clear vision of the next year or two of my life.
My businesses are going well and I already have some big, exciting projects, like the handful of publishing-related websites, tools and services I’m building, books I’m writing and the Chinese ebook publishing site that will be the first of its kind, ever.
I thought WDS 2014 would be fun and exciting, and I’d meet loads of interesting people, but I wasn’t sure I’d get the same kick in the ass I got last year from it.
That changed Thursday – before the conference actually started, with the full day ProBlogger Academy.
Previously I’d thought my blog (yes, this one) was doing pretty well. I realized after that first day I was at best a lazy and mediocre blogger – mostly because I had been dancing around the uncomfortable issue of whether this blog is a hobby or a business (the money doesn’t matter, I realized, it’s just about treating the blog professionally and your readers with respect and love).
I blogged about it and tagged all the genius speakers, and got retweets from several of them.
Later in the conference a lot of people came up to me with “You’re that guy who wrote that article.” I’d also posted a schedule of WDS with a top 10 list of places to visit in Portland that got shared and retweeted a lot for the first few days of the conference.
Thursday afternoon I went to an opening party at a fun bar (PunchBowl Social) organized by Sean Ogle (Location 180) in Portland and found myself playing foosball with his fiancée (we won of course, I rock at foosball).
I also met two international attendees, Helena from Italy/Australia/Slovenia and Gunhild from Denmark, and later that night the three of us drove to another meetup with Jonathan Mead. We hadn’t met Jonathan in person, and didn’t know anybody there, so we sat down at a table that was mostly empty and starting chatting with the couple that was already sitting there.
We found out they lived in Walnut Creek, California – where my grandparents used to live.
The charming guy next to me was working on Children’s music. His wife, it turns out, was Jadah Sellner of Simple Green Smoothies – one of the main speakers. (They were both so friendly and down to earth, we were blown away later by Jadah’s amazing speech.) Since they wanted to travel, I urged them to start doing their already successful online detox program as live events in whichever countries they were thinking of visiting (Bali topped the list) – and that I’d be their first signup.
I didn’t get to talk to Jonathan much but it was nice to connect in person, I told him I liked his new site – Jonathan is an expert on using beautiful design in his websites, ebooks and PDFs.
By this time I’d been busy from about 7am to 11pm and I was fading.
Went home and wrote the long post about blogging I mentioned earlier, got to sleep around 3am.
We got up early to help other attendees break the World Record for longest Yoga Chain.
Unfortunately it was too full – I would have been in the crowd that got squeezed up on the stage but I was chatting and lost my place in line.
I ended up doing Yoga with a fun group outside the “real” record breakers, we did it just for fun. Met a girl named Susie, who had family in Taiwan. She told us about a hippie party in Oregon later this month, belovedfestival and we decided to all go together (although now I have so much on my mind, I may stay home and work).
I happened to be standing next to John Jantsch of Duck Tape Marketing, another of the main speakers, and Nicky Hajal, part of the WDS inner circle and web designer. John found a spot with yoga mat but Nicky and I chatted about living in Spain. I’d already been thinking of Skyping with Nicky because the Unconventional Race (a scavenger hunt) was just launched and he and I were in 2nd and 3rd place. One of the items is “Skype with someone in WDS” so I thought we could just earn those points together; but I found out he wasn’t really contending, he’d just been testing the website.
We broke the record and starting hitting all the various meetups organized around the city. First up was Live your Legend founder Scott Dinsmore.
We had some pizza and beer, met a bunch of people (several of whom were doing publishing-related things and we might work together later).
Scott had gotten us to write our “bucket list” item on our name tags, so we talked a lot about the next big thing we wanted to do, or place we wanted to go. Travel is a big desire for people who haven’t done enough of it, or were constrained by their jobs. Since my wife and I are mostly location independent, we travel a lot but it isn’t our main goal.
I want to build things that change people’s lives.
I’ve already been to a lot of places, so I’m probably just in an older, 30-something place where I focus on doing the work rather than seeking pleasure and adventure.
(I’m not down on travel – if you haven’t yet, leave your country and spend a few years abroad. You must do this so you lose your jaded and narrow ideology. Visiting a culture isn’t enough. You have to stay there until you lose your grip on your cultural identity, and your ideology and beliefs in what’s “right’ and “wrong.”)
Photobombing is my wife’s favorite hobby. And yes that’s a kitten riding a unicorn.
We tried to find the foreigners meetup in the Park Blocks but I got there just as they were breaking up, so we headed down to registration at 2pm.
At 3pm I had to make an impossible decision between about 5 conflicting meetups. I planned to go early to a writing meetup with Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl, (both of whom I quote in my last book), but ended up meeting a group of friends I’d made in Bangkok for drinks.
During that lunch, after we’d been chatting for awhile, a woman who had been sitting near us came up and said,
“I couldn’t help overhearing your conversations – who are you guys?”
We’re all doing pretty well, so we’d been talking about meeting up in or traveling to Cancun, Costa Rica, Thailand, Berlin – attending big parties, running our businesses, developing products and making lots of money. We’re not rich, but we earn enough to be unshackled. But it was fun to see us through the lenses of a more “normal” person, who had chosen the job/house route.
I missed the Pam Slim (Escape From Cubicle nation) gathering – which I wanted to go to because I didn’t get a chance to speak with her at the blogging seminar on Thursday. I’m writing two books on creativity, productivity and work/income so I’m re-reading all her books right now and choosing quotes to include in my research.
I caught the last few minutes of the “Passive Income Meetup” and met Caroline, who’d grown up in Taiwan, so we became friends.
Then we headed over the opening party in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Once in, I was approached by a Ree Klein of Escaping Dodge who’d read my blog post (how to prepare for WDS). She said she was almost not going to come, but my article had changed her mind. I had recommended making a “hit list” of people she really wanted to meet and printing out their names and photos – she’d taken my advice and added me to the list. (The first picture just showed her pointing at a piece of paper so we had to retake it later.)
I hung out and chatted and met some more people.
Later I saw Scott Berkun, another of the main speakers, standing in the food line next to mine. I’ve read many of Scott’s books and was halfway through “The Year without Pants,” so I said hi. We got to talking for awhile and then joined a group of new friends we’d made (including my international friends from earlier). We sat and talked until the music stopped.
Scott interrupted us to point out the unfolding of a sociological dilemma – when the music had been going, all the people were happy and dancing together.
Without the music, they stood around and broke into small, protective circles. It was like musical chairs – nobody wanted to be the last one standing alone.
“All they need is a leader,” Scott said, “Someone to go in, make a decision and tell them what to do.”
“I can do that.” I said – we decided to return to PunchBowl Social (it’s like a big mancave full of games and toys). I went up to each circle and told them where we were headed, and to spread the word.
It wasn’t as big a party as on Thursday night, but it was more intimate. The empty space pushed people together around little tables rather than kept them wandering to meet new people.
I wanted to get a game of foosball going but we ended up discussing philosophy and history. I stopped talking philosophy after I got my first degree in it years ago in Malta, but it was nice to know I still knew the names of each philosopher and what their major work and contribution was.
My wife and I left around 11pm.
By this time I was seriously sleep deprived, but we got up especially early to try and get front row seat (plans we’d made the day before with our new circle of friends).
I’m not going to comment on each of the main speakers individually but they were all amazing, I learned a lot about speaking, presentation and using PowerPoint slides effectively. There was a good mix over the course of the weekend.
In the afternoon there was a small picnic for authors led by Cynthia Morris, which included Scott and I and a handful of other writers. Normally the kind of meetups that “go around the circle” don’t work, but with this smaller group we were able to listen and give pointed advice or feedback. One author was working on a book but her central idea was too vague, “Find a way to not be square.”
I sketched out a book cover and showed her that “UNSQUARE, find a way out of your box” would be a stronger title. She ended up making a badge with a new tagline, “I help you UNBOX” and later told me it was a great way to begin conversations with people. I also promised to make a free book cover when she’s ready.
I know a lot about publishing, book design and am at a professional level where I can really help authors present themselves and their books the right way, but I don’t have any mega-bestsellers myself yet (which I will change soon).
Scott on the other hand, is a mainstream published, full-time author and speaker. It was amazing to watch Scott interact and offer value and feedback to these mostly self-published authors, with his range of experience writing books.
Cynthia was excellent at providing validation and empathy – I can see why see makes a great writing and life coach.
At 2pm there was a Q/A with a literary agent – Scott’s agent it turned out. He was smart and funny, and gave some excellent advice for all the questions authors asked him (this interchange was eye-opening for me, if you want to hear what he said, stay tuned, I’ll write a full post about it soon.)
At about this time, I was really getting into the Unconvential Race. I was still up pretty high, and I wasn’t even trying – I thought if I pushed and did some of the higher end crazy stuff (like getting a real tattoo) I could win. So I went down to visit a tattoo parlor, but it was closed. After the afternoon session, I met my parents and my wife at the harbour to get on the Portland Spirit. I was distracted, trying to go through the list of things I could do to earn points, trying to take pictures and upload them. I should have been much more social.
At one point though I did happen to notice Jane Friedman sitting near me – Jane is one of the main voices of publishing as a business, and I’d really wanted to meet her.
So we sat and talked for awhile, and then I introduced her to Scott who was talking to someone else about 10 feet behind us.
The highlight of my weekend was probably this – standing on a mini cruise ship discussing creativity, art and publishing with Jane Friedman and Scott Berkun. I felt like I’d won some kind of dream lottery prize for indie authors. Scott’s energy is contagious, and our conversation was pretty animated.
Later there was some conflict with my wife and parents, who didn’t think getting a tattoo for the race was a good idea – I kept pushing it but finally left it alone.
Later my mom told me they were discussing whether I had been on drugs, since I seemed so “manic.”
Most of the time, you see, I’m quiet and introspective. I rarely talk or offer advice or show any emotion. I don’t get excited very often. I still sweat if I think about speaking in front of people, even though I’ve done it quite a lot.
I posit that I’m usually more interested on working on my own projects than talking to other people, but I flourish in social situations like this with so many amazing people forced to mingle and interact, where everyone is passionate about their lives and businesses. When you start taking control of your life, quit your job, and run your own business, you’ll find the energy is intoxicating – but only if you’re talking with other people who understand and get you.
Something I heard over and over at WDS, when I person says “I just got fired” or “I just quit my job” the appropriate response is “congratulations” – and then they get feedback on what to do next.
In contrast, talking to “normal” people who work for a living is like speaking a foreign language. I talk about what I do and how my wife and I can travel around, do anything we want, go anywhere – but it all sounds like a fairy tale. They don’t get it. They think I must be scamming people or finding some kind of loophole. I’m a cheat somehow for escaping the rat race. I must be irresponsible or adolescent because I’m not taking out a mortgage.
PS: The secret to success = all business is about providing value, serving others and helping them get what they want… as well as speaking to them with a share world view.
This year several friends have asked me for advice on how to start a business or make their own money, but they don’t have the right mindset yet to understand my advice. To get there, they would need to have read the hundreds of books I’ve read – or surround themselves with the type of people at WDS: encouraging people with big ideas and a courageous attitude towards embracing change and uncertainty.
I’d given up on the tattoo but not the race. I went home and did some more tasks, including putting up a video of me rapping (I really want to take it down, but am forcing myself to leave it up and just let myself be embarrassed. It’s good practice for me – I hate to be embarrassed, which probably inhibits some otherwise positive encounters or actions).
Another thing I did differently this year – my 2nd year – was host my own meetup.
There were a few other meetups about publishing, but nothing specifically geared towards indie authors. Many people attending wanted to write a book and one of the main questions was whether they should look for an agent or self-publish.
As someone pretty plugged into the indie author community, I decided to host a meetup/gathering for authors or people interested in publishing.
Over 100 people signed up.
I had printed out the posters I made for Mark Coker’s Indie Author Manifesto. I was amazed that I had to keep telling people what Smashwords was or how it worked: only one of the biggest publishing platforms in existence. I also had some inspirational quotes and copies of my books and other things.
However I’d had enough of meetups that were managed by a speaker and I didn’t want to get in the way, so I didn’t lead the meetup. I didn’t speak or introduce myself. I didn’t thank everybody for coming.
I facilitated people making meaningful connections.
There were signs and instructions telling people to pick a badge (published author/book coach/editor/published more than 3 books, etc). and had a list of conversation starters. Nothing needed to be explained.
At first, I was scrambling to try and get wifi so I could upload my Unconventional Race photos before the 2pm deadline (the same time as my meetup started) but I soon gave up. Someone asked me “What’s more more important to you?” They were actually referring to something else in the conversation I was half involved in while playing on my phone, but the question helped me to give up the race and focus on the people around me.
By interacting a little more, I also got to figure out who I was and how I fit into all this stuff. I’d start talking to people casually, offering razor targeted advice and feedback, and they’d be a little surprised when they realized I was the host of the meetup. We stayed so long that the area manager had to keep nagging me to push people out of the area to prepare for the next event.
I started introducing myself to the authors I hadn’t met yet. My spiel went like this: “I’m a book cover designer, but my clients need a whole bunch of other stuff that I don’t want to do, so I build tools and templates and resources and guides so that I can just direct them to those tools so they can do those other things themselves for free, so that I can focus on book cover design.”
The morning had been stressful, running around taking more pictures for the race and following the clues to the scavenger hunt. I picked up trash in the park and made WDS art with my food. I dusted off a few of the incredible card tricks I learned in high school.
I had tried to buy icecream for a stranger, but it got weird. I was wearing a black cape and a big top hat to fulfill some of the requirements. I finally took off the cape but kept the hat on all day. The world cup final was also going on, and it was raining a bit, and I had to set up my own meetup…
One of the most interesting conversations I had was with K Marthaler, who was promoting her 8 year old daughter’s novel Magic the Crest about girls who battle mythological monsters and shape-shifting animals. The story of a fourth-grader who finished a novel during Nanowrimo and self-published her book on Createspace should be a pretty easy one to spread – media would eat it up. I asked her if she’d done a press release, she hadn’t – in part because nobody would believe a promotional press release from a mother about her daughter’s book. But I can totally do it, so I told her I would. (I may have these details wrong, I’ll need to interview them before I write a press release).
I realized how difficult it is for an author to self-promote their book; how frustrating and ridiculous it all is (so much easier to grow a blog following). I haven’t been in that position for awhile so I guess I’d forgotten. But now I’m in the position to help and make it easier for others.
After my meetup I ran into Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz – Naomi was one of the first bloggers I started paying attention to when I was trying to figure out how to do stuff online; she stands out by being funny, clever, and swearing occasionally (she probably influenced my writing style, or at least gave me confidence to be myself and not try to bullshit). Naomi continues to put out brilliant stuff.
The afternoon sessions flew by.
The part that made the biggest impression on me was the ending. During the weekend they’d interviewed a whole bunch of people about their future plans. Then they selected four and helped get them started on their dreams with big prizes.
In a phrase I may want tattooed on my body someday, Chris explained,
“Just because you can’t help everybody, doesn’t mean you can’t help somebody.”
After it ended I ran over the giftshop to get some firesale WDS socks (a coveted item; almost like a magical relic in an RPG game that boosts confidence and productivity). I ran into Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months. You’ve got to watch his awesome “Skype me Maybe” video, it kicks ass.
I’ll use some of Benny’s language-hacking tips to learn Romanian over the summer.
I met up with Helena and Gunhild again – they were overwhelmed, amazed and speechless after the day’s speakers and events. They felt inspired but said they needed time to process and let it soak in. I recommended the opposite, jot down huge ideas now before your brain goes back to normal and starts thinking small again.
I shared the “Stretch Goals” I’d written down for 2015 …. and told them they didn’t even feel like stretch goals anymore; they didn’t make me uncomfortable and I’m reasonably sure I can accomplish them.
- Publish 20 books, sell 1 million copies
- $5000 coaching program
- $1000 a month marketing retainer
- $250,000 Kickstarter for a Writer’s House
- 100,000 followers
Then we got on a bus to the afterparty.
They wanted to get in line for the hot air balloon, we waited in line to get food.
In front of us was Liz Brazier who gets people to be accountable, and to focus on the right shit.
I told her that’s especially important for authors – who spend years writing books that people won’t read instead of thinking in terms of genres that sell.
I recommended offering a service for authors, who have a problem with motivation and productivity. Liz it turns out was rooming with Natalie Sisson of the Suitcase Entrepreneur, who I’d met at another conference in Bangkok and saw again later at the party.
Behind me was a guy who was about ready to publish his sci-fi novel and had already got the space-art, he just needed the text added; I offered to help him finish his cover for free; he bought drinks for my mom and I. We’d been talking about books for about an hour when I mentioned I planned to move to either Romania or Argentina after I finished my PhD – at this his girlfriend, who had been silent, perked up.
“I’m from Romania” she said. I mentioned the plan to buy a castle and turn it into a writer’s retreat, something that had been percolating for days (or perhaps years…. when I was a teenager I had a plan to buy a bunch of houses all over the world people could stay in). Her father just happened to be a librarian, and she had friends who had been buying up condos to build a tourist site.
It all seemed too magical, too perfect – it all got very real. She could start looking for properties while I finished my PhD. I could re-apply for my Fulbright (I applied two years ago to study the literary influence of Romanian literature on Western vampire romances). We exchange info.
I finally found my friends again, on the dance floor. At this point I was buzzing from excitement. The DJ was awesome. Helena, Gunhild, my mom and I danced till the party ended at midnight. The powdered color was a fun addition, although messy. I talked to so many people who said that on Saturday they hadn’t been totally satisfied with the conference, but by Sunday, like me, everything was coming together in surprising and exciting ways.
There were some surface problems: the lines were inexcusably long, there weren’t enough food trucks to handle so many people, and people who didn’t like dancing didn’t have much to do.
And yet, if I hadn’t spent so much time waiting in line, I wouldn’t have met the people who were catalysts in this amazing vision I have for my life now. It’s almost as if Chris G. played puppetmaster and somehow managed to make these connections happen. It’s been a long time since I believed in things like synchronicity, but I realize now that’s because I’ve been consciously directing my life for a long time. In order to have synchronicity happen, you have to attempt things that you have no idea how to do, keep them firmly in mind, and trust the universe to provide the right tools and people at the right time.
You have to be open to learning and changing your mind; you need to be looking for signs. I’ve been closed to this for a long time, because my vision and goals were too small.
I slept in…. finally. I started writing this blog post, and headed downtown. I should have signed up for the course in getting your first great business idea from Fizzle, led by Corbett Barr and Chase Reeves, but I didn’t get tickets, so I met the girls after. (Before starting the conference, I wasn’t looking for my “first great business idea.” I was already working on about a dozen of them).
They were visibly thrilled after the workshop, buzzing with ideas, and finally felt like they were making progress on their own goals and plans.
We went to the Portland Brewery for lunch. I helped them flesh out their business ideas, pick a brand name and tagline, and steer them in the direction that would be most successful. Gunhild is working on making a fashionable insulin-pump holder for people with T1 Diabetes. We thought something like “Take Insulin Discreetly” would work (so the logo would look like “TID” which could stand for the catchprase or Type1 diabetes). Caroline had some pretty brilliant ideas about using the psychology of body language to help people improve their dating and relationships. For example, when men say they like redheads, it isn’t really about the color but the personality traits associated with redheads. She was having trouble coming up with a brand – I suggested “Why men like blondes” and told her I’d make a book cover and website (although I’ve since found a similarly titled book already so we may have to pivot.)
Then we went up for the view at Pittock Mansion.
A wonderful weekend. I spent the rest of the day writing a Kickstarter campaign to buy Dracula’s castle for 70million USD (I won’t launch it until closer to Halloween, to get more media traction). I also mapped out a very in-depth business plan for the writer’s retreat/coaching business. I feel like I’m in a completely different place than I was a week ago. Previously I’d been excited about my Chinese ebook publishing platform and the books I’m planning to write.
Now I’m planning to fundraise a million bucks to buy a castle or Château with 25 bedrooms (or enough land I can build a whole bunch of micro-houses, a tip I got from Dee Williams who started a business making cute tiny houses.) Not only do I believe it to be possible, I’m pretty confident it will be easy.
I only need 1000 people who want to spend a few weeks in the most amazing environment in the world, in a historical and luxurious setting, and get daily coaching and feedback from experts while writing their books, for just $1000. (Or I might buy a 5million dollar castle and charge $5000, which would still be very reasonable). I’ll do it by offering a free stay to a handful of the new friends I’ve made with big platforms if they share the Kickstarter campaign. If I get 1000 signups, I just have to do 27 people a month for 3 years.
Or I might only allow long term stays of six months and include book cover design and formatting, platform building, help with a powerful book launch and more – so that by the end of the six months authors have a book out there earning them money. I could do something similar with artists or entrepreneurs; a six month crash course on developing a platform and selling services or products so that they will have steady income by the time they leave. They could come for six month and build themselves a completely autonomous, sustainable career (instead of going the normal university route).
It’ll basically be like a co-working space, but the best one in the world.
Here are two of the houses I have my eyes on.
Instead of my current workload, I’ll have leveraged my skills and relationships to create exceptional value, live in a huge castle, and run a business I excel at (I’ve managed staff, run events for several hundred people and worked in hospitality; this will be a walk in the park). To anyone else it might seem insane. To me it seems like the logical and obvious next step – but it took the WDS conference to coax it out of me.
Life is slow going back to normal. I caught up on hundred of emails. I starting preparing the Fulbright scholarship and got back in touch with the contacts I’d made at universities in Romania.
Today I started listening to David McGraw’s Power Affirmations. It starts like this:
“Bring to mind a time from your past when you felt really good. Maybe it was a time when you felt joy and happiness. Maybe it was a time when you felt energized and confident.”
I realized previously I’d been reaching way back to high school – a time when I felt more outgoing and confident.
That was the last time I felt truly brilliant and amazing. Now I can just think back to this weekend.
My whole philosophy of Creativindie has been “don’t just follow your passion.” But maybe that’s because I haven’t been really passionate about where I’m heading for awhile.
I’m proud and content of the things I’m achieving – I like my job, I like my freedom – but I wasn’t doing incredible, earth-shattering things. So passion wasn’t part of the issue.
But if it’s the right idea for you, you’ll know because you’ll get passionate about it. And if you’re passionate about something, getting other people passionate is much, much easier. The trick is to focus that passion on providing things of value that other people appreciate enough to pay for (this is the step most authors and artists neglect, and most entrepreneurs take for granted as the necessary foundation).
Is World Domination Worth it?
The biggest thing you need to change is your mindset. Before you start having big ideas, you need to believe that you can. Changing your mindset is like learning a language. You can’t just do it a few hours a week. You need a full immersion experience. You need to be surrounded by people speaking in that language (of optimism, empowerment, confidence and empire-building) before something clicks in your brain.
It’s not necessarily about the speakers or the people you meet or whether or not you’ll realize your big idea. It’s about immersion – it’s about allowing yourself to participate in these huge ideas, by interacting with “normal” people who are doing incredible things. Unlike most other conferences, at WDS people actually hang out. You get to see people off the stage, so rather than putting them up on a pedestal, you can see that they’re just human. It makes it easier to think, “I could do something like that!”
Unfortunately I didn’t buy my tickets for 2015 fast enough – but next year I plan to bring 3 more members of my family.