Sometime in the early fall of 2010, an old friend of mine mentioned a conference unlike any other was happening the following summer. It was to be called the World Domination Summit, held in Portland, and she wanted some company. Naturally, I chuckled a little but was intrigued.

She’s a bottle rocket of energy so I couldn’t resist learning more. The conference had a vibe I hadn’t seen before: one that focused on entrepreneurial spirits, an emphasis on work/life balance, and various opportunities to explore topics in both business and social aspects of our lives.

I decided to step outside my boundaries of that time and attend.

Back in the summer of 2011, the conference welcomed 500 guests with all that PDX could offer. Sadly for my friend, she cancelled last minute due to life’s uncertainties and I was on my own. Despite walking into the event blind, it was inspiring, lively, and I was left with a sincere feeling of excitement and anticipation about what could change in my life to bring about a better balance.

And many perspectives did change after that first year.

I learned more about Chris Guillebeau’s quest (and eventual success) at traveling to every country in the world. I slowly simmered on the idea of travel hacking and how it could impact my life. I met multiple high-spirited and interesting people that I still keep tabs on today. In the end, I left with what I felt like was the beginnings of a blueprint for allowing the work I did at the time to mean a lot more.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the same city, meeting the same terrific groups of people, enjoying all the things that make Portland such a unique place to explore. There was a major difference in the 2014 edition, though: 3,000 guests; not 500.

As a quick tangent, when working within the digital industry I find it very important to make space and time to energize and explore outside of our niche world. Meaning, take moments to inquire with other brilliant people solving problems far beyond the monitor, keyboard, and Internet space.

As digital creators, we can only get so much from only attending industry events. When we make space for our minds to both rest and expand, sparks release. Change happens and inspiration ensues when we make that space a reality. It’s a simple notion but one that I’ve found to be true and valuable.

Back to this year’s edition.

The most recent keynote speakers were no exception to the high-end variety WDS has been known for over the years. From pushing health with green smoothies to publishing moguls speaking from the heart, the perspectives were vast. Everyone has a story. Everyone has their passions.

Jadah Sellner expressed her and her business partner’s incredible path to success through nutrition on the web. Their story follows somewhat of a “rags to riches” journey, where steadfast focus on serving people and promoting nutrition finally paid dividends far beyond the bank.

Michael Hyatt explored various themes in leadership, noting what he called The Drifting Life versus The Driven Life, and how ultimately, a Designed Life is the best route. He said something that specifically sticks with me: What is the thing that is going to move the needle?

Sometimes when we’re hunched over writing code or designing a new interface, it’s worthwhile to take a step back to catch a breath; to take stock of what we’re doing and why.

Other speakers, such as Dee Williams, best known for her roles in the “tiny house” movement and Scott Berkun, author of multiple highly hailed reads, offered stories of inspiration that related to finding and living through our individual passions.

In business, what makes you tick? How can you stand as your own superhero? What do you do when the fun wears off?

And they weren’t sugar coating it. Scott noted something that resonated with me:

The process (of the thing you love) looks like work and like uncertainty.

What he meant was, nothing that is worthy is easy. The pretty pictures we see and the lovely websites we browse don’t magically happen. At some point it was work. It was uncertain for a time.

But beyond the keynote speakers and incredible venues WDS makes available to its attendees, the real success of the event comes through the people that attend with a purpose.

Literally walking up to a small group of people and engaging in what their stories are is a deeply rooted aspect of the conference. Everyone is open, and everyone is willing to share in their challenges, success, failures, and dreams. The experience is unlike any other grouping of people I’ve been a part of.

In a way it’s like a big networking event. Only, at this event, everyone is both a sincere listener and a shark of a connector. How can I help you? And how can you help me? It’s rather enlightening.

During the few days when this atmosphere descends on Portland’s landscape, I find myself furiously scribbling notes. Exchanging business cards. Being excited for other people’s huge plans. These are people that want to serve others through their talents and gifts.

It’s not until I get home, rifling through my notes and the cards I’ve gathered, that I fully understand the impact the conference has had on me.

It’s not a place I visited to be static, living within my head—a churning silo. It’s always a place I can look back upon fondly, knowing the experience was dynamic and energizing.

And most importantly, a place that pushes me to be a better person: in life, in relationships, in leadership, and in the future of Authentic F&F.


This was originally posted in my digital agency’s journal late last month.

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