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My Reflections on World Domination Summit 2015

Main Photo by Armosa Studios

“Gee Brain, What do you want to do tonight?”

“Same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world.”

These words were ingrained in my head as a child. Pinky and the Brain was one of my favorite shows growing up. Each afternoon, I would watch intently as the two talking mice sought world domination.

At the time, it seemed like a silly idea. How could two mice possibly take over the world? Yet, they were always on the cusp of accomplishing something incredible.

Yes I know it’s a cartoon, but that doesn’t mean world domination is impossible. Nor does it mean it world domination is necessarily a bad thing.

Case in point, World Domination Summit. For the past four years, I heard grumblings about this conference. There were words about how great it was from every corner of the internet I visited. “It will change your life!”

Those are bold words. Could one conference really be good enough to have such a life changing impact? What is it about this event that has so many people talking? The most interesting thing is, those people may have undersold it! After attending World Domination Summit 2015, I can tell you this, there is no way to describe how wonderful the conference is, but I’ll give it a try anyways.

I arrived in Portland at 1 am on Friday morning after a few delayed flights and terminal changes. My weekend was not off to a great start. And that is the extent of my bad experiences during World Domination Summit.

World Domination Summit, WDS for short, officially kicked off at Friday night’s opening party, which I will get to shortly. But the festivities often happen away from the main events of WDS.

Day 1

Coming into the Summit, I had no idea what to expect. I had no pre-conceived notions, good or bad. One thing I signed up for, but did not know anything about, were the attendee run meetups. How good could meetups be if anyone could start them?

As I was walking around, looking for something to do, I stumbled upon my first meetup. It wasn’t the one I signed up for, but I thought I would give it a shot anyways. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had found the meetup for Authentic Relating Games.

Authentic Relating and Heroic Adventure

Authentic Relating and Heroic Adventure

Josh Barad leading the Hero’s Journey

Authentic Relating opens you up to people you may never have met before. It allows you to look within yourself and reflect on your life in a way that may feel uncomfortable. Yet, when you do it in the safe environment of the group, it feels natural. It gives you a whole new outlook on humanity and the people around you. It teaches presence and reflectiveness like nothing I’ve experienced before.

My particular experience was facilitated by the wonderful Krystal Brandt and Josh Barad. They did a great job of making sure everyone was comfortable in the experience and made it easy to open up to others. Like any good facilitators, they did not dominate the experience. They just allowed it to flow naturally.

I could go on for days talking about this experience, but this was just the beginning of my journey at WDS.

My second meetup experience was also facilitated by Josh Barad. In this meetup Josh showed us how we can all be heroes of our own journeys. We opened up about our lives, tangled ourselves in a web of bad childhood memories, and discovered how we can change the world through the Hero’s Journey. We even jammed out to the Circle of Life in celebration of Simba’s path through the Hero’s Journey.

These two meetups spearheaded by Josh helped set the perfect tone for the weekend. They allowed me to open myself up to the possibilities of the conference and showed me why I chose myself and flew across the country to attend this event.

Registration and Opening Party

After a few meetups, it was finally time to register for the event. This may seem like one of those mundane tasks you have to do, and it is, but it is also a great chance to meet people.

While sitting on the steps near the registration tent, one of the people I met happened to be an artist who wants to help people live intentionally and creatively. It just goes to show if you are willing to open up to people at conferences, you never know who you’ll meet.

After registration came the kickoff party. I had no idea what to expect there, but what I encountered was not your normal opening party. There were food trucks, a live band, dancing, and announcements for a scavenger hunt and a race to trade blocks of a wooden globe for something bigger/better.

It was also a great chance to meet some more people. This was a common theme throughout my experience at World Domination Summit. Everyone there was willing to embrace complete strangers about their aspirations and life goals. At most conferences, some people will mingle, but not at this level. It seems like everyone is up for a conversation.


World Domination Summit is known for their great speakers. This year’s speakers did not disappoint. Although it was not done intentionally, many of the speakers talked about pain and vulnerability. Talking about these emotions helped show me that opening up to people can be a strength not a weakness.

I won’t talk about every speaker that went on stage, but I will talk about those who impacted me the most.

Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff is the New York Times bestselling author of five books including Start: Punch Fear in the Face and Do Work that Matters.

Having Jon Acuff as the opening speaker was a stroke of genius. He was funny, insightful, and gave some great advice. He talked about our perceived lack of time, being distracted by shiny new things, and wanting everyone to like us. But I think the most important point that he made was being true to your own voice. Don’t try to be the next Tim Ferriss or Jon Acuff. Be yourself.

Brad Montague and Kid President

If you have never seen the Kid President videos, do yourself a favor and watch them now. I’ll be waiting.

Now that you’ve done that, you’ll understand what a great presence the young president has. What is often overlooked is the influence Brad Montague has on these videos. Brad created Kid President with his young brother-in-law, and gave a talk about its creation. In it he talked about how the lessons we learned as kids can help make the world a better place.

Afterwards, they had a Q&A session, where Kid President gave some wonderful advice with the help of Brad.

Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes is a former pro football player and the man behind a multi-million dollar business. He has been a virtual mentor of mine and hosts the fantastic School of Greatness podcast.

He gave one of the most powerful speeches I’ve seen in a long time. In it, he talked about the Myth of Masculinity.

Growing up, Lewis wanted to be like Captain America, the shining example of what it means to be a man. He believed in all the things society tells us about being a man: doing whatever it takes, being strong, being good in bed, and determining your worth from money and achievements.

He contrasted that image with a few key events that occurred in his life. The fight he had on a basketball court where he almost killed a man, the return of his older brother from prison and not embracing the moment, and the one that was holding him back for much of his life: being raped as a boy.

Being open and honest about these events showed that we need to tear down the myths of masculinity and embrace what it means to be human.

Jeremy Cowart

Jeremy Cowart was named “the most influential photographer on the internet” by the Huffington Post. He is best known for his photos of celebrities and musicians, but he also spends a lot of time on humanitarian projects.

His talk was one of the most visually stunning presentations I’ve ever seen on a stage. It showed off his skill as an artist and as a storyteller.

When Jeremy was growing up, he felt like an average kid. He didn’t do anything particularly well. In fact, he had incredibly low scores on his aptitude tests. He felt like he couldn’t do anything. Until he found drawing.

From there, he went on to work at multiple ad agencies. But it wasn’t until he found his true calling as a photographer that things took off. He got jobs taking photos of celebrities and musicians.

The most powerful part of Jeremy’s speech, however, came when he talked about the humanitarian projects he became involved in. He started giving photos to people in need. He brought together murderers and the families of the people they killed, so the killers could be forgiven. And, after the tragic death of his brother, he started a site that teaches everything he knows, so his kids would always be able to see their father’s legacy.

Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers created CD Baby which became the largest seller of independent music online. In 2008 he sold CD Baby for $22 million and gave the the proceeds to a charitable trust for music education.

Derek was the perfect person to close off the wonderful set of speakers at World Domination Summit. He mixed humor and wonderful insights into his talk, which was a relief from the heavy emotions felt throughout the weekend.

If you could condense his speech into one idea, it would be keep it simple. In honor of this idea, I will keep this short.

Pursue the things that resonate with you. Commit to solving problems, not having the answer to the problem. And be so remarkable that people will tell their friends.

Other Things

Along with all the wonderful speakers, there were also other things that made World Domination Summit special. Here are some that stood out to me.

World Records

The first official day of World Domination Summit started by trying to break another world record. This time, it was for the longest high five train. I’m not sure if we broke it, but it just goes to show the ambition of the WDS team. They sought out to break five world records at the event, and I know for sure they broke at least one, the most people eating breakfast in bed.


There were a ton of great meetups people could attend throughout WDS weekend. There was everything from a group showing teenagers alternatives to college to morning meditation or yoga. The best part about these meetups is, they were all hosted by the attendees of the conference. You didn’t have to be an expert to host one, you just had to be willing to organize it. The only problem was, there wasn’t enough time to attend them all!

There were a few meetups that I attended that stood out to me.

The first was a meetup for artists hosted by someone who wasn’t even officially part of the conference: Cory Huff. Cory was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to bring artists of all kinds together for a nice dinner. I got to speak to a bunch of different artists and see where they were within their own journeys. It was a wonderful and enlightening experience.

The second meetup was a late night gathering for people on the east coast, west coast, and everyone in-between. This meetup took place at a bar, where everyone could loosen up and talk like normal human beings. Except this is WDS, so every conversation I had revolved around the great projects people were working on. It is a nice change to talk about things people are passionate about instead of your average bar conversations.

The last meetup that stood out to me was for helping creatives get unstuck, hosted by Betsey Biggs. Each person in the group was able to share what their creative goals were. Then we filled out a worksheet that helped clarify our goal and how we could accomplish them. Although we didn’t finish the sheet, it allowed us to explore our ideas more in depth and hear what other creative people were working on.

Portland Experience

After the first set of speakers at World Domination Summit, they held the Portland Experience outside of the main venue. Instead of trying to explore Portland in the short amount of time between sessions, the Portland Experience brought Portland to you. They had food trucks and beer/wine stations roped off for all attendees, and gave each person five tokens to try out different things. It was a wonderful way to experience some of the eats of Portland without going very far. As with everything at WDS, it was also a great way to mingle with other attendees.

Closing Party

The closing party was definitely one to remember. People were dressed in white so you could play with sand that colored your shirts. There was great music, dancing, drink stations, and even a free photo booth. Some of the speakers from the event were also there to celebrate.

I can’t end this without another mention of two more world record attempts. This time, it was for the most candles blown out and the most cupcakes eaten at the same time.

Overall, it was a great way to wrap up such a wonderful event.

The People

This was probably my favorite part of World Domination Summit. The speakers were awesome. The meetups were valuable. The small events were entertaining. But it was the people that made the experience so great.

I can’t name all the people I met there, but I will give a shout out to a few. There was:

These words cannot even begin to explain how great of an experience World Domination Summit was. If I can give any advice to people who are thinking of going to next year’s WDS, I have three words: just do it. Who knows, you might help take over the world.

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