My WDS 2011 Experience

Lots of people have written terrific reviews of the first ever Art of Non-Conformity World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, OR. I thought I’d share a personal experience.

October 2010. I leave the Art of Non-Conformity book-tour/meet-up energized, having spent the evening talking with a bunch of creative people who live life on their own terms. Even if it’s hard, even if it makes them different. I’m glowing with affirmation, possibility, and joy.

A few days later. All joy, possibility, and optimism is sucked out of me when I learn that my grandmother has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Just two days before I’m to spend a couple weeks visiting her.

I’m crushed. There are so many things I miss about my grandmother. She was my rock. My home. My biggest fan.

While sorting through the tings in her house one day it hits me that my grandmother held a very special role in my life: she was one of the very few people I shared my crazy ideas with.

I come up with crazy travel/business/lifestyle ideas on a daily basis. Some I act on, others I don’t. Most people never hear about my crazy ideas because I’ve always been very careful about sharing the crazy with others.

My grandmother always rooted for my crazy ideas. In doing so, she made me feel powerful, and less…well, crazy. I remember, for example…

When I was 12 and decided to change my name, my grandmother brainstormed ideas with me (she lobbied for Ginger, I chose Callie).

When I announced my intention to spend a year of high school as an exchange student in Germany, she replied with “what a fabulous adventure you’re going to have!”

When I moved to Germany after college to teach English with a monkey gorilla-on-my-back amount of student loans coming due and only one vague job prospect, she told me she had every confidence I’d make it work. (I did.)

When I talked my husband into quitting his job to travel abroad for few months and then move to a new state, she cheered us on. Both times.

Without my grandmother’s unfailing optimism and encouragement, I’m not sure I would have been able to withstand the pessimists, the nay-sayers, and the worry-worts in my life.

When she died, I wondered – who I would share my crazy ideas with now?

June 2011. The Art of Non-Conformity’s World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon (a 2-day gathering of bloggers, entrepreneurs, world travelers, artists, etc). It’s the morning of day 2. The entire group is in a keynote session.

That's me in the black and white shirt. I'm probably crying.

The speakers ask us to think about a time when we survived uncertainty and came out of it more awesome than before (something like that).

I’m flipping through the files in my brain, searching for an appropriate story to share, when out of nowhere I’m overcome by a tidal wave of emotion.

In 1 second I go from let’s see, I could share this story or that story or maybe this one…to sudden deep sadness…and then to an instant coalescence of experiences, gratitude, and realization. I feel things more than I think things, but here’s generally what I was thinking:

I’m pretty confident nowadays that things will work out, no matter the uncertainty I find myself in. How did I develop this confidence? My grandmother. Man, it sucks that she’s gone. There are so many things I want to tell her, share with her. I miss her support and encouragement so much…wait…you know, I’m at WDS…I’m sitting in a room of 500+ people who also get crazy ideas on a daily basis. Hmmm…there are 500 people who get the crazy. Maybe I’m not alone. I. am. not. alone!

I’m overcome with gratitude and release with this sweet realization.

And then, in an extremely uncharacteristic move,  I burst out crying.

While talking with Jonathan, a really great guy who’d partnered up with me for several of that morning’s activities.

I was mortified. He probably was too.

(Sorry, Jonathan!)


Yeah. The speakers were inspiring, everyone I talked to was interesting and doing really awesome envy-educing things, and there was this electric understanding and support of the crazy. And it took place in Portland, Oregon, just 2 hours from where I grew up, from where I spent many hours in coffee shops, on the porch, and curled up by the wood stove sharing my crazy ideas with my beloved grandmother.

Thanks to Chris and his team for putting on such a well-organized and inspiring event. (I bet they never expected that WDS would be a mechanism for helping someone cope with grief.) Aaron and I are looking forward to 2012.

Want to get a sense of what WDS was like? Watch this video. Aaron and I are both in it: I’m knitting, Aaron is standing next to a food cart, and towards the end I’m sitting on the edge of my seat listening intently to Jonathan Fields.

World Domination Summit 2011 from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.

If you can’t play the video, click on the link above.

Or click here to read more about the summit. FYI – the 2011 conference sold out 5 months early and had a wait-list of 800 people. They’re letting nearly twice as many people attend in 2012, but it will no doubt sell out even more quickly. The first wave of registration begins tomorrow.

Photo/video credit: Armosa Studios