WDS 2015: Less Big Top, More Sideshow


As I sit to write down my observations and thoughts and experiences of World Domination Summit (WDS) 2015, I find it hard not to compare this year’s experience with last year’s. I didn’t expect them to be the same, yet I’m somewhat surprised by the differences.

Last year was about being part of something big. Of being connected, if loosely, to a broad community, a larger movement. Of being part of an extended global family, as AJ Jacobs put it, or of being part of a world record (my first), or of engaging in inspiring talk and learning sessions with thousands of others who share the same values of adventure, community, and service.

But this year’s event, for me, was smaller. It was less about the large things that went on, and more about the individual connections I made, or strengthened, or renewed.

Even the speakers this year were quieter, more introspective, more personal. Sure, there was inspiration, but there was also shared pain, personal tragedy, struggle. I heard several people reference this as “the Crying WDS” and they weren’t wrong. I did my share (okay, maybe more than my share… thanks to everyone who shared their tissues…)

This year’s event was less about the “big top” of WDS than it was about the “sideshow”—all of the smaller events and conversations and meetups that created a more personal connection for me than the main stage speakers did. My friend Ellen Watkins on the main stage, sharing her 52 in 52 and the rebirth of her art. Or my friend Mike Goncalves’s Entrepreneur Workout Sunday afternoon in the park, as 40 of us sweated and strained in the heat (I carried the sore muscles from that half-hour for the next three days…).

And the highlight for me was the RYPL/Live Your Legend pre-party on Friday. It was the culmination of weeks of preparation, planning and coordination for me, with co-hosts Leah and Naz of RYPL, and Scott of Live Your Legend (whose World Tour kept him away from WDS this year), to make sure we created an event that served both communities well, even when one of our leaders wasn’t present. We carried the LYL torch for him, and for everyone else in the LYL and RYPL communities who couldn’t make it to WDS this year. Our event was among the best of the weekend (I attest humbly), because it wasn’t about the leaders of the community, it was about the community itself—the individuals who make it up—doing their own great work, and growing and becoming leaders themselves. (For a taste of what I mean, check out this amazing video put together by friend Troy Young.)

I think that was for me the essence of the whole event this year. It was less about awe and hero worship and inspiration than it was about doing the work and all the struggle and pain and joy that goes with it—whether that work is creating your art, or building your community, or being in service and helping others achieve their own dreams.

Chris announced that the 2016 WDS will be different. Only 1,000 tickets will be sold, instead of the 3,000 of the last several years. As Chris was explaining the change, he described the tickets as 500 for alumni, and 500 for new attendees. The 500 alumni tickets were sold out before the end of Sunday—within hours of that announcement. Now I fear that the 500 remaining tickets will go just as quickly, before the new attendees even have a chance to find out if WDS is what they need.

So I’ve decided that I’m not buying a WDS ticket for next year. I’m leaving my space open for someone new to experience the weekend, to become part of this community, to learn and grow and become inspired to do their own great work.

Not that I won’t be in Portland that weekend (I will). Not that I won’t experience WDS in some fashion (I will). I will be there, in Portland. I will be connecting with that community again, but in some new and different way. This year has taught me that I no longer want to be just a consumer of inspiration, but a creator of it.

I don’t know what yet, but I want to do something, build something—along with my WDS friends and others—to create a powerful and moving, both grand and intimate, WDS experience for the new folks who’ll attend next year.


I’m curious: If you attended WDS this year (and previous years), would you consider giving up your ticket so that someone new can attend? Please share why or why not in the comments.


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[photo courtesy of Peta Hopkins (cc)]


5 thoughts on “WDS 2015: Less Big Top, More Sideshow

  1. James Michael Taylor

    Great recap sir! As you say, the torch of inspiration has been passed from leader to learner and now from learner turned leader to the next class. This kind of mentality has been crucial in helping me get my nose out of books and blogs and my fingers on the keys, hoping to give back some of what I’ve been blessed to learn over the years.

  2. Ellen

    Thank you for the shout out! It made my day. 🙂
    I agree with you. It was the connections that made it special. You are at the top of that list. The LYL/RYPL meeting was excellent and being a part of that evolution is something special for sure.
    Your plan to share your ticket for others is interesting indeed and gives me thought about it. I’d love to create something with you next year. Maybe there’s a way to collaborate with your writing and my art? 🙂

  3. Pingback: What Happened at WDS 2015? Unfiltered Attendee Reviews, Round II : The Art of Non-Conformity

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