WDS 2013: A Partial (and Impartial) Recap

We did it! Ten days ago, nearly 3,000 people descended on Portland for the third annual World Domination Summit.

Everyone asks what WDS is, and here’s what I usually say as a brief answer:

WDS is an annual gathering of creative, unconventional people from all over the world.

This brief answer doesn’t tell the whole story, and the reality is that WDS now means lots of different things to many different people.

In this post, I thought I’d share a selection of the many posts that attendees have been publishing since last weekend’s big adventure. More continue to be published every day, so this list is incomplete by nature. For those who want to read more, simply follow the links at the bottom and you should come across a real-time encyclopedia of different experiences.

For me, one lesson from the weekend looms large over the others:

The team did such a fantastic job!

Don’t get me wrong—WDS has always been a team effort. This year, though, the team members stepped up in a way I had never seen before. People ran with their own projects and assumed ownership over them, fixing problems and creating something much more substantial and complex than we’ve ever done before.

It made me very happy and very grateful.

Our big rebranding roll-out (read more here) was overseen by Tsilli Pines. Many of the gift bag items we produced this year were completely custom, and much of it was made by local Portland businesses.

The World Float was a success in large part because of Tyler Tervooren, our Adventure Czar. Until the final hour, we honestly weren’t sure we could get more than 540 people in the water… but we did.


This year’s Unconventional Race, which featured attendees running all over town to compete for prizes and fame, worked very well thanks to our three “racemasters”: Tyler, Sean Ogle, and Nicky Hajal (our resident genius who also built the mobile platform that attendees use to check their schedules and connect with one another).

I was very grateful to Isaac Watson, a new team member who helped us coordinate our many tech requirements, and Shannon Goffe, a professional stage manager who took leadership in calling the show for the stage crew of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Our team Fixer, Jolie Guillebeau, and our team Magician, Michelle Jones (too busy making magic to have a website), ran a highly professional show.

Our Speaker Wrangler, J.D. Roth, ensured that every single speaker was present for tech rehearsal the day before we began—no small accomplishment!

I could go on for a while. The short version is that I’m extremely grateful to the team, the 80+ volunteer Ambassadors, and all our attendees.

WDS is about creating shared experiences and encouraging people to unite in community, adventure, and service. Before the big event we weren’t sure if we could cultivate these values in such a large group, but thanks to a lot of effort by a lot of people, we’re feeling good.

Scholarships for Real Life

At the end of WDS 2012, we gave each attendee an envelope with $100 and encouraged them to invest the funds in a project of their choice. This year, I told everyone several times that there would be no $100 (“We thought about giving away $1 for a harder challenge!”) and indeed there wasn’t.

However, we did have a special moment with everyone before dismissing for the closing party.

We had arranged with the caterers to bring out sparkling cider for everyone in the audience while I explained more about WDS. The first year we operated as an “accidental non-profit”—meaning we lost a lot of money. The second year we invested all our profits (and more) in attendees as they left the building.

This year, we’re continuing the tradition of not making money from WDS, but in a different way. We’re creating a foundation that will provide “Scholarships for Real Life,” a series of small grants that will help people to pursue a dream that also improves the state of the world.

This week I’ll be depositing $100,000 (the same amount we gave last year in cash) into a bank account that will be overseen by a select group of trustees. The trustees include several team members, alumni speakers, and attendees. This group will be publishing criteria, applications, and eventually decisions on how distributions from the fund are made.

Once we get things set up, I’ll have a future post that explains more about how it works.

A Quick Note on the Future

A lot of people have asked that we produce WDS elsewhere or somehow create a model for people to host similar events. Others have asked that we do more to engage with an online audience, so that people who can’t attend can still participate.

These aren’t bad suggestions by any means, but we also try to pay attention to what we’re good at. After three years, we feel fairly confident in the process we’ve built. You never know about the future, but for now we’re keeping WDS as an annual event that happens in Portland every summer.

Most of our team members are volunteers who have other projects that they work on during the year. We’ve learned a lot about professionalizing certain tasks (and we hope to improve further!) but we want to continue producing this event here in our home city without going elsewhere.

Later in the fall we’ll have ticket sales for next year’s event. For now, we’re all recovering. I’m getting back to my book manuscript and planning a trip to Asia for a few days of solitude.

Hope you all are doing well! Check out the recaps below.

Comments here.



A First Look at Attendee Recaps

  • Amanda Abella has insight on vulnerability and connections.
  • Alexis Grant talks about when amazing becomes the normal.
  • Allison Brewer let go of her list making and enjoyed a weekend of dreaming.
  • Barrett Brooks finally got his Bollywood on, and wrote a great post about it.
  • Benny Hsu says “WDS makes you realize that your dreams aren’t crazy. You’re only crazy if you don’t act on them.”
  • Beth Buelow describes the feeling of invisibility vs. invincibility.
  • Bo Cordle confesses that he almost missed the chance to scratch #1 off his bucket list.
  • Breanne Dyck talks about casting out fear.
  • Brian Shea came up with 13 lessons from WDS 2013.
  • Cory Huff explains that WDS is about the why.
  • David Harkins looks for the magic of self-knowledge at WDS.
  • Erin McNaughton describes Portland as a mecca for superheroes.
  • Etsuko Tsukagoshi came all the way from Japan– 3 years in a row!
  • J.D. Roth offers a backstage perspective.
  • Jackie Dotson describes how WDS is about relationships.
  • Jim Hopkinson danced like there was no one watching.
  • Jolby shows us the results of their illustration work.
  • Joanna Powell Colbert encourages you to stop waiting to live your extraordinary life.
  • Jody MacDonald ate ice cream for breakfast and described her weekend with joy.
  • Joseph Peterson explains that the road to World Domination is paved with good friends.
  • Liz Seda is planning world domination one hug at a time.
  • Laura Simms had her exquisite moment when she got home from WDS.
  • Louise Wo talks about the beautiful aftermath from WDS.
  • Mary Beth Leisen has nine great tips from lessons she learned at WDS.
  • Matt Chevrount defines the new normal.
  • Michelle Ward discovers the rebirth of her dreams.
  • Mindy Crary talks about the takeaways from WDS and how they relate to money.
  • Mo Nishiyama describes finding his tribe.
  • Nate Cooper dominates his Fear of Missing Out.
  • Nazrin Murphie helps a new friend and finds her own freedom.
  • Nicole Foo says World Domination “is a pretty simple task, and somebody’s got to do it.”
  • Rebecca Beaton asks what you are doing to dominate the world.
  • Rob Young talks about his 90 seconds of fame on stage.
  • Sara Schneider defined her dream on day one.
  • Scout Books tell the story of our books.
  • Scott Dinsmore managed to come up with 52 takeaways from WDS.
  • Scott McMurren recommits to his community.
  • Steve Strother pushed his way past his comfort zone.
  • Stormy Sweitzer talks about the importance of connecting “in real life.”
  • Tania Desa acknowledges that World Domination is possible.
  • Todd Henry tells how powerful things happen when like minded people get together.
  • Yukari Peerless finally gave the TSA agent a decent answer.


Images: Armosa Studios

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  • Joseph Ratliff says:

    Nicely done Chris, the event is getting bigger than you… and that’s a good thing.

  • steve garfield says:

    Thanks for the recaps.

    I made a couple of videos:

    World Domination Summit Bollywood Dance Party 2013 [1:22]

    Also, loved Voodoo Doughnut Portland Oregon 9:52]


  • Caelan Huntress says:

    Incredible event, Chris! This was my first year, and I am locked in from here on out.

    Major props to your army of volunteers. They really rocked it.

    If you keep scaling up at this pace, year after year, before too long we’ll be meeting on the Moon.

  • John Spinhirne says:

    WDS 2013 was my first WDS and it was amazing. It almost didn’t end up that way, by Saturday night I was feeling over whelmed and my introversion pulled me deep into a hole. So far down I walked off the river cruise before it set sail. I spent Saturday evening writing & thinking about everything from WDS and something a friend told me a few months ago. “To stop waiting for things to happen and make it happen!” So Sunday, I got up and MADE things happen. I told my story to people and was accepted. I was even told by someone they were going to use parts of my plan for themselves. I feel my life has a new direction and momentum; a new courage to make things happen.

    Thank you Chris and everyone that worked and attended WDS, you have changed my life. I have a ways to go still, but I am further than I was before July 5th, 2013.

  • Alexis Grant says:

    Such an awesome time. Thanks for including my post in the roundup! Already psyched for next year 🙂

  • Mary Beth Leisen says:

    What an unforgettable experience, Chris – and thank you so much for mentioning my blog post in your round-up. It made my week! I have my tickets for next year and am already looking forward to it. Seriously life-changing. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

  • Stormy @Maoomba says:

    Chris, thank you for including my post in your round up! I’ve been wanting to attend WDS since it started and finally did so this year for the first time. I appreciate the opportunity to build community and am happy to say I connected with a woman from my home town while in Portland who I just had lunch with “in real life” today. You are a gracious host. Thank you for inviting us to your table!

  • Erin says:

    Scholarships for Real Life is such an amazing idea! I love the idea of seed funding to make things happen. Amazing and so generous.

  • Kimmy @ AfterGlobe says:

    Looks like it all came together wonderfully. I can’t wait to be able to attend next year.

  • Brooke says:

    OK, since a lot of the WDS crowd will be reading this, I’ll go out on a limb, here, and take a risk: I’ve been looking for a filmmaker (documentary) to help me (no film experience, a mere science teacher) with a project–in the least, advisory; but ideally, to do the filming and crew.
    I have MS and luckily have been able to stay very active. There are many similar to me who still run, cycle, hike… etc.
    Unfortunately, the media dwells on the worst cases, and the general public associates us with extreme disability as a result.
    Therefore, I’d love to make a documentary profiling other active MS patients like me, to increase awareness that the disease is not a death sentence. I’ve tried contacting local filmmakers (Seattle) with no response… none of my personal connections have gotten me anywhere… I’m hoping this group has a few interested folks? Thanks.

  • Justin McClelland says:

    Great post roundoup. Looks like I have some reading to do. And I appreciate the transparency regarding future WDS plans, I really think that is what sets this conference/crowd apart from the rest. I hope to make it in 2014 as well.

  • LarryB says:

    Congratulations, Chris – and great idea with the Scholarships for Real Life. I look forward to watching what you do with it, and what you do next.

  • Stu McLaren says:

    It was a fantastic event Chris and a HUGE kudos to you and your team for bringing together such an incredible group of people. The content was excellent, the event itself was a blast and my wife and I met some friends I’m sure we’ll have for a lifetime.

    (and we already booked our tickets for next year!)

  • Amanda Abella says:

    That was my first WDS and I had an AMAZING time! Thanks for putting on such an awesome event! And thanks for including my recap in the round-up 🙂

  • Caroline Frenette says:

    Looks like an amazing event! I’m looking forward to joining you next time!

  • catherine winter says:

    Here me now world, I WILL attend the 2014 WDS.

  • Nina Grenningloh Reyes says:

    Thank you Chris and all the volunteers for putting on another amazing event in beautiful Portland! I’ve been to all 3 WDS’s and it just keeps getting better and better – so kudos to you for staying the course and sticking to the three WDS pillars of community, adventure and service. WDS 2013 rocked my socks off! Can’t wait for round #4 in 2014!

  • Benny says:

    Thank you for adding me to the list of recaps. It was my first WDS, and absolutely loved it. Like I said in my recap, you were hilarious on stage. Doing a comedy tour next? 🙂

    And it was a pleasure to meet your brother Ken!

  • Navid Moazzez says:

    This is awesome Chris, and WDS just keeps gettting bigger and bigger for every year! I coudln’t make it to Portland and WDS 2013 this year, but I will attend WDS 2014 for sure. I already made plans to travel all the way from Sweden to Portland next year, it will be an epic journey!

  • Akinsola says:

    WDS 2014 watch out for me, I hope I would get to make it to portland

  • Lynn Daue says:

    I sincerely hope that the absolutely-freakin’-amazing becomes normal by next summer, because being in the presence of so many inspired, creative people was more overwhelming than I expected! Here’s the following our dreams, y’all …

  • Brett says:

    So bummed that I missed it. In fact I missed last years too and I’m starting to get jealous. I am putting 2014 on my calendar!!!

  • Joshua Sheats says:

    Love, love, love what you guys are doing, Chris. Keep up the good work. I hope this thing grows and grows and grows. Seems to me, however, that you should just encourage other people to start their own awesome movements rather than create another WDS-x…WDS is your thing. Keep it and keep on inspiring other people to do their thing.

  • Rob Young says:

    Just as awesome as last year Chris, Thanks for altering my world view once again.

  • Jess Greene says:

    Here is the story of my post-WDS attempt to summit Mt. Hood:
    🙂 Thanks for everything, Chris!

  • Smart Children says:

    Wow! Such a successful event. How I wish I can be present to enjoy myself there! I love the outfit of Darren. He’s so cute!

  • Mudassir Iftikhar says:

    sound pretty good and i like it

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  • Emma says:

    The World Float was a success in large part because of Tyler Tervooren, our Adventure Czar. Until the final hour, we honestly weren’t sure we could get more than 540 people in the water… but we did.

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