For the past two summers I have attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, hosted by Chris Guillebeau and his fabulous team of volunteers. This conference is about answering the question--how do you live a remarkable life in an unconventional world? WDS has three core values: Community, Adventure, and Service. Last year I ventured by myself to Portland for the first time; I enjoyed myself so much I brought my husband this year. WDS has been held with approximately 500, 1000, 3000 attendees for each of its three years in existence. Attendees come from all over the world, are a range of ages, and have a variety of work experiences: artists, entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers, life coaches, and even college professors. Practically everyone can be found on-line. I have been able to meet many people face-to-face that I have only known virtually. And, of course, I've met people at WDS with whom I've kept in touch on-line after the conference was over.
The one thing that WDS does so well is PLAY. That's right. WDS is downright fun. Portland--Keep Portland Weird--is just the place to host this event. Artsy fartsy, ecofriendly, put-a-bird-on-it, bicycle capital of the world Portland. The weather is gorgeous in July. No rain, sunny, and highs in the low 80s.
This year WDS began with an opening party on Friday night in which they rented out the entire Oregon Zoo. (I was disappointed the zoo had no cranes, but we did see a baby elephant. I digress.) A wild, creatively dressed, fun-loving marching band complete with members on stilts called March Fourth entertained the crowd. There was food and drink, a mechanical bull to ride, skeeball to play, and a few thousand people hanging out enjoying the evening.
The next morning as we entered the theatre for the first speaker the volunteer Ambassadors formed a double line and greeted everyone with high fives. Last year I remember there was upbeat music playing in the theatre as we waited for the first round of speakers to begin. The feeling that was created, an "Air of Excitement," reminds me of one of the foundational principles of The Container Store where I worked in the '90s. This feeling pulls you in. You want to be a part of something greater than yourself.
Both years DJ Prashant lead the crowd in Bollywood dancing during the closing party. It's the best line dancing you could ever experience. And such good exercise! The music is like that from the popular movie Slumdog Millionaire. Jai ho! More fun, more play, and even better because it's done in a Community of a few thousand friends. In the photo to the right my husband is dancing to a song led by DJ Prashant. I know this guy is good if he could get him up and moving! And my hubby is even smiling.
WDS is definitely full of adventure. One example is the world record breaking 620 people who floated in a human chain along the Willamette River in Portland to kick off the WDS weekend. I admit I didn't participate. Too cold for me. My husband and I had our own adventures traipsing around downtown Portland. Adventures are often playful. One other example is called the Unconventional Race. Attendees have several, unusual tasks to complete throughout the weekend of WDS. The one with the most completed tasks wins. So fun to join in by seeing their photos via Instagram. (See my favorite photo from a tasks here. That guy sure got into the spirit of play and adventure! His paper reads "WDS 2013.")
One of my favorite parts of WDS are the stories from the attendees themselves, so many of which are full of adventure. One can't help but be inspired. Life IS the greatest adventure, isn't it?
To close this year's WDS before the party commenced, Chris surprised everyone with a toast. Not champagne or even beer, but sparkling cider. We all played along. The sounds of so many glasses clinking together. (In the photo above I'm in the front row at the very left in the gray shirt and that's me again, holding my champagne glass on the left.)
If you truly want to create a sustainable Community, you need to create an adventurous experience where people can gather in person, face-to-face, and share ideas and one another's company. What I know is that play brings people together and keeps them that way.
Finally, WDS was/is so inspiring. The tears in my eyes came when Steven Schalchlin shared his story, played the piano, and sang along with a portion of the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. He recently posted about his experience here. Serious goosebumps.
***The photo above as well as all of these seen in this post are by Armosa Studios. You can see more photos from WDS 2013 on Chris Guillebeau's Flickr photostream.