WTF is WDS

The World Domination Summit was last weekend, and it rocked!! While I was tweeting about all the fun experiences and world records, though, I was getting a lot of confused replies from my readers… friends, cowokers… parents…… What the heck is a World Domination Summit!?

A Bit About Me

@angelamleick

Hi, I’m Jam. Just for some context, I’m a mechanical engineer / comicker from Vancouver, BC. I’d never been to WDS before and I decided to take a chance on something different, because I wanted to meet some cool new people. I’m pretty introverted, but I’ve written a few books, traveled a bunch and I’ve made what I feel are some fairly unconventional choices in my life. I’m passionate about engineering, sustainability and comics.


They threw a World Domination Summit and nobody told me!?!!?

WDS Closing party — credit to the WDS media team

Listen, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but if you want to prevent such vital information from passing you by again, you should be reading The Art of Non Conformity Blog. Chris is on a brief and necessary hiatus, but he’ll be back soon — you should use the opportunity to read some of his past work. All of his books are great, but the Art of Non Conformity and a Brief Guide to World Domination are the two pieces that have become the rallying cry for a global group of unconvential thinkers. The World Domination Summit was designed to bring this group of leaders, adventurers, and entrepreneurs together. We’re people who want to change the world!

There’s a LOT of info out there about WDS that you can find. Obviously there’s the event page and a quick google search will take you to five years of recaps. Most of the past talks are online, too, but even with all of this info I didn’t really *get* what this conference was all about. That’s why I decided to write this post — to try and explain what WDS really is for “someone like me”.
And I’m going to try my best to describe it in my native language, which is Steven Universe gifs. I mean… it seems appropriate, given all the crying.

Steven Universe

1. These guys have *definitely* got their act together.

Steven Universe

I’ve been to a large number of conventions and conferences of all sizes — from tiny indie meetups to events that conquer cities, and this is among the best-run shows I’ve ever attended. I was so impressed — all of the volunteers were enthusiastic and knew what was going on, everything was designed down to the letter. For example — many of us at the artist meetup were admiring the printing and paper quality used on the convention program — something that’s often a footnote of the planning! Everything ran smoothly and on-time. Given that there were 3000 attendees, with attendee-organized meetup sessions happening all over the city, and five world records set in three days — it’s no small feat! WDS is a logistical wonder to behold and that deserves accolades in it of itself.

Steven Universe

This year was the debut for the WDS app and that hugely enhanced the experience for me. Not only was there a schedule to keep track of all of your meetups (with built in maps — THANK YOU), but there was a private twitter-like feed. It was easy to ask questions (did anyone catch the name of that book the speaker mentioned for like a second?) and you’d quickly get replies! It was a really nice system for an introvert like me. I also liked the location tracker — based on your current location, it would recommend good restaurants nearby, and tell you how many attendees were currently there!

2. You don’t go to WDS for the speakers.

Steven Universe

All of the speakers are phenomenal. They’re inspiring and I can’t think of a single one that I tuned out for. But… the speakers are the anchor for the conference, not the point. The *point* is that every single attendee is an open, friendly, unconventional thinker and I was continuously impressed by the people I was meeting. With 3000 attendees, there are queues everywhere… but every queue was a cocktail party with the most interesting people you’ve ever met!

Steven Universe

In general, attendees fell into four “types”:

  • “Personalities” — bloggers, writers, or social-media types who blog with some kind of mission
  • “Coaches” — motivational speakers, spiritualists, youth leaders or activists
  • “Adventurers” — people who live a radically sustainable/tiny house lifestyle, freelance remotely from Cambodia, or regularly take massive travel-adventures.
  • Those who are interested in becoming one of the former categories, or suit multiple categories.

You meet these people randomly, but the attendee-organized meetups are really key to the experience. Anyone can start a meetup, and people with common interests will rally together to connect. I attended meetups for artists, burners, writers, people passionate about sustainability, business… a really wide variety and it was only a small sample of what was available!

It was really wild to look people up after the show. Oh, this guy who I spent two hours discussing craft beer with? He’s some kind of spiritual guru or something, that’s craaazy! And I didn’t realize this guy was some silicon-valley tech mogul… riiight I spent twenty minutes gushing to him about Steven Universe….. Smooth, Jam. Smooooooth……..

Steven Universe

It was actually really nice how everyone checked their ego at the door. It would be easy for a group like this to devolve into “unconventionalier-than-thou” conversations, and to spend all our time trading SEO tips, but everyone was just really interested in each other, as people. It was really, really refreshing.

3. This is a very feeling-heavy conference.

I’m a thinker. I’m very analytical, and I’d rather spend my time discussing challenging ideas than challenging emotions. Ok, ok… I’m often described as an “ice queen”.

Steven Universe

But I do have feelings! I think emotions are very important, and it’s good to exercise your empathy muscles and stretch those boundaries. But I gotta tell ya… the keynote talks were extremely feeling-heavy. Emotional skills are heavily discounted in our culture and I 100% agree that we were learning vital skills that would prepare us for the world-changing work we were all setting out to do… but man. I learned by the end of day 3 that I definitely have a maximum capacity for the amount of feelings I can handle in a short timeframe. Lotta cryin’.

Steven Universe

4. It was totally worth it.

I was stressed about this event. I thought I would be too shy, but I had an amazing time in the end. What was remarkable to me was that despite being heavily introverted — I was still excited to talk to people after three whole days of just talking to people. It speaks volumes to the quality of the attendees and I left feeling very amped up and inspired by who I had met.

I didn’t get a ticket for next year, mostly because the window of opportunity was ever-so-brief and I don’t like making snap-decisions. If I am fated to attend next year, I’m certain I can make it happen, and I will definitely be thinking about it. For the time being, I’m excited to just digest what I’ve learned and continue to deepen the amazing connections I’ve forged through this experience. It was a wild week, and I’m very grateful I had the chance to experience it. Thanks everyone who helped make that happen.

Steven Universe

(…and thanks Steven Universe :) )