Untangling the Lessons Learned at WDS 2012

WDS 2012 Habitat for Humanity Build in PDX

Ah, the World Domination Summit.

Such an awkward name for what remains an incredibly un-awkward event. In kicking off this year’s conference, Chris Guillebeau joked about the fallout from choosing to name his summit in this way. Not only was there another WDS event using the same hashtag on the same weekend (the World Discipleship Summit in San Antonio) but people wrote on the Facebook group for the event that they were pulled aside for extra searches at the airport upon noting that they were headed to Portland for a domination meetup.

“So…you’re wearing leather onstage?” my brother quipped when I breathlessly announced that I was keynoting at WDS 2011.

“No” I said, shaking my head in what would be the first of many explanations to non-attendees “it’s not that kind of domination summit.”

 * * *

Really, WDS is unlike any other gathering I’ve attended.

WDS 2012 Newmark Theatre
Bird’s eye view of WDS 2012, (c) Armosa Studios

For example, you know it’s not your usual gathering when 20 minutes before the afternoon session is set to begin, people are already lined up outside the workshop rooms, waiting to be let in. I can’t think of any other conference I’ve been to where people would enthusiastically give up their lunch break to stand and lean against a wall in anticipation of an afternoon workshop.

The weekend kicked off with a sprawling opening party, replete with sumo wrestler suits, ping-pong tables outside the venue, “dunk-a-blogger” booth and food carts parked on both sides of the street. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the conference based on the over-the-top alternativeness of its opening night, or its outward-facing photos or vernacular.

Many of its attendees do act on their goals and are working on really fascinating projects aimed at helping others. The event cannot be classified into strict categories because so much of its value lies in the diversity of the speakers and workshops, spanning everything from charitable giving to fitness to psychology to storytelling to book writing. It also lies in the value of its attendees who ranged in age between 20 and 60, from 20 countries around the world. Participants represented a dizzying cross-section of people, all lucky enough to have lives that allowed them to travel to PDX and participate in WDS. (I don’t for a moment discount the privilege inherent in talking about an event of this sort – there’s no question that everyone who got here was fortunate enough to be born into and/or build themselves a life that allowed for it.)

The strength of WDS lies in the aggregate of its very tangible parts, and in the fierce desire to learn from others and by hearing their stories. Of course, it also requires that none of us take ourselves too seriously. Understandably, I can’t see a conference of lawyers doing this:

Sumo wrestling at opening party for WDS. (c) Armosa Studios 2012

So What is WDS?

At 1000 people, WDS 2012 is too large to be an “unconference” but really that’s the best characterization I can use as an umbrella term. A giant unconference built upon the pillars of community, service and adventure, one that encourages its attendees to ask the question posted by founder Guillebeau:

How do you live a remarkable life in an unconventional world?

The answers varied depending on the attendees, and the suggestions and notations varied depending on the keynote. There’s nothing congruous about each of the main stage speakers other than the general themes they’ve espoused; overall each speaker tackled those themes in different ways, seen through the lens of their own life stories and choices.

Across the board, however, similar themes did percolate to the surface, even if they were told in different ways. Namely that it takes hard work, there are no easy answers or shortcuts, and you must be comfortable with fear and the unknown to live life on your own terms. Nothing about this is new, but it was a relief to hear it again because many people thought the conference would be a fuzzy “you can do it” style of entitled self-help. As this screenshot from JD Roth notes, that fear was very real:

One person’s expectations of WDS. Photo courtesy of JD Roth.

It wasn’t full of BS last year, and at double the size, it wasn’t this year either. Instead, WDS used the tools of each speaker’s expertise, supplemented by the many (this year there were 80) workshops to get its messages across.  No one is saying their way is the right way, but merely that they hoped their lessons learned and their calls to action would resonate, inspire and make the audience want to go out and make the world suck less.

I’ve highlighted some of the lessons and talks that lingered most with me, but they are by no means an exhaustive refection of the weekend.

A full theatre for WDS 2012. (c) Armosa Studios 2012

On Vulnerability and Gratitude

Brene Brown opened the conference with an anchor keynote about vulnerability, joy and gratitude. The opening salvo of words was a startling one: your capacity for love cannot exceed your willingness to be brokenhearted and vulnerable. Instead of making her keynote about love and loss, however, she used this statement as a springboard for a series of other lessons learned, divulging more about her own struggles than she needed to in an effort to bring us all in. Among her lessons:

1. Gratitude and Joy > Scarcity: We live in a culture of “never enough” and there is only one way out of that scarcity. Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t abundance. Abundance doesn’t fix the problem of scarcity, and it doesn’t satisfy. Instead, the way out is “enoughness” – at some point, we all have to just say enough. What I’m doing is enough, what I’ve done is enough. So how does one get to “enough”? Per Brown, through gratitude. She characterized joy as one of the hardest emotions to embrace, because oftentimes we start wondering what will go wrong, when the other shoe will drop. In her words:

When we lose the capacity for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. You say to yourself “you can’t blindside me, vulnerability”. But it doesn’t work that way. It just squanders joy. There is no emotion harder to feel than joy because we’re afraid it’s going to be taken away. And the only way out of these anxious moments is to say to ourselves – time to practice gratitude.

I’ve certainly found myself worrying both generally and specifically. I wrote about this in the Things that Travel Doesn’t Fix, about how my brain was trained to sweat the small stuff, and unlearning this has been a struggle. I found Brown’s point really hit home as a result.

2. Creativity > Comparison: Creativity is there whether we use it or not, and the most important takeaway for me was the reminder that unused creativity isn’t benign, but rather converted into negativity. Instead of eking away, it often turns into anger or grief or resentment and jealousy. We are often taught around Grade 4 or 5 that creativity is not the answer (“why did you draw a 5-headed horse?” was her example of a teacher to a child in art class). Or, put differently:

When we start comparing how we create to others – even the process of creating –  we lose.

3. Getting to Vulnerable is the Hardest Part: Taking the risk to be vulnerable isn’t easy when the currency of measurement in our world is often how effectively you fit in to others’ expectations of you. Brown talked about the differences between fitting in and belonging (“belonging is different because when you don’t belong, shame does not result. But when you do, you are part of a group that really believes in something”), and about how the best way to be more comfortable with criticism is to put your head down and keep creating, keep contributing. Her overall message rang throughout, that to admit vulnerability is courage, that who you are will always trump who you think people want you to be.

This message threaded consistently within most of the keynotes: being comfortable in your own skin is a more powerful weapon against those who doubt you than you will ever realize.

Brene Brown anchor keynote at WDS 2012
Brene Brown anchor keynote at WDS 2012. (c) Armosa Studios 2012

On Fear and Confidence

Chris Brogan spoke after Brene, and spoke about fear, confidence and finding your “inner” superhero. I have to admit that reading Brogan’s work over the years, I didn’t connect with it very well. However his speech not only had everyone giving him a standing ovation, but proved to be an honest evaluation of his own life choices, and his mistakes. I really enjoyed it.

He opened up the keynote thusly:

The opposite of fear is not courage. Fear is part of courage. They are the mac and cheese of the world. Instead, fear is being willing to do stupid shit onstage.

From there, he launched into a series of lessons learned from superheros – what they do, how they are manifested in our world and what they mean.

Ceiling of the Newmark Theatre in Portland
Ceiling of the Newmark Theatre in Portland for WDS 2012

A sampler:

1. We need to learn to untangle from other people’s scripts: someone’s disappointment in you is often not about you, but you not acting in accordance with their expectations of you. We also need to untangle praise, not just disappointment – both are a manifestation of the other person’s reflections and often not of true value. His advice was to say thank you to both praise and disappointment, but to focus on making yourself better as a person outside of them.

2. Don’t settle. No one will be able to tell you what that means – everyone’s answers are different – but settling for less than you want is not the answer. To define what you want in life, Brogan suggested figuring out what you want to do to make the world better and what you want to mean to people. He illustrated this with superhero examples, but the general sentiment was to define the function of your life – i.e. not who you ‘say’ you are but what you are actually doing. What you say you are doing is not a lasting legacy. (This was reiterated in JD Roth’s great closing keynote, talking about how you first have to work on your own qualities and improve them before you can work to change the world.)

3. Embrace your weirdness: The weirder you are, the more successful you can be, per Brogan. Articulating a sense of responsibility, vulnerability and tenacity through strangeness goes a very long way. Understanding that we do not like people who are full of themselves is part of it, but the other part is the notion that you have to earn your following (not just expect it to appear or be rewarded to you) and embracing the quirky qualities that make you “you” is a good way to do so.

There Are No Shortcuts to Leveraging your Value

Both Chris Brogan and Cal Newport talked about the need for hard work, and in a world where some people expect the answers to appear without hard research and introspection, this was a refreshing message. (I  often get emails asking how to build a community of readers, to which I usually reply “write from the heart, care about everything you put online because it speaks to how people will see you and remember to give back, both to the world generally and to those who pay attention to your site”. The response to that is often “So…should I buy followers, or should I game site x’s algorithm?” No, you should not. Say no to shortcuts, say yes to efficiency.)

Newport’s characterization was slightly more technical:

You need to persist in the effort to get good at something. Sitting down in advance to figure out what you’re passionate about and then being disappointed when you try it and it doesn’t work out is a tragic mistake. Instead of following your passion, pick something that interests you and is going to give you interesting options, build it into a craft with hard work and then once you are skilled in that area, leverage it to prioritize the things that matter to you in life. This is the foundation for what can be a remarkable life.

Put another way, Newport stressed that he wasn’t telling us anyone can do whatever in life and be happy, but rather that the threshold to loving what we do might be more accessible than we think it is.

To unbox his speech further:

1. Get good at something that is rare and valuable, that the outside world values. This takes hard work, for which there are no shortcuts.

2. After you do this, leverage this skill for things that really matter to you (e.g. a lifestyle with more autonomy), allowing yourself to focus on the parts of that skill that truly matter, or convert that value into a part of your life you really care about. You cannot convert anything to values that matter to you unless you have first developed a skill, because you’ve got nothing to leverage.

3. What you do for your work might be a lot less important than you think. The general traits you leverage are more important than the work itself, as counterintuitive as that might appear.

Sunset over Portland on July 5
Sunset over Portland on July 5.

Solo Acts Never Win

Finally, the overarching message from every single speaker and workshop I attended was that solo acts never win. That building a community of people and collaborating with others is crucial to success and to making a difference, because none of us can really do it alone.  Of course we have to be judicious about who we partner with – their values should align with ours, and everyone on board needs to be equally committed to the cause – but the takeaway remained that learning from the people around us and their own life stories provides us with an incomparable advantage.

This message popped up again and again throughout the weekend, for good reason, including from friends Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market. Their keynote was graceful and full of great photos, teaching lessons learned while travelling as a couple around the world.

The sisterhood of the travelling longyi
The sisterhood of the travelling longyi, the Burmese skirt that travelled with each of us to Myanmar, one by one.
Me and Ambassador Bruny, Mr Bowtie extraordinaire!
Me and Mike Bruny reuniting after a year.

On Friendship and Giving Back

The note about community spirit and collaboration were especially important given that I was staying in a room of 15 other attendees, organized way back in December when the dates for the conference were finalized. I realized that it would be close to impossible to spend time with the people I met last year – it’s too hectic a weekend. So I decided to call a hostel and book out a room for 16, thinking it would be a good fix.

We had an Aussie, a Kiwi, 2 Canadians and 11 Americans and while we barely saw each other during the weekend, a weeklong stay in Portland meant that we were able to spend time together after the conference was over. Yes, we were in dorms and yes it was not so big on the quiet sleeping, though my above-my-bed bunkmate Nate Damm was a ninja at crawling into bed at night and never woke me once. One of the group (Nathan) made green smoothies for all of us in the morning, tiptoeing out at 6am to have the smoothies ready and name-tagged before our days began. We went out for group meals, picnics in the park and generally enjoyed hearing what plans were afoot for the coming year and how we were going to implement the lessons learned from WDS. A good part of what made my time in Portland so wonderful was hearing what my roommates had to say about their own lives and how they planned to change them.

Green smoothies for all
Green smoothies for all!

The week ended with a day of giving back  in the spirit of – say it with me now – community, service and adventure. We all piled into two cars (slight miscount resulted in 7 people in one of our cars, which was awkward at best) and headed up to 151st street for a Habitat for Humanity build day to cap off the week. We were divided into groups and put to task, spending the full day hammering, sawing wood and climbing up and down ladders to get the job done. Habitat PDX was curious about our WDS t-shirts, as well as our bizarre insistence on speaking in a Boston accent (I blame Boston natives Dave Ursillo & Steve Kamb for this one). We were sunburned, happy and slightly bruised after the long day.

WDS 2012 Habitat for Humanity Build in PDX
All of our dorm room volunteering at Habitat for Humanity

Exhausted, we piled back into the cars for one last meal at the hostel together, an assembly line of tacos, carnitas and many vegetables, laid out buffet style on the hostel’s kitchen counter. I hugged everyone goodbye, showered and jumped to the airport for a red-eye to New York City. It was the perfect end to a hectic week that left my mind racing.

Other Takeaways from WDS 2012

My view above is only one view. For other takes on the weekend, see the posts below with small excerpts.

Also, I didn’t mention the $100 give-away because I did not receive the $100 – it went to attendees who paid for tickets only, and as a returning keynote from last year, I was gifted my ticket. But the concept was incredible: Chris took $100,000 – money from his profits combined with funds from an anonymous donor – and gave each attendee who paid for a ticket $100 to put toward an investment. (Link in prior sentence is to Chris’ blog post with video.) The parameters were simple: the $100 should be used in a way that reflects the three pillars of community, service and adventure. It was a larger-than-life gesture on his part, and watching him announce it to the room artfully and in his own words was wonderful. I look forward to seeing what everyone does with their $100.

Update: People have written to ask when next year’s summit will be. This year’s attendees were able to purchase early bird tickets but the first wave of tickets has not yet gone on sale. The dates announced are July 5 (Friday eve) to July 7 (Sunday), 2013.

CC Chapman: “The People and the Magic of the World Domination Summit 2012Events are started to make money. The World Domination Summit was started to change lives. Taking a donation and the profits from this years event and turning around and giving it to the attendees is one of the most generous and genius decisions I’ve ever witnessed.

JD Roth: “World Domination Summit 2012 – Community, Adventure and Service” But to me, the greatest testament to the World Domination Summit is this: Our venue has room for 924 attendees. After the conference, we allowed about a day for folks to register to return next year. We sold 843 tickets. That’s how much people love the conference. 

Chris Brogan: “1000 True FansGuillebeau and Roth attract all kinds of people who seek to live life on their terms and build business that meets their needs, interests, and criteria. And the attendees were every bit as powerful as the folks on stage. Take, for instance, the fact that this is the first conference that C.C. Chapman has paid to attend in years. I feel the same way. Jacq and I will go next year, no matter what.

Marianne Elliott: “Portland, Power and ConnectionA summit about domination turns out to be about connection. And about the kind of power with that is possible when we connect with people who share our belief that everyone, everywhere can (and should) have the power to change their own future and the future of the world.

Corbett Barr: “How to Change the World Life is full of rules and establishments. Changing the world doesn’t start by following the rules, accepting what is or asking for permission. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what experience or qualifications you have. The only person you need permission from to change the world is yourself.

Barrett Brooks: “How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional WorldTo live a remarkable life, I must continue to push myself to be vulnerable.

Ken Solin: “What 1,000 Boomer’s Kids Did This Past Weekend” – The speakers preached being doers, not talkers. These young men and women already know something I only discovered in my sixties: Life isn’t just about stuff. They could teach their parents something about that.
Scott Dinsmore: “74 Unconventional Stories for Making An Impact.” There is no more powerful component do doing work that matters, to making a difference and to living your legend, than putting yourself around the right people.

Sarah Peck: “Stories of Humanity & the Power of Connection” – It’s like walking into a bar full of 40 people, but instead of wondering if you’ll meet one or two nice folks, it’s realizing that all of them are already your friends, and that each of them are brilliantly weird, nerdy, and crazy-uncool and brimming with energy.

And of course, Mr Guillebeau himself: “What Happened at the World Domination Summit”  I feel exhausted, but mostly in a good way. Our team did a fantastic job, with more than 80 volunteers working together to put on an epic weekend adventure, complete with block parties, dunk tanks, keynote sessions, dozens of workshops and presentations, and… so much more.

Confronting my Own Fears

I didn’t share this much of WDS to convince anyone to attend in 2013, but rather because it has become both an important annual benchmark to ask myself “what have I accomplished in the past year?”, and also because last year’s keynote marked the first time I spoke in public.

Confronting the fear of getting up onstage by actually getting up onstage has been instrumental in moving my life in the direction I want. I’ve always said a huge part of keeping this site was to hopefully inspire others to see travel (and food) as education, and as ways to both appreciate what they do have in life and learn about the world by experiencing it in technicolor. Being able to get up in front of 500 people last year – and lead 2 workshops this year too, yay! – has slowly enabled me to be more comfortable speaking to others about what I do, and move this life of travel and learning forward for me too.

As a result of this new direction, I’ve completely changed the About Me page to this site. I’ve held off from doing so for a while because I worried that my readers would see Legal Nomads as less of a travel blog and not want to read it any longer. But the truth is that while I still do travel in the same style as I always have, I’m no longer a round-the-world traveler. While I’ve started out that way, my travels and my writing have led to many other opportunities, and a new career in freelance work, photography and education about food. And of course, I might lose some readers who are looking for stories of only chicken buses and street eats, but if early reactions to the revamped page are any indication, many of you are following my trajectory because you’ve enjoyed the site and the reflections within it. And probably also because you, like me, have no idea where it’s going next. Ah, adventure.

I hope you like the new page – with new picture too! I’ve tried to be as honest as possible about where my income comes from in this new line of work, and how this site remains ad-free.  If there are any questions, please send them to me via email – jodi-at-legalnomads.com.

Back to Thrillable Hours and Morocco in just a few days. Thank you, as always, for reading.


62 thoughts on “Untangling the Lessons Learned at WDS 2012”

  1. What a fantastic and thorough overview of the conference. I’ve wanted to go both years but haven’t been able to so I always carefully read the post-WDS thoughts to vicariously live through all of you who attended.

    1. It was a great event Craig – definitely! I think you two would enjoy it, from what little I know of you. I know the emotional component is important to your work, and I like how forthcoming this conference is about that aspect of our lives.

  2. Fantastic post Jodi – it was a real treat (especially since it was an unplanned surprise) to meet you in person this year. Moments like that are worth coming to WDS for, even without the smartness on offer from speakers and workshop hosts.

    1. Thanks Marianne. So glad we ran into each other in the hallway. Those around us were quite confused when we stared and then jumped into a giant hug. Looking forward to the next one and thank you again for participating in the Thrillable Hours series.

  3. Your recommendation about WDS last year is one of the main reasons Dan and I bought tickets this year, and we’re so glad we did. As so many have said, what really makes this conference stand out is the sense of community and service…and it’s not just talk, but you can feel it in everyone you meet.

    And thanks for such a thorough round up of lessons. I have to admit that I wasn’t paying too much attention to Chris Brogan since we were panicking back stage, so I enjoyed reading your distillation of his talk. Also brings back good memories and reminders going forward.

    1. I’m so proud of you two. You did a fantastic job, you taught us your lessons with love and with grace, and having been up there as well I know just how terrified you likely were. It’s true, the connection and conviction are both astounding. Hope you’re enjoying Berlin!

  4. Excellent overview Jodi. You’ve convinced me to attend next year. I’m also in awe that you spoke in front of 500 people last time. That’s my biggest fear I think.

    Loving the new About page as well. We all look forward to your continued adventure!

    1. Thanks Matt! I hope to see you there. It was terrifying to speak last year but really it did catapult me in the right direction, despite doing so with scare tactics ;) Also think we should plan a reunion before confs next summer as I’d love to hear what’s doing before a whole year is up!

  5. Dang it, I already have pages and pages of notes from WDS, my first, and now I have notes on your recap to add to them!

    I need to redo Ephemerratic’s About page as well. We aren’t RTW traveling any longer and our priorities and storytelling are different. But I’d been worried about putting people off. Thanks for showing one way of tackling that problem!

    1. Aw, lady – we’ve been interacting on the Twitter for so long I wish there was time for a long chat about what you guys are up to. Next year, I hope! Glad the post and my new page were of interest and best of luck revamping yours!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing so much! These are very important messages: follow your heart, connect with others, give back. We live in such a narcissistic age, often characterized by alienation and isolation — it’s so great to hear ideas about going after success and the life of your dreams paired with caring, connecting, compassion. I would definitely love to go to this!

  7. Sumo wrestling and food carts?! Now that sounds like fun. Hopefully we will get to attend our first WDS in the near future. Thanks for a wonderful recap!

  8. it sounds like a fantastic event. Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability are two of my all time favourites. Congrats on speaking infront of 500 people, that takes guts and is something which I aspire to doing at some point in my life ;-)

    I’ll definitely try to attend WDS next year!!

  9. Sweet wrap up of WDS, Jodi. There was no way to meet everyone last weekend and I’m so enjoying learning about the peeps I didn’t get a chance to connect with in person. Perhaps next year…

    I love that y’all volunteered for Habitat for Humanity! What a camaraderie-rich ending to a mind-blowing weekend.

  10. I love this quote: “being comfortable in your own skin is a more powerful weapon against those who doubt you than you will ever realize.” It’s something I heartily agree with. Belief in oneself is so important. Great article from what looks like a brilliant, if slightly unfortunately named, conference!

  11. This sounds like such an inspiring conference. I love the point ‘none of us can do it alone’. This is so true.

    Thanks for the recap. I’d never heard of this conference but it’s something I’ll keep an eye out for next year!

  12. Wow, thanks for sharing all of that. It’s been a great Sunday read. The conference sounds brilliant – full of so many important lessons. I’d love to go one day. And the new about page is great. I will certainly be continuing to read.

  13. I owe you so much for convincing me to go despite the feeling of burning out from blogging. It was exactly what I needed and I’m sure I was one of the first people who signed up for 2013, literally 3 minutes after I got the link.

    And I found it so difficult to explain to people what it was about and why it was amazing. I’m still overwhelmed by all of it and also feel compelled to make this year matter. I don’t think I’ll write about it and I really don’t need to because you were able to articulate everything.

    1. I’m glad you attended, and it was great to have you in the Giant Room of Funsies for a few days as well. It’s true that it’s very hard to characterize what makes the conference compelling without sounding like an idiot. It’s funny that way. But I hoped that by dissecting what made it worthwhile for me, people would see past the terminology and to the heart of what makes it a great weekend. See you next year!

  14. It’s really nice to see a comprehensive overview of this. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the conference. You’re making me think about what I should do next comprising the values learned at the conference. Kudos to you for giving back.

  15. Thank you so much for posting this great follow up on the “unconference”! It sounds like there was an incredible wealth of information being passed around and I appreciate being privy to some of it even though I didn’t attend. I am a newbie blogger finally embracing my desire to write and getting comfortable with the vulnerability of it all, but it feels great to finally have the courage to start following my passion. Reading all of these snippets from the conference is very inspiring and encouraging to me–and I also really like how you said “write from the heart, care about everything you put online because it speaks to how people will see you and remember to give back, both to the world generally and to those who pay attention to your site”. Those are values I am totally striving for and I feel are so, so important; you really are a great “role model” blogger for exemplifying them. So thank you, Jodi, for everything. :)

    1. Thank you Kaleena! I’m glad you’ve found the conference’s messages (and my own philosophies) align with your own path. Good luck to you and feel free to ask any questions you’ve got!

  16. What a beautifully crafted post.

    Far too often in todays world people are afraid to write at length and I loved having to take my time to scoop this all up with my morning coffee.

    Our meeting was FAR to brief in PDX and I look forward to actually being able to sit down and chat more in the future.

    1. Thank you CC! From a man who cares about content, I take this as a big compliment. Agreed, next time we need to plan for a full afternoon of catch up and brainstorming. Hope you are enjoying your week!

  17. Some brilliant observations and some recaps of things that I’d clean forgotten. I’ve bookmarked this as a reminder of some of the best take-aways.

    For me, I had a very real sense that it was less of a “big bang” kind of impact this time around and more of a “the adventure continues” thing. I responded more gently to it, and it feels like there might be some subtle, graceful shifts happening. Perfect.

    And I couldn’t agree more with the “fierce desire to learn from others and by hearing their stories” – that’s the essential, beating heart of WDS.

    Thanks Jodi.

    1. Thanks Steve! I agree that it was less impactful because of last year’s very overwhelming aftermath, but as you’ve read of course it did make quite the impression anyhow. Congrats to you with the launch of your new $100 project as well- I look forward to seeing what you get up to with it.

  18. Carlo and Geneva

    Thank you for the insightful recap of the conference. We’d love to check it out next year and recharge our life batteries :)

  19. Wow Jodi! I haven’t digested your entire recap yet but you had me at lesson #1 which speaks to a major life issue of mine. I hope you know how much your sharing and thoughtfulness in your writing can mean to people. Thank you.

  20. Hi! I’m a San Antonio based transplant from the Philippines. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read your post on the Philippines. As they say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

    I loved your take on WDS 2012. On both years, the tickets were sold out by the time I got to the computer.

    WDS 2013 would still not be possible. Life is getting in the way! Argh… I’m getting married on July 13. I don’t think my future husband would understand my insanity of leaving days before the wedding. Lol!

    I’ve read so many awesome posts on both events so I know this life changing conference is here to stay. There is WDS 2014 to conquer!

    I am currently acting on my budget plan so I can quit my job in 2 years. And sometimes, it can be so frustrating when the process seems so slow.

    But I’m working on my patience.

    Best wishes on your new travels and adventures!

    1. Congrats on the upcoming wedding and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the post. 2014 it is! It took many years of saving but it was well worth the patience in being able to travel more slowly than had I left with only half of that amount saved up. Good luck with your budget and planning and I look forward to hearing about your upcoming travel plans.

  21. Jeremy Branham

    After reading this post, I (like many others) am inspired to go next year as well. I spent time reading this post as well as the limits of long term travel (again) and have some thoughts.

    First of all, I love this post. These are the type of posts that inspire me. This is what gets my juices flowing. This is why I want to write – I want to inspire, share, encourage, and write something different. Travel is great – I love doing it. However, travel is just a small piece of a bigger picture – life itself.

    A conference like this really talks about life. I learned a lot from reading this post even though I wasn’t there. I may read it a few more times to let some of this soak in.

    I never realized how much we have in common. I see a lot of who you are in your vulnerable posts and I love that. I connect with you in certain ways because I can relate.

    When I write, my greatest desire is to be vulnerable. I’ve written about life lessons I’ve learned as a travel blogger, travel confessions, and a lot more really personal stuff. Honestly, that stuff is easy for me. Why? Because I have a passion for being real with people through the world of travel.

    I know I am all over the place with my comments but things keep popping in my head as I think about this post. I could write a lot more but one more thing I agree with you on – I’m still trying to figure this thing out too.

    1. Thanks for sharing your comments, Jer. Looking forward to reading what you come up with as well in your writing. Good luck with your new projects and glad we caught up briefly at TBEX.

  22. As an insatiable reader of self improvement books/blogs (among other things), I have come to the sad conclusion – not all of us are creative. Regardless of what Chris (or whomever) says, some of us are worker bees, and have no artistic bent whatsoever. So what one can do that is special, when one does not have such an inclination? Also, even if one is creative, it does not always follow that one will be successful – life is random at best. Of course if you never try, nothing will happen, but many times, you can give it all you have and still nothing.
    Anyway these are the questions I am now mulling…or maybe i’m just old =) (early 40’s, in case anyone’s wondering)

    1. I think many of us who have little creativity have been brought up where creativity was not rewarded. Even those with an extremely logical, math-based brain tendency (not the typical artists, I mean) can be extremely creative, but often we’re told that we’re either creative or we’re not. The inclination as toddlers is usually there but when we are reminded that realistic iterations are what’s expected of us, we unlearn that creativity.

      I always joke that I am artistically challenged – I can’t draw, I can’t paint and I don’t tend toward any sort of creative exposition of my thoughts. Sure, I write but I write nonfiction. But I still think creativity manifests itself in other ways that pure artistry, and that counts too.

      You’re right, creativity does not beget success, and this was something each keynote reiterated: you need to put in a lot of hard work. Sometimes it’s for naught, but it will – even if it does not pan out – lead to new opportunities and experiences. It just depends if you want to take the risk in seeing where they lead :)

      1. Sorry for the yes, but…=)
        But I’ve begun to feel a general “confirmation bias” in all the books/blogs etc. ie, someone took risks, they panned out, now the world is told about how you can do it too, if you are just ready to take that leap; yes you, in the cubicle, in front of the computer!!
        But there are no books/blogs by people who failed. I would love to hear someone who got a whole giant bunch of lemons one after the other. And never succeedrd in getting above average!
        Wait, maybe I don’t =)
        Anyway, having said all that, I do enjoy your blog. Fun to live vicariously through you and others who ae on different journeys.

        1. Thanks for the comment. There are actually many blogs and books about people who have failed, and the lessons learned in the process. Almost every single entrepreneur will say you need to risk failure to get somewhere, that you can learn so much when you don’t succeed (lessons that serve you well in your next endeavour). None of these speakers guaranteed success (in fact they all stressed hard work above all else), but talked to the general philosophy and sentiment behind trying anyhow, and putting your energy into the ideas that excite you.

          For some further readings: http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/47646/Insight-From-Dropbox-Failure-Is-Not-The-Worst-Outcome-Mediocrity-Is.aspx (on DropBox, with my favorite line as “The worst outcome for a startup is not failure — its mediocrity”. Another: (excerpt: “I think embracing FAILURE is one of the things that makes this country such a great place to do business in. In many parts of the world, if you fail once, you are done. People won’t touch you with a ten foot pole. But here in the US, it’s almost a badge of honor.”) Many more books to send your way if you’d like!

          The bottom line is that there are no guarantees to success, but I think it’s instructive to learn from other peoples’ successes and from their failures. The talks at WDS were definitely skewed toward behaviour and philosophy and not outright successes, which I think helps a lot in framing the choices you make in your own life.

  23. “And probably also because you, like me, have no idea where it’s going next. Ah, adventure.”

    :) I always say something similar whenever people ask me. – I have no idea where it’s going, but I’ll make sure it’s not boring. And let’s hope it’s nice when I get here.

    Thanks for writing that up, thoroughly enjoy that. Good luck with everything, and oh, I have to say, I like the new About Me page a lot. Congrats!

  24. Count me as one of the many who thought WDS was: “a bunch of white hipster douchebags”. Happy to know I was wrong. Extra happy to be reminded I shouldn’t judge things I know nothing about.

    People who gnash their teeth over the new austerity should realize that this next era could be the most remarkable and creative era in the last one hundred or so years. WDS seems to be promoting this.

    And that promotion is way more important than a bunch of hipster douchebags sitting around and talking.

    1. Thanks for the honest comment Laura. I can understand why many people thought that – the name itself was (I’ve been told) initially a tongue-in-cheek statement, but it has of course taken root. Happily those in attendance are very eager to learn both from each other and from the myriad of lessons that the keynote speakers put forth. Some great ideas and spirit in that room!

  25. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since WDS 2011. I must have watched the video from your presentation at least five times and showed it to my family as well. It was such an inspiration to me and helped them to understand why I was quitting my job to travel. Glad you got to hold workshops this year!

    1. Thank you Lauren! I’m glad you found the video helpful. Workshops were fun, and a great way to hear what people were looking to learn from online too. Are you headed to WDS next year?

  26. This a great write-up! I’ve been curious about the conference ever since I heard about it earlier this year and thought I might try to go (it’s where I live) but I was gone during it. Now, I’m more eager to give it a try.

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  29. HI Jodi,
    I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog, courtesy of reading Bacon is Magic.

    I’d never heard about WDS until tonight. What an incredible sounding event and great, insightful and lengthy post about your experience.

    Congrats to you for leading a workshop and being a keynote. I’ve become more comfortable with public speaking as a teacher but it can still be intimidating.

    1. Thank you Lauren! I go back and read it every once and awhile too, as it’s a good reminder of lessons that are altogether too easy to forget. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far.

  30. I realize that there are a lot more guts to this post than the comment/question I’m about to pose, BUT [enter shallow self] HOW in the world does your hair look so fantastically carefree & perfect, particularly Burmese skirt picture? If you’re purely genetically blessed, then damn you.

    1. HA! Very funny comment :) Ask away, both small and large questions are welcome. To be honest, I don’t blow dry my hair – I just washed it and left the house with it wet and this is what happens. I think it’s in part due to a great haircut in Turkey (there’s a post about that too), where she cut my hair with a razor so it curls in on itself naturally. Either way, thank you for the compliment.

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