An Exceptional Experience.

(You can read about Day One and Day Two of my time at the World Domination Summit if you need to catch up.)

The volunteers, in particular, really rocked it.


In addition to high-fiving everyone as they entered the Schnitzer concert hall, and maintaining the atmosphere of fun and frolic, they were masterful in their organization and efficiency.

At the end of the conference, they somehow managed to distribute 2800 champagne flutes of sparkling apple cider to every seat in the Schnitz in under ten minutes.


While we were waiting, Chris Guillebeau (the exceptional host of the exceptional conference) stalled with some stories about setting this all up.

OLCC (the draconian liquor control board in Oregon) is charged with preventing such vulgar excesses as advertising a happy hour. Completely against the law, because it’s on the slippery slope to anarchy, right? They were not amused when he asked about distributing actual champagne during the #WDS2013 conference. “You’ll get in a lot of trouble for that.”

A true master of non-conformity, Chris asked, “Well, how much trouble are we talking about, here?” I’m sure if it was a fine or a mild sentence, he would have done it anyway and taken the bullet. But since his 80 volunteers would be the ones in big trouble for distributing alcohol, he settled for sparkling apple cider. It was tasty.

But the champagne flute had no place in my luggage; I still have 6000 more miles to travel before I get back home to Costa Rica, so I left my flute for another WDS attendee to grab.

Sunday Speakers at #WDS2013

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin at WDS

The author of The Happiness Project had some surprising things to say about the bad things.

Negative emotions have a very good role to play in happiness. We should pay special attention to what we hide. What you are hiding from yourself holds a clue about what you are really feeling.

Who do you envy? What makes you feel jealousy? We tend to push away these distasteful emotions, and suppress or ignore them.

She asked us to write down our answers to a few challenging questions, and consider what desire is behind these negative emotions. The craving itself could be entirely natural, and can even be expressed and fulfilled in a healthy manner – if we are honest with it.

She then moved into the 4 personality types she’s developing. “None of this is scientific,” she quipped. “I’m just making this all up.”

With or without peer review, there is a good understanding of people to be found in her 4 categories of people:

  • Upholder
  • Questioner
  • Rebel
  • Obliger

If you wake up in the morning and think, “What have I committed to do today?” then you are an Upholder.

If you wake up in the morning and think, “What do I feel like doing today?” then you are a Questioner.

If you wake up in the morning and think, “Why should I have to do that today?” then you are a Rebel.

If you wake up in the morning and think, “What is expected of me today?” then you are an Obliger.

Most people are Questioners or Obligers. She did an impromptu survey of the audience – again, not very scientific, but the show of hands did bear out her theory.

She did say that she had never seen a Rebel marry anyone other than an Obliger. However, I married a Rebel, and I am definitely an Upholder. I would totally upset her double-blind study, if she had one.

But part of being happy, I’ve found, is not sweating the small stuff. Gretchen has done this marvelously, by positing an interesting theory, offering some thoughts on why it could be true, and leaving it for someone else to verify. Pura vida.

Andrew Warner

Andrew Warner at WDS

The founder of Mixergy has learned a lot from prominent entrepreneurs by interviewing hundreds of them on his website. What he’s been interested in lately is the CounterMind chatter, the part of your mind that opposes your greatest dreams and ambitions.

His techniques for countering the CounterMind involve directly interrogating the thought: Is this true? Even if it is, Does this matter?

This reminded me of the 4 Byron Katie questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

This is a good way to reduce the power of negative thoughts from controlling your will, but we also need to replace the paradigm that our mind is using, and introduce a different type of chatter as the new baseline. (It’s the best way to make things manifest.)

Andrew led the entire concert hall in a meditation on one ‘True Mind Statement.’ Moving finger by finger, we silently recited our personal True Mind statement 10 times.

Some of his followers use beads on their wrist to keep their mental habit, by reciting their True Mind Statement once for each bead. This is an excellent exercise for people who are new to meditation, to help them create a daily habit.

Repetition is the key to mastery.

Recognize your Counter Mind and question it. Discover your True Mind and strengthen it.

Tess Vigeland

Tess Vigeland at WDS

An excellent and timely case study in non-conformity, the host of NPR’s Marketplace was at the top of her field when she walked away from her job. She almost (almost!) nailed a bigger job after nine months – to be the host of Weekend All Things Considered. She found out, just a week before WDS, that she did not get the job.

She was so honest and open about her experience, it was touching. She shared her doubt in her own decision making ability, and how she had to allow herself the space to grieve what she had left. Her authenticity was incredible; here she was, in the midst of the terror that comes with leaving a great and unfulfilling career, without a place to go next.

I’ve been there. When I left my cushy 6-figure job, wearing a tie in a cubicle every day, I left and I lost everything.

I was much more of a financial mess than Tess was, but I could see some familiar emotions and fears coming through her. The bravery and vulnerability it took for her to share her experience was incredible.

It’s time to jump ship when you have too much self-respect to stay. Even if you happen to like the job.

There were people in this audience, I’m sure, who were searching for the courage to leave their own conventional lives, and who were given the boost of confidence and understanding they needed by watching her speak.

She tried to find one in the audience. Returning to her roots, midway through her speech she walked off the stage and went into the audience to interview someone. The first person she found labeled herself as the ‘Queen of Reinvention,’ and the second was the author of a personal finance blog, both of which ended up being completely unsuitable for her example.

She handled it with the grace of a trained performer, someone who could handle a belligerent interviewee and keep the conversation going smoothly. I don’t know what she’s doing next, but I am sure she will stay at the top of her field, wherever she goes.

Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

This was the meat and potatoes of the conference. Blogging titans sharing actionable tips on how to build a blog bigger. This was the condensed version of a 2-day workshop, compressed into 90 minutes.

I didn’t snag a picture of the presenters at this workshop, because I was in the nosebleeds. I couldn’t even see the slides; luckily, Darren later posted them online. (Chris Garrett’s slides are up, too.)

Building a blog starts with the question: Who is this blog for?

It seems rudimentary, but I have launched many a blog without searching for an in-depth answer to this question, and the results have always been mediocre.

Darren shared his own reader profiles, ideal reader personas he has created to define his target market and his audience.

When he writes a new blog post or designs a new landing page, he has one of his 3 reader profiles in mind. If he begins creating something that doesn’t appeal to one of these 3 reader profiles, then he knows he is off topic.

Both bloggers shared what has been working for them – list posts, series posts, and posts that both a) solve a problem, and b) tell a story.

My favorite tactics were things mentioned offhand, like how Darren would email anyone who commented on his blog, thank them for the comment, and tell them he had replied to the comment, with a link back to the blog article.

What a great way to create engagement!

(Comment on this blog post, and you’ll get a sample of my newly inspired blogging commitment.)

Steve Schalchlin

Steve Schalchlin at WDS

This man is living proof that mindset, light, and music can cure any disease. Just don’t tell that to people when they are dying, it pisses them off.

Steve was dying of AIDS when he started pouring his emotions into his songs., and living for the bonus round. He is a lively performer, sharing the emotional story arcs that he went through as he fought the disease.

His songs were an intimate look into the heart of a dying man, who only wanted to live; and he found that he could live, completely and fully, through his music.

The music brought me back to life. The act of creation brings you back to life. What all the people in this room can do, you have the power of life.


When the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus came out on stage, I was bawling with the rest of the audience, as we shared the emotions that Steve was able to amplify through his piano, and spread across the entire theater.

I had never thought that a musical act would be fitting for a conference like this; but it worked beautifully.

Regaining life through music is exactly the type of non-conformity that we gathered to celebrate.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller at WDS

I’m a memoir writer. I find myself very interesting.

Donald’s own humor and intelligence were used as a case study in how we cover our selves, and our shame, with this ‘personality’ to hide our inner recesses from the outside world.

He was very candid, from sharing how he handled wetting his pants in elementary school, to celebrating his new engagement with slides of the ring and the lady.

Although I have yet to read his books, I can see why they are so popular. His stories are engaging and intimate, revealing secrets that people don’t normally share. (I’m already finding some on his blog.)

The major lesson behind his talk was that we are not our failures.

No matter how much we fail, the failures of our lives do not define us.

He then follows this up with a tougher lesson: we are not our successes.

No matter how much we succeed, the self, the person inside, the true you, is not the success, or the failure, of your life.

You are not the personality that you show to the world. The true Self is this elusive, quiet, hidden persona that isn’t easy to discern.

Finding that inner self is the Great Work that we are all tangled up within.

Wrapup Toast

It wasn’t a $100 bill, but the champagne flutes were a nice touch to end the evening.

It felt a little forced – like, after giving an inspiring and memorable gift for everyone last year, what gift could we give this year?

The power of last year’s gift wasn’t in the monetary value, however. It was in the dare.

The dare to create something. To make something that could change the world. The mission, given out to the Unconventional Army, to go out and do good and be creative in the conventional world outside.

Shake up the Matrix.

Like everyone else, I was lined up in the ranks, waiting for the marching orders. The inspiration. The dare to be great.

Instead, we got a toast.

It was fun, and unique. But it wasn’t something I could take with me all year, my dare to do something greater.

This was the minor-key denouement ending the conference, quickly overcome by DJ Prashant.

Dance Party in Pioneer Square

WDS2013 Dance Party in Pioneer Square

I have been jumping and climbing around in Pioneer Square, Portland’s ‘living room,’ for years. This was the first time I have gone there to dance the night away.

I almost got kicked out, because I was climbing on some of the architecture, and a cop grabbed me on the dance floor.

“You’ve gotta go,” he said.

No stranger to winning over authority figures, I stopped dancing and said, “Why? What’s the problem, sir?”

“I saw you climbing over there,” he said, tightening his grip on my arm.

“Oh, I was just keeping my bag up there. I can move it somewhere else, that’s totally cool.”

He checked my hand and saw it stamped. “Do you want to see my badge?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be here.”

“Yeah,” he said, “that is a pretty good place to keep your bag. Nobody is going to mess with it up there,” he chuckled.

“Exactly,” I said, “what’s your name?”

I made a friend and gave him a business card coin, one of these coins that I’ve been handing out like candy all weekend.

Business Card Coins

(Did you get one? You should sign up for my newsletter. If you didn’t get one, you should still sign up, too.)

I then went on some old school guerilla marketing, putting stickers with my business logo on other people’s bags, on trash cans, on walls and statues, anywhere people would see them and remember them.

It brought me back to my roots, my early days in marketing, when I was loud and obnoxious and unexpected. And who knows, somebody might Google my company and find my blog, and read this post and say, “Hey! I had your sticker on my purse!” And they would leave a comment below.

And anyone else who gets this far in my 2000 word blog post – you should really leave a comment, too. If you’ve read this far, I would really value knowing what you are thinking, right now.