One Unusual Idea

“You want an amazing life. But you can't decide. You think you have to be, fully formed already, don't ya? You don't have to be just one thing, but you have to start with something.” – Clare Bowditch singing Amazing Life


“Slava Bogo,” said the farmer in a Russian accent after reading the name “Zaslofsky” on my World Domination Summit badge.

“Huh?” I said to him, not understanding the context.

“Your name. It's Ukrainian or Russian,” he said as he handed me a free sample of fresh cherries. “Slava Bogo means ‘Hallelujah!' in Russian, and those two words will take you anywhere in Russia. People will stop their cars for you when you say ‘Slava Bogo' in Russia.”

He continued. “So… how are you doing, Joel?”

I said, “Well, I'm doing pretty freakin' great! I'm here for this event called… ”

And then he interrupted me with a sly grin and a twinkle in his eye. “No, no, no, Joel. The answer is ‘Slava Bogo.'”

I can't think of a better microcosm that sums up my experience at the 2013 World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, OR this month with 3,000 other people.

I can't help but thinking “Slava Bogo!” that:

  • An event like WDS exists, let alone helps people answer the question, “How do we lead a remarkable life in a conventional world?”
  • The people who attend WDS are so giving, quirky, supportive, and hug-happy.
  • I'm incredibly grateful to have experienced all of that.

Service. Adventure. Community. These are the official WDS core themes, although many unofficial themes come out depending on who you are. This is the kind of event where you talk to someone about an unusual idea that almost everyone else thinks is straight-up whack – like curating your existence in spreadsheets – and they get super jazzed to hear more.

Everyone is authentic at WDS… blemishes, strangeness, and inadequacies be damned. No shuffling around hundreds of personas based on the physical environment or social context at WDS, folks!

My life has been permanently changed by my time in Portland with so many damn inspiring people. I took hours' worth of written and spoken notes from events, places, and conversations to distill into one post.

If you attended WDS or have absorbed other people's recaps, tell me what ideas or general awesomeness I missed in the comments.

Unusual Ideas and Experiences

WDS was serendipity central.

That was mostly intentional because I was in go-go Gadget extrovert mode for four straight days. And when you're in “I gotta maximize every second of this experience because it's unique and so freakin' rad!” mode, you (mostly) throw simplicity out the window.

Because of this, I met some of the most amazing – and fascinating – people at WDS.

You know, folks like:

  • Mark Powers, who introduced me to the concept of “yes” people; friends or family that you almost instantly say yes to (regardless of the request).
  • Asia, who recently fought off developers trying to illegally evict everyone where she lived.
  • Aaron, who added the phrase “philosophical nudity” to my vocabulary.
  • A seemingly homeless man that asked me for the time and, as I told him, instantly replied, “Thanks, man! In fifteen minutes, I'll be ganja high. Ganja time, baby!”
  • Cultured CavemanWDS Ambassadors who organized various high-five gauntlets inside the main venue. It was so much fun I went back for seconds… multiple times!
  • The random people of Portland who were just as groovy and quirky as promised. Plus, from breakfast at Mother's Bistro with my buddies Ethan and Dan to paleo food carts in multiple parts of the city, I ate great.
(I heart you, Cultured Caveman)
  • New “Experience Curators:” I met multiple people who were captivated by “Experience Curating,” especially Susan (whose mind was blown when I showed her a curated spreadsheet on my smartphone).
  • Guys with Unusual IdeasJennifer, who gets more stoked to use and talk about spreadsheets than I do. Plus, she loves curating and Toastmasters. There's an ongoing investigation of whether we were separated at birth.
  • DJ Prashant: The after-party DJ that lead my first Bollywood-style dance-fest. I can't remember the last time I danced so much – and so vigorously – that I was sore the next day.

Yet the external flurry of activity yielded to internal fireworks during the keynote presentations.

Here are the biggest or most unusual ideas that I captured from these crazy schweet speakers.

Nancy Duarte: Presentation Maestro

1. Your idea can shape a movement. And the power of the spoken word can amplify it.

2. Show compassion for your community, regardless of their problems or afflictions.

3. Everyone can help someone else rise up and make a difference.

4. The words “but I'm just…” ring hollow. You are amazing. You can do awesome things.

5. Great communication takes a ton of work and analysis, but few things are more important. (That's also why I highly recommend Nancy's TEDTalk and her book Resonate)

Darren Rowse: The Dream Fulfiller and Original ProBlogger

6. Dream regularly… and take risks to make your dreams a reality.

7. Become obsessed with being useful.

8. Entrepreneurship can be found anywhere (including nine-year-olds picking flowers and selling them to neighbors).

9. Do not keep your dreams inside. Tell other people so they can help you achieve them.

10. Nobody leaves your life because you're too awesome. But people will leave if you're ordinary.

11. Be curious, chase sparks, and realize that movements can begin with something as innocent as clicking a link in an email.

12. Experiment like crazy. Find out what gives people energy and then light their fuse.

13. Focus on making other people's dreams come true. Darren made Clare Bowditch's dream of singing on the WDS big stage become reality, and as a result, I cried when she sang “Amazing Life.”

14. Credentials? We don't need no stinkin' credentials! The people with the fewest credentials are often the most helpful.

15. Your next big thing might be the small thing in front of you.

Bob Moore: Happy Giver of What's Most Important

16. People are always more important than profit

17. There's truth in Mark Twain's words that, “The secret to success is to make your vocation your vacation… [and] the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Steve Kamb and Jodi Ettenberg: Nerds, Misfits, Nomads, and Awesome

18. Trust is trendy, but it never goes out of style.

19. You only get to sell out once. Once you do, people won't give you another chance.

20. Don't demand engagement. It demeans the people who are already engaging because they want to.

Chase Jarvis: Captain Creativity

Yet Another Unusual Idea

21. Our biggest crisis is a lack of creativity…

22. … And we're encouraged to get less creative as we age…

23. … When we aren't systematically suppressing and removing creativity from school.

24. An education system based on the schedule of the farm and the jobs of the industrial revolution is ridiculous.

25. Creativity is the new literacy.

26. We can no longer wait for creative geniuses. We need to create them.

27. Creative activities create more creativity.

Gary Hirsch: Making Improv Make Sense

28. There are magical things happening all around you. Take a moment to look up (sometimes literally) and notice them.

Gretchen Rubin: Happiness Finder and Spreader

29. It's shockingly easy to misunderstand what's true about ourselves.

30. Self-knowledge is the key to happiness.

31. If you don't love travel, music, or things that you feel like you “should” enjoy, who cares! Be the real you, not the fantasy you don't even want.

32. You will exhaust everyone if you constantly question everything (mental note made).

Andrew Warner: Top Entrepreneur Interviewer

Counter Mind, True Mind

33. You often don't hear the critic when it's inside your head… even though you're guided by it.

Tess Vigeland: Seeking Reinvention and Former NPR Marketplace Money Host

34. Telling someone, “Just make it happen” doesn't really help.

35. There are about six personal finance stories, but roughly infinite ways to spin them (mental note made again).

36. It's time to leave your job, relationship, or anything else when you have too much self-respect to stay.

37. There is nothing more fun than bathing in a tub of kittens (according to Tess).

Donald Miller: Brutally Honest Best-Selling Author

Seriously Unusual Ideas

38. We escape to pleasure when we can't find meaning.

39. Shame should be a foreign concept, but society makes sure we know it well.

40. We must break through layers of projected personality and shame to get to the self. That's because the best creative work comes from the core.

41. Spend less time impressing people and more time genuinely connecting.

42. We are not our failures. We are also not our successes.

What's Next?

WDS 2013 is in my top 10 life experiences. Yes, it was filled with that much awesomeness.

So I can't let the experience be for nothing.

That means I'm using the cumulative WDS fuel to power one of these two future projects (decision coming by August 13th):

  1. A new website to help people kick digital addictions like video games, Facebook, TV, or smartphones glued to a hand.
  2. A live, in-person conference for people in the simplicity and minimalism movements. This is the conference that I want to attend, but doesn't exist yet.

Which of the two projects would you rather see happen? And what unusual ideas or experiences from WDS changed the way you think about things? Share your insight in the comments.