My husband and I spent this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, at the World Domination Summit hosted by Chris Guillebeau. As you might imagine, that’s led to some interesting conversations back home (especially when we admit that we went last year, and we’ve decided to take our teenage daughters next summer).

“World Domination? Isn’t that a bit strong?”

Not nearly as strong as the pull to lead a dull, conformist life.

To us, world domination is about overcoming the resistance to lead a remarkable life in a conventional world.

My friend Scott Dinsmore explained it this way, “In a world where most people encourage complacency, we need a sanctuary where people understand why all of us interested in living meaningful lives, do what we do. I go to belong.Β To be inspired. To find ideas I’d never discover on my own. To find people who hold me to a higher standard.”

That sums up my feelings pretty well. We come from all over the world. We’re from different generations and backgrounds. We’re focused on different types of projects. But we all have the same sparkle in our eyes.

We believe in the power of community, the spirit of adventure, and the importance of service.

(If that resonates with you, you might want to get on the waiting list for 2013. This year’s conference sold out in 7 minutes.)

We also believe in sharing what we’ve learned, so here are my top seven secrets to world domination.

1. Believe.

Fellow Texan Brene Brown reminds us that we belong, especially when we’re willing to be uncool. Our experiences cannot exceed our willingness to be vulnerable, so we must believe enough (in both ourselves and our dreams) to fully engage in life.

2. Give intentionally.

Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, shattered my assumptions about how non-profits should work. Their combination of radical transparency, cutting-edge branding, and true problem-solving demonstrate that real world needs can be met. Tracing the prevalence of facial tumors in West Africa to their water source, Harrison was determined to focus on eliminating root causes, not treating symptoms. Along the way, he also realized that bringing water to a community also brings education and empowerment to its women and children.

Not all dollars are destined for equal impact. As givers, we must target our finite resources on organizations that can achieve the most impact. And as leaders, we must hold our organizations to the same high standards. (I’ve given my next birthday to charity: water, and I encourage you to do the same. Beyond that, I can’t escape the irony of how much water surrounds my life in Corpus Christi, and I’m determined to do more to help.)

3. Be organized. (It’s a competitive advantage.)

After Harrison showed us what was possible, Scott Belsky showed us how to make it happen. Truly bringing Thomas Edison’s quote to life, Belsky is focused on reminding us that “genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.” Teaching that the masterful stewardship of our ideas is more critical than the idea itself, he reiterated that effective project management, a shared community, and real accountability are essential ingredients to making ideas happen. Personally, this presentation likely had the greatest immediate impact on my life, and I’ve already begun reading his book.

4. Tenacity is worth far more than skills or experience.

Sharing that it took eight years for his blog to reach over 100 readers, Chris Brogan demonstrated the true meaning of tenacity – and still does. Reminding us that the opposite of fear is not courage, it is giving up, Brogan delivered my favorite tweetable of the conference, “Fear is part of courage; they’re like mac’n cheese.” Challenging us to strive for our potential, he reiterated that it must be earned and that there are no shortcuts – and that what we do is far more important than what we say.

5. Share your spirit.

Revealing inside perspectives on their journey and their relationship, husband and wife presenters Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott of Uncornered Market illustrated the power of meaningful travel. Simply by venturing to a place, it ceases to be just a dot on a map anymore, becoming “a town with people that you know and love.” Sharing their stories of citizen diplomacy, Daniel and Audrey reminded us that no matter what country we call home, we share the same human spirit. And we can choose to build on that as opposed to focusing on our differences. Personally, I can only say that I want to be them when I grow up. Their delicate combination of strength and grace was absolutely inspiring.

6. Do what Steve Jobs did, not what he said.

Directly challenging the popular notion of “following your passion,” Cal Newport explained why that doesn’t work and what to do instead. Noting that there’s little evidence of people successfully finding their passion in the abstract, Newport suggests instead that “callings” are born from years of experience.

Newport encouraged us to first invest the time in developing a skill that has value to the world. Then, and only then, are we likely to be successful in making the leap, trading that skill for the lifestyle factors that we value most. Newport also noted that this is when the pressure to conform and stay on the conventional track will appear.

7. Pay it forward.

And then there was the little envelopes. This story wouldn’t be complete without sharing the closing message of the conference: pay it forward with abundant generosity.

After noting that last year’s conference lost tens of thousands of dollars, Chris announced that this year had been (thankfully) profitable, without corporate sponsorship or commercialization. Then, he stunned us all by announcing that by combining the profits and the contribution of an anonymous benefactor, he’d gathered $100,000 – and he was sharing it with us.

As we exited the theater, we all received an envelope with a crisp $100 bill and simple set of instructions: Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different. In the next post, I’ll tell you what I did with mine.


Photo Credits: Chris Guillebeau & Armosa Studios