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Tapping into the hunger for change at World Domination Summit 2013

WDS_mainstage_less_good_picFounder Chris Guillebeau  calls it a carefully curated fest of “community, adventure and service.” I say the World Domination Summit is the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference. That’s why we’re going back to Portland, OR in July 2014.

If the 3,000 attendees have a common denominator, it’s that they are in thrall to the idea that you can live a remarkable life in a conventional world, as Chris puts it on his blog. That may sound overly aspirational. But it is a marvelously sustaining thought and my husband Sam and I are buying into it as we embark on our Gap Year After Sixty.

I want to tell you about my experience doing a short talk from the main stage (that’s me in the orange blouse) but first, a key observation…

Debbie Weil: WDS 2013 main stage talk

… WDS was *not* a sea of 30-somethings

From the write-ups of the World Domination Summit in 2011 [recap] and 2012 [recap], I expected a sea of 30-somethings. I was struck and pleasantly surprised to see many 40, 50 and even 60-somethings attending this year. WDS is definitely not just an event for Millennials.

I had been worried about the WDS demographic given the topic of my talk on taking a gap year… 40 years after you are supposed to. So I worked hard to prepare, rewriting my talk a dozen times and practicing at least 50 times.

I worked on it with my husband Sam, my gap year co-conspirator. And also got some very useful feedback from Ishita Gupta. As Ishita, who has worked with Seth Godin, puts it, “Seth says don’t go out on stage and address an audience unless you intend to change them.”

Hungering for change at the World Domination Summit

I only spoke for two minutes and thirty seconds but I think I succeeded. Let me amend that. I’ll snuff out my usual self-doubt and say it more clearly.

Yes, I changed the audience!

WDS_debbie_talk1I’ve given many, many talks and keynotes over the past decade, but none that resonated more strongly than this one. I was astonished by the number of people who came up to me afterwards to say, “Were you the lady in orange? I loved your talk and here’s what it meant to me… “

That’s the part that was so gratifying. Not that the audience liked my talk but that they wanted to connect and share their own story about a gap year or time out or proposed radical change in their lives. Either they are planning a gap year now or they know someone who just left their job to explore other options for work or in several cases (Caroline and Josh of Traveling9to5; Brittany and Drew of Mr. and Mrs. Adventure) they are traveling around the world for a year.

I tapped into something that this group, and so many other people, are hungering for: CHANGE. One of the main stage speakers reminded us that, according to a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of U.S. employees are unhappy or disengaged at work.

The three important questions to ask

As I said in my talk,

“You don’t need to live your entire adult life… you don’t need to get to the age of 60 or 50 or 40… before you ask three important questions:

– How do you break out of your familiar patterns?

– How do you redefine yourself – and explore a new purpose?

– How do you embrace the uncertainty of life?”

More stories from WDS 2013

But mine is only one story from this year’s World Domination Summit.

Rather than try to recap some of the best speakers (Nancy Duarte, Darren Rowse, Tess Vigeland, Donald Miller), here’s a round-up of posts that give you an inside look into #WDS2013.

WDS 2013 sketchnotes by Mike Rohde (Ed note: amazing!)

52 Unconventional Stories & Ideas for Moving From Idea to Impact (#WDS2013) by Scott Dinsmore

13 Lessons from WDS 2013 by Brian Shea

Backstage at World Domination Summit 2013 from J.D. Roth

I will add more links. If you’ve got a link to a great write-up of #WDS2013, please add in the comments below.

P.S. Huge thanks to Genevieve Santos, who was sitting in the front row, for her video of my talk.

Photo above by Armosa Studios. Top photo by some lovely attendee who emailed it to me.

  • Andy Gray

    Hi, Debbie – really great to meet you and Sam at WDS! I’ve been maintaining a (huge) list of WDS roundup posts here:

    • Debbie Weil

      thanks Andy! likewise

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