6 min read

32 Life Lessons from World Domination Summit 2015

I just came back from a remarkable experience. World Domination Summit is held in Portland, Oregon every summer and is hosted by the inspiring Chris Guillebeau.
The summit gathers 2,000+ people over a five day period in Portland, Oregon. It is for people who do ‘remarkable things in a conventional world’ and is a series of meet-ups, TED-like talks and endless opportunities for connection and fun.

Ever since I first heard of WDS, I have felt that I have to be there. This being the 5 year anniversary of WDS, I decided it was time to take the trip from Stockholm all the way to Portland – now or never! And I’m so glad I went.

The summit is built on three core values.

Community, Adventure and Service.

We spent a lot of time outside of our comfort zones, businesses were started, we broke 5 world records together, an actual university was launched (check out Wayfinding Academy), various projects and non-profits were founded (and funded). I met some amazing people and made friends I will know for life.

These are my biggest take-aways from my WDS experience.

The first three are my overall learnings from the entire summit.

1. Community is everything. When you surround yourself with people who encourage you, listen attentively and upport your dreams – ideas that in other environments feel like a pipe dream become not only possible, but very normal. No one asked: ‘So what do you do?’. The questions asked were: ‘What are you creating?’, What do you wish for the world?, and ‘How can I help you get there’?. These discussions led to deep connections, new business ideas and important insights. The quality of your life truly can change from the questions we choose to ask ourselves.

2. Start inside. One of my favorite topics overall. If you look outside yourself to be happy, you will not be happy. You can’t get validation or permission from outside, it needs to start from YOU. Everything starts from within. Jacob Sokol put it beautifully at a meet-up (paraphrased): You have to be OK in order to succeed. If you keep looking for others to lift you up, you can’t grow. My personal lesson: Be and serve the best you can in the present. There is no later, bigger or better. Do what you can with what you have.

3. Everyone has a story to share. Some attendees shared their story on stage. When they walked on, they were simply a random human being. After three minutes, they had made me feel empathy and a deep sense of wonder for this person. More people need to start sharing their stories – the world needs it.

Jon Acuff held a wonderful keynote speech on talked about the topics we forget as grow up and the importance of using our voices.

4. “Did we become a poet?” Jon Acuff talked about his own childhood dreams and talents, wanting to write poetry. What would your childhood version say if he saw you today. Would he be proud if he saw who he had become?

5. The feeling of regret is worse than fear. The feeling of regret is so much worse than the temporary feeling of fear. “Will I face the fear of today or the regret of forever?” My lovely friend suggested to look at it from our 90 year old perspective. What would she say about this situation? (probably screw it, let’s do it!)

6. Don’t get distracted by shiny things. Just don’t. Keep in line with your values. You can’t monetise joy.

7. Quit hanging out with lobsters. Stop hanging out with people who question your dreams and don’t support you.

8. “Trying to make everyone like you is the quickest way to hate yourself.”

Vani Hari (aka Foodbabe) talked about how to handle being the attention of a lot of haters. I’ve seen very few people stand in front of a crowd with that much courage. A few quotes she referred to stuck with me.

9. “Let go of fear. The universe has your back.”

– Gabrielle Bernstein.


10. “No mud, no lotus.” (Thich Nhat Hanh) The good usually comes from the bad. Insight comes from suffering and pain. Success follows failure. Personally, my biggest lessons and growth spurts in life have occurred after a very tough period.

11. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. From one of my favorite people, Maya Angelou.

12. “If you don’t like me and still watch everything I do. B*tch you’re a fan” – Madonna. No lesson here really, I just loved the quote 🙂

The team behind Kid President (a motivational Youtube-series) held a beautiful keynote on their joyful rebellion movement.

13. Treat everyone like it’s their birthday. If you want to be awesome, you’ve got to be awesome to others. A related quote says: “It’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance.” In essence, be kind. The world will be a better place for it.

14. Trust the process of where you are going. You learn from everything that you do. And you’re always on the path towards where you’re supposed to be. “At any given time, you are being uniquely prepared for something magical.”

15. How can I be of best service to the world today? My new mantra.

Megan Devine lost her husband in an accident six years ago and talked about pain and how we deal it. A beautiful, powerful talk.

16. You can’t fix pain, but you can be with it.

“When you try to fix someone’s pain, you don’t make it better. You just tell them it’s not okay to talk about their pain. The path of bearing witness is the true path of love.”

18. How we can meet and process pain: #1) Notice your impulse to help, #2) Pause: what response is called for?, #3) Don’t fix anything, #4) Bear witness: Make space for things to suck.

Dr. Lissa Rankin held one of the most powerful talks of the summit. 

19. Find the question that resonates with you. How old were you when you realised that other people matter? Many people with healing-tendencies were under 10. For lawyers, a better question might be: how old were you when you realised that the world is an unjust place?

20. “Let squirrels break your heart”. As a kid, Lissa loved helping squirrels and upon losing one, her mother gave her this advice. (Exchange the word squirrels for any other word). Simple and beautiful advice.

“Heart will always be your home. Say yes to the call to adventure.” – Lissa Rankin

21. Believe in pronoia. Pronoia is the opposite of paranoia. It is to have the sense of a conspiracy being out to help and support the people.

22. Find your karass. A karass is a group of incarnated beings whose job it is to bring into existence a holy idea.

23. Four Courage Cultivating Truths: #1: Uncertainty is the gateway to possibility, #2: Loss is natural and can lead to growth, #3: It’s a purposeful universe, #4: We are all One

Asha Dornfest runs parenthacks.com and talked about how we re-invent ourselves and how to be a grown-up.

24. Make yourself a promise and keep it. This was one of my biggest take-aways. If you have a friend who keeps bailing on you and don’t keep commitments – how long does it take for you to not trust that person? It works the same for ourselves. We build self-confidence by keeping our promises to ourselves.

“Self-confidence grows overtime when you keep a promise to yourself.” – Asha Dornfest

25. Small, consistent steps are the surest way forward. If you feel resistance, go smaller.

26. Starting is the hardest part in any re-invention. Once we actually take steps, we are in motion and it gets easier.

Her summarized process is: #1: trust the dots to connect, #2: start small & keep going, #3: count on yourself. Repeat.

Derek Sivers talked about his journey and how to focus on making our customers happy.

27. Admit what you want. Optimise for that. It is okay to want money, or fame, or lots of love from certain people. Just own it and build your life accordingly.

28. Ideas are a multiplier of execution. To make a business you need to multiply the two. You can create something great from a halfass idea and wonderful execution. Same result can come from a brilliant idea and an OK team.

29. Business plans are moot. Instead, stay committed to a problem you want to solve and be flexible that the solutions might change.

– “They only call it a revolution when you’re a success. Before that, you’re a nut” – Derek Sivers

30. “Even elephants are born small”. A revolution doesn’t have to be loud. It can simply be about serving the world better.

31. Be shockingly unique. People remember you for the things make them smile. Go out of your way to make your customers happy. In Derek’s own words: “Anything less than “OMFG! Take all my money now!!”? Nope. Stop. Change. Write a different song.”

32. “Creativity is the new literacy”. Word. Credit to Chase Jarvis.


To Chris Guillebeau, to beautiful Portland, and to the 2,000+ attendees for being authentic, serving and genuinely awesome 🙂 See you next year!