13 Lessons from WDS2013

by Brian on July 12, 2013

I had the privilege of attending the World Domination Summit (WDS2013) in Portland, Oregon last week. Here are few lessons I took away:

1. Mash-up Cultures
Most of my consulting work is with corporate clients. WDS is definitely NOT a corporate conference, but there were folks at WDS that work in the enterprise space. One of them is CIO and InformationWeek Contributing Editor Jonathan Feldman. Jonathan and I had an excellent chat about IT, independent consulting and the importance of entrepreneurship in the corporate world. Talking about enterprise IT at WDS – a conference that focuses on small/micro/lifestyle businesses – was a wonderful mashup of two very different cultures. There are big lessons that the corporate world can learn from the free thinking, entrepreneurial spirit of WDS. And conversely, there are ideas that the corporate world can share with the WDS crowd. I love when cultures cross pollinate.

2. Improvise
Tess Vigeland delivered my favorite talk of the conference (no small feat there). I’m not going to try to summarize all of Tess’s talk. But for those that weren’t there: Tess left her dream job as host of NPR’s Marketplace Money in 2012 and struck out on her own as a freelance journalist. She told us that she had been interviewing for the host job at Weekend All Things Considered (her new dream job). She told us how much she wanted the job. She told us that she rocked her interviews. And then she told us that a few days before she found out she didn’t get the job. It was a shocker. The air went out of the room. She didn’t have a backup plan, didn’t know what she was going to do next. There are lots of talks by people that have faced down challenges and gotten through to the other side. Rarely do you hear talks from someone who is still in the middle of a challenge. Congrats to Tess for delivering an amazing – truly – talk.

3. Know yourself
Gretchen Rubin made a simple, but easy to overlook point in her talk: make sure your goals are your own, not someone else’s. She said that a big reason why people are unhappy is they take on goals that they think they think should have, rather than goals that they actually want. Worse yet, Gretchen argued that we often don’t realize when we’re doing it.

4. Keep on Keeping on
Both Darren Rowse and Jia Jiang mentioned in their talks that during the 20’s they hit rough patches. They lost sight of their true goals, and were unhappy as a result. But both kept on, got back on track, and have amazing stories to show for it.

5. Keep it Short
Charlie Gilkey and Tim Grahl were very kind to give me copies of their new books. Charlie’s is The Small Business Lifecycle; Tim’s is Your First 1000 Copies. Both are excellent. They’re also both around 100 pages!. You gotta love short business books. And if you’re interested in writing a short business book, Debbie Weil can help.

6. Be Brave
Amy Clover is on a mission to remove the stigma around mental illness. She has spoken and written publicly about her own history of depression. And she toured North America on a 30 city personal training tour to raise money for the charity To Write Love on her Arms.

7. Be clear about what you want, and what you don’t want
During the conference, I had a conversation with a friend who works in management consulting. He mentioned that there are big pressures to spend every waking hour working (no surprise there). But spending time with family and friends, and doing non-work stuff is really important to him. So he’s taking some practical steps to keep his hours and travel schedule within an acceptable range. It’s tough to stand apart from the crowd (especially at work) and stake out what is important to you. It’s inspiring when someone does it well.

8. Don’t balance work and life, blend them
This theme kept coming up: work-life balance is a messed up term. It implies that work is somehow separate from the rest of your life, from the values and interests of the rest of your life. It’s tough to be happy if the values of your work life conflict with the values of your personal life. One of the themes of the conference was figuring out how to bring your work in line with your personal values. Good stuff.

9. Pay attention to your energy, and others’
Great tip from Darren Rowse: always be on the lookout for the activities that give you energy, and energize the people around you. He mentioned that back in the days before he was a famous blogger, he noticed that he loved writing and found that people really responded to his website. And because of that, he decided to keep on focusing on his blog. Good thing for him – and for us – that he did.

10. Be a businessperson, even if your business is art
Cory Huff thinks that there is no reason for artists to be poor. And he started a business about it: The Abundant Artist.

11. Build Community
Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness and Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads gave a fantastic talk. The short version: be authentic, listen to your tribe, and do everything you can to help them.

12. Make Change
App Camp for Girls is providing young women an environment to learn software development. Women are still underrepresented in the tech industry. App Camp is changing that.

13. Spend time with your people
Throughout the weekend, I felt absolutely energized from the folks that I was hanging out with. I was inspired how people were living their values through their businesses, writing, art and their actions in general. Special shout outs to Joel, Mike, Rog, Brandi and Abe. Great friends, roommates and dance partners. Each one of them rocks in a massive way.


A few notes:

  • If anyone has a link to the official WDS recordings of Tess, Gretchen, Jia or Darren’s talks, let me know. I’d love to check them out.
  • Did you have any other takeaways from WDS2013? I’d love to hear about them in the comments or via email.
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