Lessons Learned from the 2013 World Domination Summit

You may be wondering where I’ve been for the last couple weeks – or you may know exactly where I’ve been.

For the last three years I’ve been involved with a putting on a conference in my hometown of Portland, Oregon called the World Domination Summit.

I work with a small team for most of the year to prepare for one weekend of full blown awesomeness – yes, I realized I just used the word “awesomeness”.

Year 1 was the test.  We had no clue if it could work, if people would show up, or if 8 people with next to no experience with events, could actually make this thing happen.

Year 2 was the proof. Not only did we double in size, but we stepped up everything, including giving every attendee a crisp $100 bill as an investment in them at the end of the event.

This year was the scale.  How do you keep a small event full of tight-knit community, without becoming exclusionary or clique-ish? Well that was the task we were faced with this year.

In 2013, everything was bigger, better, and scarier.

“Hey, let’s rent out the entire Portland Zoo for an opening party! Oh, and we’ll throw in an unconventional marching band, and a mechanical bull in there for good measure!”

Marchfourth Marching Band

March Fourth Marching Band at the Oregon Zoo

“So, how you do a champagne toast in the biggest theater in downtown Portland, with 3,000 people?”

The response: “No clue, but let’s figure it out!”

For me personally, this year was a little different than in years past.  Steven Pressfield might say, this was our year of Turning Pro.

In the past I’ve been able to watch most of the talks, have long meaningful conversations with friends, and stay out until the wee hours of the morning with out of town visitors.

This year, not so much.

Cider Toast at 2013 World Domination Summit

Our Champagne, ahem, Sparkling Cider toast

While our event has grown over 5x in the last two years, our core team has stayed mostly the same.  That means more moving pieces, more responsibility, and most importantly, a greater sense of ownership when it comes to the show we put on.

Don’t get me wrong, we did enlist over 80 volunteers throughout the weekend who stepped it up in a big way, but even still there were a few panic moments throughout the weekend on our end 🙂

That said, I want to share some of the most important lessons I learned this year, that may be a little different than what some other attendees got out of it.

In the Words of Nike, “Just Do It”

Considering WDS is held in Nike’s backyard, this seemed fitting.  For the last year I’ve been making a lot of excuses.  I’ve been living a great life. I’ve done a lot of travel, had a lot of fun, and have grown my business.

What I haven’t done a lot of are the BIG projects.  I’ve had some pretty big plans, but I’ve let myself down by pushing them to the side and failing to commit.

If three years ago Chris took his idea for WDS and said, “oh that would be cool, maybe next year,” thousands of people wouldn’t have had these life changing experiences. No world records would be broken, and no foundations created.

Being a part of WDS this year reminded me to just do it. Failure is a pretty important part of this lifestyle and entrepreneurship in general. And who knows, if I follow through with some of these plans there’s a good chance, they just, might, work.

As You Scale, You Can’t Please Everyone

The more people involved and the more exposure you get, the more opinions will be voiced. – both positive and negative.

This year, I was actually surprised at the lack of negative comments we received.  That said, there are always people who will think it’s gotten too big, or decided it’s not for them.

This is particularly important for me personally. As I’ve grown I’ve found there are people who think the Location Rebel lifestyle isn’t for them.  In a few cases, they don’t think it’s for anyone, or even possible to achieve for that matter.

I used to take this really personally, until I realized, of course it isn’t for everyone. It’s unconventional, and goes against what we’ve been taught for decades.  The more you scale, the more you open yourself up to criticism – and there will always be criticism.

The sooner you recognize this, the easier it gets to take the criticism and use it to make your projects better.

Unconventional Race

Nicky, Tyler, and I doing the presentation for the "Unconventional Race"

The Day You Stop Challenging Yourself Is the Day Everything Goes Downhill

We’ve scaled quickly with WDS. I’ve had numerous people ask me, “where are you going from here?”

We talked about this a little bit at our celebratory team dinner the other night, and while I can’t speak about any details, we’ve made it very clear that whatever we do next year we have to challenge ourselves.

Why? Because as soon as you stop challenging yourself, everything goes downhill.

We could put on the exact same conference next year, and people would have a great time.  But that marks the beginning of the end. When you stop surprising people and doing things that make you go “wow”, you move backwards – and that’s the last thing you want.

The More You Have Going On, The More You Get Done

You know the old saying “Need to get something done? Ask a busy person to do it” – there’s so much truth in that.

While I may have neglected my blogging duties over the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten so much done as we’ve been ramping up for the conference.  When I have too much time on my hands, I start finding ways to waste it.  I get lost on the internet and sit around.

When I have a lot going on, I’m forced to schedule, prioritize, and simply get shit done.

Chris wrote about “Changing the Default” a couple months back – and I think this is really relevant. When you complete a task and you have numerous things that have to get done, it’s easy to change your default action to doing something else on the list.  However, when you’re not as busy and things aren’t as pressing, the default very quickly becomes consumption.

A Quick Thank You

While these lessons are a little bit different than some of the ones I came away with in years past, they will help to shape the way the coming weeks and months play out.

I had such a fantastic experience at WDS and it was because of the incredible team I worked with, the amazing volunteers, but most importantly, every person who was there that made 3,000 people seem like a tiny community.

Another special thank you to everyone came out for my unofficial 4th of July party at the Kennedy School! Initially I was thinking 75-100, but at last count, we figured there was somewhere close to 300 people that showed up – thanks for giving me one afternoon to play and have fun with everyone that came to town.

And for those of you who weren’t at the conference and/or don’t care, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled content soon with some really actionable how to posts – I know it’s been a little while!

So with that, another World Domination Summit is in the books.  It was incredible, but now it’s time to get back to dominating the world in my way.  Well, at least until meetings for next year ramp up again 🙂

Benny Hsu July 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

It was my first WDS and exceeded everything I imagined and it was already high based on what I’ve read. The only small complaint, and it wasn’t really complaining, was that the afternoon sessions were too full and many couldn’t get in. But people just found something else to do.

Thanks for stopping to chat one day. I know you were super busy but just wanted say hi.


Nick Loper July 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

“they just, might, work.” Love this — you never know until you try!

I thought it was an awesome event. My wife and I kept saying the whole weekend, “oh so-and-so needs to be here next year!” or “this would be perfect for [another friend]!”

The most frequent negative feedback I heard was about the number of attendees, from those who’d attended Year 1 or Year 2, and thought it was much more intimate and easier to connect with people. But it’s those same people who helped fuel the growth by telling the world how awesome it was!

Already registered for next year, and curious to see how the event changes and evolves.


Bo July 14, 2013 at 9:22 am

Never have I been in the same room with so many incredible people. The conversations full of hopes and dreams and goals and ideas left me yearning for more.

I think I’m going to Post-WDS withdrawals. I’m pretty sure that’s a real thing now.


y e July 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Cool post! Thanks for this piece!


Jessica July 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Sean – thanks so much to you and the team for such an amazing weekend!! So great to see you guys 🙂 xox Jess


Saya July 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Ha, Step 10 in my TEDx talk? “Nike It!”

Nice wrap-up Sean, resonates on many levels.

From one event curator to another, thanks for all the hard work!! I can only imagine the spreadsheets, doodle polls, and google docs.

And what a great city! First time in PDX. Will be back for sure.


Chas July 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I was at the Blues On the River Fest to see Robert Plant~ everyone has their priorities. 😉


Sean July 15, 2013 at 7:16 am

Oh man, if it were any other weekend I would have been right there with you!


Peter Santenello July 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm


You guys crushed it! Way to put on a top notch event.

And I loved the fact that we could get Georgian (as in the country) street food in Portland.


Navid Moazzez July 16, 2013 at 4:25 am

Hey Sean,

Great recap on WDS 2013, kind of jealous I coudn’t go this year, I’m sure it was really awesome! I will be at WDS 2014, already made plans to travel all the way fro m Sweden to come to Portland. Hope to get to meet you and some other amazing people 🙂

Keep up the good work!


Ryan July 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Great summary of an awesome weekend, Sean! You all did an excellent job pulling off such a huge and involved event. It all seemed to go off without a hitch. The only “issue” I encountered was the break out session venues were a little too small perhaps.

The whole Nike slogan is so appropriate too… It’s so easy to just put things off for someday or next weekend or whenever. But then it never comes.

Good hanging out with you at the Kennedy School, as well! Thanks for throwing that out there for everybody.


Caelan Huntress July 17, 2013 at 10:43 am

This was an epic event. By all measures and standards.

So of course, you’re aiming higher for next year. You could call it “unconventional scaling.”

Eventually, a threshold will be struck, where all of the unconventional thinkers in our tribe have made it, and all of the outsiders will be the ‘normal’ world that our people flee from. When we hit that point, there won’t be a point in growing anymore, because we’ve got everyone in one fold.

I think that’s why the conference has what Alexis Grant calls a “slightly cult-ish” feel; we have all spent most of our lives as the misunderstood outsiders, and then we meet the rest of our guild, and we’re like, FINALLY! These are our people.

Thank you for facilitating such an incredible, deeply meaningful experience to so many people, Sean. I was impressed on so many levels with the logistics and achievements of the WDS team.

And I’m glad we finally got to bump knuckles! Someday, when we’re in the same city and operating at a slower pace, let’s chill and really connect.


FERNANDO July 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

It’s great to see such large number of people had gathered to take action and change their differed lifestyle.
Great Work Sean and the team.


Rob Young July 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Really interesting perspective, and great lessons Sean. It was an awesome WDS and I can’t thank you guys enough for putting it on again.

Can’t wait for next year, especially if you keep challenging yourselves like this.


Jeffrey Trull July 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Great writeup! As a 2nd year attendee, I actually think the scaling up went pretty smoothly. I really didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would.

And yeah, one of these years I’ll have to at least spend a few minutes at the Blues Festival 🙂


Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:19 am

Luckily next year WDS is the following weekend, so should be free to go to Blues Fest!


Andrew Peters July 24, 2013 at 8:36 am


Just wanted to say Thanks for all of your posts over the years. I constantly look to your site as a resource tool. Just about everything we’ve done (and plan to do) at foundationroomfinance.com has been inspired or influenced by your posts.

I know you don’t need the validation, but just wanted to let you know your reach is being felt on the East Coast (and in Steamboat, CO).

P.S. Ever think of adding the GoodReads widget to your site so we can keep up on what you’re reading?




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