wds day one: finding a dream

when you attend something called the world domination summit (wds), you have a certain amount of expectation that comes along with purchasing your ticket. it’s a pretty lofty claim. domination of the entire world? and yet, when you are sitting in a theater with 3,000 individuals who share in this goal, it seems…possible.

it was december 2010, and i was grabbing tea with cathy brown like we always do. catching up on our wild daydreaming and argentine adventures. she mentioned a book i should read. the art of non-conformity by chris guillebeau. i read it quickly. i was inspired. highlighted it to pieces as i do. immediately understood why she told me to read it. i began promoting the book to others completely forgetting the name of the author. i tend to do that. titles stick. authors don’t always.

it was probably may 2012 (completely arbitrary date), and i stumbled upon the facebook page for the book, and of course, clicked that “like” button with ease. the positive, pro-adventure, crafting-your-own-life posts starting popping up in my newsfeed. a daily head nod of agreement and the occasional sharing took place.

it was january 2013, and i was sitting in brian’s abuelos house in puerto rico. instead of enjoying the hammocks with two of the biggest dreamers i know, i was catching up on the computer. trying to keep the balance up between work and play. i saw a post on the art of non-conformity facebook page about something called the world domination summit happening in portland in july. it was in its third year, and chris guillebeau was the man behind it all. i googled his name because clearly i had no clue who he was. and lo and behold, he was the man who wrote the book.

long story short. i debated on spending the $500 on a ticket, consulted with a couple friends who had attended in the past, and in the end, in a spur the moment decision before tickets sold out, i did it.

it was july 2013, and i walked into a theater filled with 3,000 people ready to have their world rocked. 3,000 people all sitting down next to strangers and after brief introductions, immediately diving into their dreams. their dreams!

i am pretty self-aware and know my passions. i know where i am and what fuels that. but a big picture end of the road dream? a concrete item that i could tell these strangers when they looked me straight in the eyes and said, so what is your dream? sure, i could give them the vague answer involving some combination of underprivileged youth, art, movement, outdoor education, and storytelling, but it didn’t seem like enough.

(enough. that word keeps popping up in my life. what is enough? more soon.)

so the conversation with one fellow attendee, a frenchman who lives in seattle and does marketing for amazon.com, went something like this:

him: so what do you do here in portland?
me: i have me own media business (hand him new business card). i work with small businesses and non-profits on graphic design, online marketing, social media, websites, etc.
him: awesome. so you’re location independent.
me: (take a silent minute to figure out what that means) yes. i can work from anywhere.
him: so why are you here if you’ve already figured out how to live the dream?
me: that’s my for now dream, not my forever dream.
him: ah. so what breakout session did you go to this afternoon?
me: the one on overcoming fear.
him: how was it?
me: meh. i didn’t get too much out of it.
him: you don’t seem too fearful. why did you choose that one?
me: i don’t know. i feel fearful, but once i was in that room with 250 other people feeling fearful, i realized that i already practice a lot of the ways the speakers were teaching to overcome fear. i think i was actually able to share a lot of helpful thoughts with others in my small group.
him: hm. so what is your forever dream?

end scene.

it’s a big question to answer in a rush, but i wanted to do it. so i did. i said it out loud. heck i even said it on camera today for a website called pilot fire.

i want to start an alternative school for underprivileged youth focused on hands-on learning with emphasis in the arts, outdoor education, and foreign languages/cultures.

start is a relative word. thinking about it now, i would like to advocate for these kind of learning environments. if that leads to my own school, okay then. i just want to help bring our education system out of the factory mentality and into creative exploration.

it feels good to roll that around in my brain. to say an end goal and feel excited by that idea. and yet, it’s not news to me. actually, i am describing the kind of school i attended as a child. a school that shaped who i am. a school that sadly had to close its doors in 2011 after 98 years of “education the whole child.” and actually, my eighth grade teacher, mr. mikulak, predicted this goal too…twelve years ago.

he has known me since i was born. (my grandma and mom both worked at the school.) and as tradition had it, the day before graduation, all the eighth graders sat on stage at a school assembly while mr. mikulak read the ten-year predictions he had handcrafted for each of us.

sara schneider. well, she will be right back where she started, running the early education department here at chicago junior school.

our dreams run deep.

our ability to recognize them depends on the time we take to cultivate our listening. listening to ourselves and others. taking time to ask the simple questions that always have such complex answers.

the opening speaker at wds on saturday was a woman named nancy duarte. she is a communication junkie, and her analysis of speech and storytelling was fascinating. she developed a shape and theory that all the amazing speakers of the world seem to follow. martin luther king, jr. steve jobs. jesus. evita perón. it looks like this:


nancy broke down each of these four leaders’ speeches line by line and matched the sections up with the highs and lows of her shape. it was poetry. concrete poetry, where the lines form a shape. what is. what could be.

what is?
what could be?

the closing speaker at wds on saturday was a man named chase jarvis. he is a photographer, and instead of showing us his images like usual, he spoke on creativity. the importance of creativity in molding future geniuses. the ones who will solve world problems. come up with the solutions no one has thought about yet. he compared our need for cultivating creativity to the already-advocated need for literacy.


chris looked at our flawed education system, and it’s removal of things that teach our youth to be problem solvers. to tap into that creativity we have as children that is beaten out of us as we march through the societal schooling norms.

i wanted to run up on stage and tell him my dream. i didn’t. although i am sure it would have been applauded with this audience. “the power of dreams compel you” might have erupted from the crowd. a crowd filled with people on their own journeys to find their dreams or maybe re-find their dreams like me.

throughout the whole day, a few friends and family members kept popping into my brain that i wanted to be in that room with me. as i walked out of that theater, i had to remind those people just how amazing they are.

to those people:
thank you for the creativity you bring to this world. i am inspired to know you and just wanted to tell you that.

today, one of the speakers (darren rowse) had a special guest singer come up and share a song. the lyrics might resonant. spark a vibration in you. cause a dream.

p.s. there were way more cool speakers and such at wds on saturday. this is just a rambling sample.

12 thoughts on “wds day one: finding a dream

  1. a very dear friend of mine is doing just that in the philipines. she has started a program to teach adults how to teach in the slums. i contribute books every year. it expands each year. lmk if you would like to contact her.

    • Hey Pups what kind of books does she need? I always come across and have access to lots of books. Would love to help.

  2. This is an awesome post. I think it will really start your readers to think and re-think of their own dreams. Dreams are where it all begins. My dream is to spark others to achieve their dreams so much pleasure is gained from helping and watching others “fly” Living and fulfilling our dreams is fulfilling our life purpose, it is the answer to the question we all ask, “why am I here?” Now If only we could grab “fear” tie it up and stuff a sock in its mouth.
    Love u lots. Mom

  3. Great recap of day one. The weekend was a pleasure with you and glad you went. Your answer solidified through the weekend even more so hopefully you got something out of it all.

  4. Congratulations on your clarity. Finding your dream is one of the most delicate tasks we have to accomplish if we are to live a noble life.

    Bringing art to growing minds that don’t have artistic opportunities – that is a noble goal. ‘Advocating for these types of learning environments’ is a whole lot more effectual – and less stressful – than starting a school.

    If you have the ability to be location independent, don’t anchor yourself to one project and one location. Find an existing organization that desperately needs what you can provide, and help them.

    Chase Jarvis has an existing infrastructure you can use to bring art to the very people you want to help. How can you use what he has built to fulfill your own dream?

    Tell me all about it in 2014.

    • Thanks so much Caelan. What you’re saying is what I have been doing. Some of my media clients are organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs and Street Yoga. I just miss the hands-on aspect of working directly with the youth. Can you tell me more about Chase’s infrastructure? I don’t know what you are referencing.

      • http://www.creativelive.com/ is his brainchild.

        I never knew about it before WDS. There are plenty of underprivileged youth out there who have never heard about it, either.

        The workshops are free when they are live, or you can pay to watch them anytime after that.

        What if you set up an event, and invited a whole lot of kids to come and watch one of these live workshops for a day?

  5. Pingback: The Art of Non-Conformity » WDS 2013: Still Working On It

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