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Jim has returned from the World Domination Summit conference. Here’s what he learned.

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“I went through a phase of self-employment evangelism, encouraging everyone I knew, or didn’t know, to work for themselves, until I learned that not only was it unrealistic since some people like working as an employee, it was downright obnoxious. So although I have toned it down over the years, my zeal for entrepreneurship and my love of working for myself has never waned.”

This was from Pamela Slim, author of the book Escape from Cubicle Nation, and I am reminding myself of this for the second time. The first time around was in the 2 months following my departure from the corporate world, when I was drinking Malbec and eating steak while working remotely from Buenos Aires. Oh my, what a life. Everyone should be doing this. So I tried to scale back the bragging as much as I could. What’s awesome is I got to meet Pam in person, and she is amazing.

I am now trying to constrain myself in the aftermath of a conference called The World Domination Summit. I had unrealistically high expectations for this gathering, and incredibly, they were exceeded ten-fold.

What is WDS? It is a conference in Portland, OR with the tagline of “Leading a remarkable life in a conventional world,” put together by author, entrepreneur, and traveler Chris Guillebeau. I reviewed his book The $100 Startup and interviewed him in Episode 186 so check that out.

Here are 5 things I learned:

1) These are my people

The conference brings together a diverse collection of entrepreneurs, bloggers, business owners, life coaches, and dreamers. There was one thing I knew instantly.

These are my people.

What do I mean by that? Every single person I met there was amazingly energetic, positive, and passionate about what they were doing. Every single one.

– Whiners that hated their day job? None.
– People content with their 9 to 5, 40 hour workweek? Not here.
– Debbie Downer? Not invited.

The takeaway here is to surround yourself with people like you, at least once in awhile. Sure, it would be great to have this in a day job (I experienced this at ESPN… you know that friend of yours that is the most knowledgeable, competitive sports fan of anyone you know? Put him in a room with 50 people just like him).

But you can also experience it in other parts of life… love jazz, foreign movies, speaking Italian, or drinking wine? Find other people that light up the same way you do.

2) Now THAT is how you run a conference

Because I now run a conference myself (Reboot Weekend), I view every event I attend not just as an attendee, but as a learning experience.

They got the big things right
– Amazing venue
– Affordable cost
– Great location
– Incredible speakers
– They lucked out with perfect weather

They got the little things right
– A cool app and private Facebook page to let users interact with each other
– Leaving enough time between speakers, workshops, and meals so that people aren’t rushed, have time to run back to their hotel, and can network

They fixed what they got wrong
This is most important. Something will go wrong, it’s how you react that sets you apart.
– In the first session, I was on the third balcony of the theater, and was bummed out that I couldn’t see the top of the slides. By the time we got back from the first break, they had corrected it, and some of the following speakers went back in and adjusted their slides so that they were more readable
– During one break, they planned on having healthy yogurt and granola, but we were greeted by Snickers bars, potato chips, and Skittles. Turns out there was a snafu with the food providers, and they reacted on the fly, taking the snack food from the theatre and giving all that out instead.
– The link to buy tickets to next year’s event wasn’t working (you bet I signed up already), but a few tweets later and it was taken care of.

Whatever you do in life, focus on those three things… go for big wins, remember the details, and be willing to adjust.

3) Great speakers are like superheroes

My top business goal in life right now is to become a highly polished, energetic, informative, and hopefully, well-paid, public speaker. Like my previous point, I now watch every speaker with a much different eye than most. Yes, I’m listening to their message, but I’m critiquing and learning so much more.

How do they start their presentation? Where do they hold their hands? What do they use on their slides? What inspires the audience? What can be said that is tweetable or memorable? Where do they lose us?

Brene Brown kicked things off. She is a PhD. research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her 2010 TED talk on the power of vulnerability is one of most watched talks on TED.com, with more than 5 million views.

So you can guess that her presentation was amazing. She talked about being uncool and vulnerable. Hmmm, like my post last week when I revealed that I reached puberty 3 years after all of my peers? Talk about uncool. Talk about vulnerable.

I also identified with her when she said to “accept criticism from others getting their ass kicked.” That made me think of my post on handling negative comments. Don’t listen to the haters sitting at home reading the web and dispensing jealous insults. Do listen to other bloggers and writers that are going through the same thing as you and might have suggestions.

Brene Brown, Chris Brogan, Scott Belsky (Behance.com) Cal Newport (Following your passion is a bad idea), Scott Harrison (Charity Water), Jonathan Fields and Susan Cain (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking), Pamela Slim… all were incredibly polished and inspirational.

What I learned was that you can rock a presentation and inspire an audience in your own way. Some used slides and videos, some used none at all, and others did a 1:1 interview or hosted a panel. Do what works for you.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I confirmed a major speaking gig the day before the conference started, and I can’t wait to implement some of the strategies that I learned.

4) Community / Adventure / Service

One strong underlying theme that Chris identified that the attendees had was community, adventure, and service.

Community: I feel I am doing well with the community aspect. You can guess that I identify myself as an extrovert, in that I generally have no problem talking to people and well, I even started a podcast so I can speak to people I don’t even know!

So it was great to learn more about others around me. Based on Susan Cain’s book about introverts, it really raised my awareness.

Which are you? Are you terrified of meeting people in large groups and prefer to mingle on the sidelines? Do extroverts annoy you, or are you glad to have them around to carry the conversation.

Adventure: One of my favorite jokes was when a speaker came on stage and said “By the way, during the last break, Chris just visited 3 more countries.” The reference was to the fact that Chris has visited 185 of 193 countries. Also perhaps not a coincidence, while I was away I committed to the dates that I would be visiting Singapore during September.

I’ve had flashes of being scared… what if something happens while I am away, how will I afford it, what if I get sick? But embracing that fear and uncertainty is what life is about. When’s the last time you went somewhere that scared you? A new friend tweeted “My favorite days are the ones where I get on planes.”

Service: This is an area that I feel I need to work on. Sure, I’m fast to help out friends running a marathon for charity or raising money for a disease that has affected a loved one. But I don’t have a formal process of giving back yet.

For example, once in awhile I give salary negotiation advice to friends and family for free vs. charging my standard hourly rate. I did that just yesterday to a former student of mine. But I’d like to make it more formal.

The WDS made it easy to make that next step.

First, after an amazing presentation by Scott Harrison, I’ve agreed to give up my birthday for Charity Water. What that means is that instead of presents, I’m going to urge people to donate money to Charity Water. Of course, I might ALSO have a party to celebrate other things I am thankful for, but there will be a charity element.

Second, this one almost seems too good to be true. To conclude the conference, Chris informed us that an anonymous donor had given them a huge grant, which worked out to roughly $100 per attendee. After a dramatic lead-up, he announced that every person in the audience would receive $100 cash to put toward a project.

Let me make that clear. They brought $100,000 in cash to the conference and handed an envelope to every person.

Photo by Jim Hopkinson, TheHopkinsonReport.com

Some people are making microloans. Others are pooling their money together. Someone used part of it to buy a domain name to set up a charity idea.

I’m still deciding what to do with mine. Any ideas?
What are YOU doing to give back?

5) Dance

The conference began with dancing. Brene went right for the song that you might try and scoff but secretly love, getting the entire audience and people on stage to sing Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. The Glee version. Were some people uncool? Did some feel vulnerable? Sure. But it worked.

The conference ended with dancing. We’re talking a Bollywood DJ playing the Jai Ho song from Slumdog Millionaire, with dancers on the stage walking us through the steps, and everyone – everyone – in the crowd joining in. Best of all, the venue had a spring-loaded dance floor, which meant everyone was bouncing off the ground.

I get chills at the :55 second mark

So there you have it. Should you quit your job tomorrow? Probably not. Am I a little too excited about this past weekend? Probably.

But as always, use my advice to see where you can add something to your life.
– Surround yourself with others that share your passions
– Attend a conference or meetup group and participate
– Seek out a speaker that inspires you
– Is life pretty good? Look for ways to give back
– Don’t forget to dance. Even if it’s not cool.

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Sponsor Message: Freshbooks “Fresh Take of the Week” – Comes from Danielle LaPorte, who produces the White Hot Truth and did a workshop session at WDS. During the session we were talking about becoming an entrepreneur and having all these ideas and someone asked, what project should I focus on first? Her answer was the one that makes money the quickest.

Everyone got a laugh, but she was serious. When you’re starting out, you need to get cashflow. So what you should do first is make money the quickest. This could be teaching a class, doing consulting, etc. You teach the class, you get paid right away.

Then she said, the projects you do next are the ones that make the most money. What’s the difference? These are products that take longer to create… writing a book, creating a course, planning a conference. They take longer to incubate, but make more money in the long term. Great advice.

Want my advice? I use Freshbooks.com to do all my online billing.

Hopkinson Report Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for promoting this conference or speakers. Amazon.com affiliate links used where available.

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