I can recall in my youth in Northern California a constant frustration called FOMO or fear of missing out. It is the anxiety felt that there’s someplace better you should be. You worry that you’re never where the cool stuff is happening. When I moved to the east coast and New York City seven years ago I felt that the big city had cured me of this ill. I was overwhelmed by all the choices, I simply had to deal with the fact that I would never be able to do everything. I learned that life is about making decisions. By making a choice you are inevitably missing out on the thing that wasn’t chosen. What moving to New York taught me was that wherever I was at the moment, was the right place for me to be. I brought the party.

During WDS we were in a space where what we said and did mattered as individuals

I’ve been back West many times to visit friends and family in the Bay Area and I brought with me my adopted New York attitude of nonchalance in the face of uncertainty or doubt. I brought the confident swagger that I had assumed New York had given me. I recently returned from Portland after attending The World Domination Summit (WDS), a two day conference built on the pillars of community, adventure and service. Attending WDS and finally seeing Portland, I realized something. It’s not about the space where you are but how the you change yourself in reaction to the space you’re in. In other words New York didn’t make me more confident. It was the permission I gave myself to see the confidence in me. At the conference much was made of the reactions of Portlanders to WDS attendees. I met some former Californians working in a food truck who claimed we were the nicest group they’ve ever met. Conference attendees heard this echoed everywhere, we were the kindest, most interesting and fun group they’d ever seen.

Portland World Domination SummitHow did it happen? What was the magic that made WDS so worthwhile and impossible to describe to others? What caused this collective joy and positive outlook? As a teacher I’m often struck by the way the structure of a classroom affects the ways in which students interact. If I’m sitting at a table with my students, the questions I get and reactions to the material are much different than if students are in rows facing me at the front of a classroom. Reflecting on WDS I see this same sort of shift in how the space works to reflect back the attitudes of organizers, attendees and locals.

Two things, in my opinion, make WDS successful. One is that every attendee has a story. Not only were the speakers obviously very talented and amazing. It was equally engaging to hear the stories from attendees both on and off stage. Even the afterparty was interrupted briefly so an attendee could propose to his girlfriend. Why? Because it makes for a compelling story. The story of that wedding proposal was told in front of us because of the possibility we made for it to happen. During WDS we were in a space where what we said and did mattered as individuals and because of that we as a group made impossible things possible.

WDS is a collective wish to be positive about where we are in the present moment

The second reason for the success of WDS is Chris Guillebeau. He draws a stark contrast from others he’s sometimes compared to like Eric Reis or Tim Ferris. Chris’ character is what sets him apart. It’s defined almost entirely by his humbleness and kindness. At one point in the conference Chris gave what he called a “soft sell” which, for anyone who’s seen him speak before, is just what comes to him naturally. He can’t hard sell you or pressure you. You get the sense that Chris wants more people to be happy and comfortable like him. He invites you to enjoy life the way he does and you want to do it because he gave you a place to do it.

Mothers Portland World Domination Summit

Portland itself is a magical place, filled with nonconforming and thoughtful people. The fact that so many of the attendees aspire to overlapping positive ideals and are brought to a place that encourages it is really what makes WDS great. It’s not about what we are doing for money or the bad patches you may see in front of you. It’s not about what you’re missing out on or the fear of it. WDS is a collective wish to be positive about where we are in the present moment and what we aspire to change in the future.