Why I’m Graduating from the World Domination Summit

Why I’m Graduating from the World Domination Summit

WDS Toast

It seems fitting that WDS 2013 ended with a champagne toast.

It felt very much like a culmination and a celebration of sorts, for me at least.

It also felt like the end of my WDS time.


At the end of the weekend, after all the amazing speakers and stories, I was left with this thought…

“I think I’m done.”


Does this mean I’ve learned all I can from the speakers and fellow attendees?

Uh, no.

With college, even after you graduate, if you were to go back and sit in on a class, it’s very (if not highly) likely you’d learn something, be inspired, meet cool people—and that’s great.

But it’s also important to know when you need to stop sitting in and move on.


I think many people (including myself) come to WDS for a few things:

  1. Seeking Inspiration
  2. Wanting Ideas
  3. Finding a Tribe


So what happens when you find those things?

(all together now) You go DO something!


In Year 1, I had been blogging and traveling (for almost a year), but I still had no firm plan, no one thing to focus on.

In Year 2, I was trying several different things, hoping something would stick, eager to position myself as “someone.”

For Year 3, I know what I’m working on (the TET show), I have my core group, and I now feel like I’m here to share, unattached (as much as possible) from the outcome. I got stuff I’m passionate about and grateful for those who want to listen.


Back in my past life in LA, I consider my four years with a classical theatre company a kind of Graduate Degree. Similarly, over the past two years, perhaps I’ve earned a Masters Degree in World Domination. Now THAT sounds pretty cool.

I’ve learned from:

  • Jonathan Fields
  • Pam Slim
  • Danielle LaPorte
  • Leo Babauta
  • Brene Brown
  • Cal Newport
  • Chris Brogan
  • JD Roth
  • Nancy Duarte
  • Gretchen Rubin
  • Donald Miller
  • and many more

On topics covering:

  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Uncertainty
  • Desire
  • Success
  • Failure
  • Vulnerability
  • Travel
  • Courage
  • Charity
  • and lots more

And not to mention the hundreds of people whose work I’ve discovered and engaged with over the past two years.


My WDS Years (to the tune of “The Wonder Years…”)

I’ve attended since Year 1 (3 conferences total) and it’s pretty amazing to look back at where I was two years ago, and where I’ve come.

Year 1, with only 500 people, was just an amazing, intimate experience. For the first time that I knew, all these inspiring online people were getting together in the same place, hosted by one of the most influential people in my life (Mr. CG himself). It was a no-brainer to attend, and it planted the seeds for some amazing relationships.

Now, I’m glad WDS grew. Many of us didn’t know what to expect with twice as many people in Year 2—I thought it would lose something special.

But if Year 1 was “really cool and pretty sweet,” Year 2 was “OMG—did you just see that??” There was such a HUGE leap in production value, it was kinda stunning.

Though I do kinda miss in Year 1 how we were all in one room, where the lights were just “on,” so you could look around and see everybody all the time. It was awesome.


Year 2: for me, this was *the* year, when everything peaked: the speakers, how ideas landed on me, my connections, etc. I was in the sweet spot of my life for that conference to happen when it did.

Between Brene Brown’s opening speech, the theatre-wide karaoke rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” and Chris’ announcement of the $100 Investment, there was an unbelievable electricity in the air.

A kind of “Did that just F@$&ING happen?!” series of moments.

I think everyone in that theatre knew something profound was amidst. I’m sure I was not the only one gettin’ goosebumps. The excitement was at 11, people!!

And after Chris said everyone was getting $100 cash, there were audible gasps—we were truly speechless.

If you weren’t there, I’m sorry my sub-par writing skills aren’t adequately conveying the scene. It truly was unforgettable. Think of something amazingly awesome and life-changing that happened to you 5 years ago that feels like it was yesterday. Ok, that’s what we’re talking about.

And even with 1000 people, it always felt like wherever you went, you would run into people you’d know. It was, in a word…wonderful.


Year 3: speakers were great (Donald Miller and Tess Vigeland blew me away), more wonderful people, but for me, there was something missing, and I don’t think it was the program. It’s where I’m at personally.

It also felt like too many people. I’m not being overly nostalgic for 500; I just know that one of the main reasons I came to WDS is to see my friends, the people I’ve been building relationships with over the past few years.

With 3000 people, you can be surrounded by a couple hundred people that you don’t know and you can’t see anyone you recognize—that is challenging. There were people I *knew* were at the conference and I barely saw them!

Of course there are awesome people all around, but I’m not looking for quantity of connections.

Though there was that moment in the after-after party when I danced with Danielle LaPorte to Shakira. You can’t make this stuff up.


So what’s next? Where do we go from here?

Those of us who have been to all three years (or Years 2 and 3), we’re a cohort, and while we may have attended the first time looking for the three items above, what if we have that now?

It seems that the conference is focused on appealing to a more general/beginner audience, which is great—there are always people who need the introductory materials, and a way to connect with others who “get it.”

But what if you don’t need a kick in the pants?

For me at least, it kinda feel like you can “tap out” on this kind information—not that it isn’t useful; it’s more “right, I get this—now I need something different…”

THAT “something different” is what I’m looking for.

And maybe, it’s going to be up to us—those who have “graduated”—to figure out how we can continue learning, growing, and achieving as a group.

Will we come up with our own conference? Do something virtual?

I don’t know, but I’m excited to consider that question alongside some kick-ass friends, mentors, and teachers.


What am I going to do for WDS 2014?

Unlike last year, I didn’t pounce on a ticket. And I’m not sure I’m going to.

I may “un-conference” as a couple of friends did this past year: just show up to Portland for that weekend and go to meet ups and connect with people. I love my friends, I love the vibe when everyone’s in town, and I love Portland in the summer. It’s a win-win-win.

I won’t be able to attend the official events, which is a shame, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Chris Guillebeau, it’s that the man knows how to throw a freakin’ party.

Will WDS become something different in the coming years?

Well, seeing how much of a serial entrepreneur Mr. Guillebeau is, I have no doubt he’s been thinking how to best expand this little project.


And just to be totally frickin’ clear, I’m not hatin’ on WDS or Chris. I am SO enormously grateful for the work he and all his associates have done; their level of dedication, enthusiasm, and integrity is stunning.


These WDS years will always hold a special place in my heart.

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…”


From Portland…


**OK, it was sparkling cider they served for the toast, as apparently, Chris and the entire rest of the staff were threatened with jail time if they served the real thing. One of Chris’ best lines was when he was told he’d be facing jail: “how much time are we talking?” Ha.



Photo courtesy of Armosa Studios


Former life: actor/office worker/virtual assistant; lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. Since then: sold nearly everything, took a $5 flight to Hawaii, lived there for 3 months, wrote an eGuide about all of it, and still traveling. Currently: digital nomad - looking to improve myself, have fun and serve others.

49 comments on “Why I’m Graduating from the World Domination Summit
  1. You absolutely 100% just wrote what I was telling my friend how I felt as we left Portland the other day. Well said!
    – James

  2. Laura Simms says:

    Well said. Glad you shared your experience–I think it’s easy to get comfortable and hang around even when you know it’s time to move on.

  3. Bethany says:

    So interesting, Nate! I was bummed to miss it when I saw that you, Jacob, Dave, and a few others had gone. I wonder if I would have had similar thoughts to yours, even though I’ve never been to any of the WDS’s, but given that I’ve done a lot of similar work? Or maybe I would have eaten it up? I wonder. My intention in going would have been for the connection, too, which is what makes me think I might have agreed with you. Hmmm. Thanks for the thoughts!! :)

    • Nathan says:

      you’re welcome B! Like many things, it all depends on where you’re at, so you’re right: could have gone either way. I *do* think it’s pretty special though the first time you get to connect in person with all your friends + heroes in the same place. Can’t put a price on that! :)

  4. Kathleen says:

    As a newbie my experience was different than yours, as is appropriate. I think you’ve struck on something more broadly applicable than just for WDS – the idea that we want/need different things at different points in our life. Moving on or graduating seems like something to aspire to, and it’s so cool that you understand yourself well enough to know when to move on.

    • Nathan says:


      and I think I’m only *now* at a place where I understand something like that; there was just a feeling, an intuition, and I leaned into it, to see what it was, and am trusting that it will guide me correctly.

      Such a journey listening to the gut! thanks for sharing your ideas Kathleen, and excited to have you among the “graduated” one day! :)

  5. Glad I could host the party that let you dance with Danielle LaPorte :) . Her hips don’t lie…

  6. Awesome post! I felt this way after my second attendance to another event in NYC… I had gotten all I could from that experience. Not the speakers, but the experience and community. It was time to branch out and I had such a refreshing time at WDS (first year). It’s totally normal to feel this way and so important to branch out.

  7. angie says:

    You nailed this and I couldn’t agree more or have said it better. I only went to WDS1. I loved the experience and still consider WDSers family and tribe in spite of not having seen the year one crowd since and in spite of never having actually met those who joined the group post year one.

    I’m with you–I felt like I soaked up everything that I could. I didn’t return, not because I didn’t want to, but because I felt it was time to take the next steps on my own.

    Thanks for sharing, fellow alum!

    • Nathan says:

      thanks for the compliments… though you’re making me blush. ;)

      glad to be part of such esteemed company, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  8. Really enjoyed reading this perspective, Nathan. I’ve thought about several of the same things here, but I didn’t manage to organize my thoughts as well as you have. This definitely helps me think about my future with WDS (and life), too! Thanks!

    • Nathan says:

      Happy to help Jeffrey, though I had no idea I was doing that when I set out! :)

      I look forward to connecting down the road…wherever that leads us!

  9. I agree with James. Well put + so clearly in WDS-er perspective.

    I am thinking of keeping the annual trip to Portland (love PDX) next year and adding in an adventure down the Oregon Coast.

    Just focusing more on the Adventure and actioning Community and Service in other ways.

    Nice work, Nathan.

    • Nathan says:

      Yup, tons of ways to implement A + C + S! And the Oregon Coast is HIGHLY recommended. In fact: THAT’S where the post-WDS conference should be, haha!

      Really appreciate the feedback Cynthia – thanks for your time!

  10. Nathan,

    I love your take on this! You’re right about not running into friends. I didn’t like that either. I missed the first year and bought my ticket for next. I was in line at a food truck and the guy next to me talked me into it:)

    • Nathan says:

      Oh, those food truck customers can be so persuasive, right??

      Very sad I only ran into you once (maybe twice??). Until next time, Tess — thanks for your comments!!

  11. Sherrill Leverich-Fries says:

    I don’t think there’s a cooler degree available than a Masters in World Domination! :-)

    I heard the same type of thing from a few people this year, and I love that you are up to ACTION. There were a lot of unconferencers so you’d be in awesome company :-)

    • Nathan says:

      Thanks Sherrill. Now all I need is to create a diploma that says that – that would be pretty sweet to see hanging in your house! :)

      Really appreciate the feedback, and excited to be dominating alongside you!

  12. Gretchen says:

    I attended years 2 and 3 and had similar feelings to what you describe at the end of Sunday. Ultimately, I did buy a ticket to WDS2014 because it’s a part of my life that I’m not ready to let go of yet. It’s a check-in and recharge. Never thought about un-conferencing, though. Maybe that’s the sweet spot. Thanks for your honesty.

    • Nathan says:

      You’re very welcome, Gretchen. Thanks for sharing your experience, too, and I’m sure next year will be a great resource to check-in and recharge. If I make it to PDX, hope to meet ya! :)

  13. Benny says:

    Great to finally meet you at WDS!

    I did hear from some that have been since year 1 about the same thing you said. They would come back to Portland but would do the unconferencing thing. Another couple I met have been coming since said they might take next year off.

    But it’s not like they didn’t love it. They did but they felt like they didn’t need to come every single year now.

    • Nathan says:

      DUDE – so awesome to meet you, too! It felt like a 2D character (from Twitter) coming to life! :)

      And absolutely: we love it, we get it, now we decide if we’ll be back and how. Now THAT’S unconventional!

  14. I’ve written a response piece to this blog post :)

    See what you think!


    • Nathan says:

      ah, very cool – oh, the wonders of 21st century communicating!

      no direct request from CG yet on this end. i’m going to ask, though (as the angel’s advocate): are you more returning for Chris and the “culture,” or because of what YOU will get from the experience?

      it would be one thing for Chris to ask you to return to LEAD a workshop or as a SPEAKER (or volunteer) to help out all those who are further back; it’s another to hang out among the masses and spread WDS cheer as you can one-on-one.

      again, not hatin’, just sayin’.

      really excited to read about everything you’ve accomplished and clearly you do have a lot to offer. i guess i just want to see people be able to use those gifts to their potential, and to do what they want, not what others expect of them, to snag a line from CG’s own handbook. :)

      thanks for the response piece!!

      ps – how did Chris find you to puruse? was it from your tweet?

      • Hi Nathan, totally get that you’re not “hatin'” ;) Like I said, I was done with the conference, too :)

        I offered to go as a volunteer, but Chris wants locals. As to how I got in contact with him, I was emailing him about an unrelated topic and I happened to mention the “graduation” thing.

        This was also my third year, like you.

        As to why I will pay and go as an attendee? Because Chris asked me to. I hope I also will get something out of it, and I know that I will, based on the past three years.

        I don’t really know. I think it’s interesting that both you and I had the reaction that we were “finished,” and I’m curious to see what will happen now that I’ve decided to not be. I think un-conferencing it is a great idea, too.

  15. Kate says:

    (I read this in Jeanie’s FB)

    I have to say, I loved reading this post. I attended WDS 1 and 2, and I had the exact same sentiment- “…speakers were great…more wonderful people, but for me, there was something missing, and I don’t think it was the program. It’s where I’m at personally.”

    I feel like, at some point, I grew out of it. Doesn’t make it less awesome, but we’re in different places, WDS and I.

    I wondered how I would feel this year, not going back. I found I missed Portland itself, and some of the people (many had also not gone back) but I didn’t miss WDS itself. I’m thrilled to see it still going on, but for other folks.

    • Nathan says:

      thanks for chiming in Kate!

      love how you put it: “we’re in different places, WDS and I.” exactly. we have different goals, and that’s totally cool. in true WDS-spirit, we high-five each other and say “awesome!!”

  16. Hey! Yep I think a few people might feel like that… how about coming to #ALIVEinBERLIN2014 instead? We’re planning the coolest European Get-Together to learn, connect and be fully alive whilst having fun and doing great work. Keep your eyes open for that, we’ll be launching the website soon :-) YAY!

  17. you’ve always got a place on my dance card, baby.

    • Nathan says:

      is it wrong to admit i had that line about dancing with Danielle probably before most of my other thoughts in this post?

  18. Thank you for putting into words exactly what I was thinking – and helping me understand perhaps where those thoughts come from. We’ve only barely crossed paths over the past 2 years (I think you sat 2 seats down from me at the veg meetup on Saturday! :) ), but I’d love to connect with you more – add to *my* WDS cohort as it were. I feel like we’d have lots to share – drop me a line if you’re ever interested. :)

    • Nathan says:

      Glad to hear this one connected with you. And can’t believe we were both at that lunch – ha! :)

      Will definitely drop you a line!

  19. Nazrin says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this Nathan it certainly resonated with me.

    As a WDS first timer this year, I left feeling like I had just had my first baby. Perhaps you don’t exactly know what that feels like. To explain, the experience was so profound, so overwhelming that in the moments afterwards I thought and felt, wow that was off the charts amazing but I don’t think I will be in a hurry to sign up for number 2. I will let the dust settle and see what pans out.

    I just wanted to say thanks for your honesty in this post.


    • Nathan says:

      you’re correct – i have *no* idea what the feels like, and honestly, i hope i never do. ;)

      but i really like your metaphor – it seems appropriate. it’s easy in this information age to gobble up everything in site; great idea to take a step back and see what has taken form and what you’d like to integrate!

      and – you’re very welcome. :)

  20. Ben says:

    This was my first year at WDS but I can still identify with what you shared. I realized during the course of the weekend that I’ve really been living the life that Chris and so many of the ‘extraordinary life’ blog community espouse for many years.

    I came looking for my tribe and left determining that, having spent years on the road, I now want to find them back home and discover what community really looks like.

    • Nathan says:

      dude, what an awesome discovery! talk about “worth the price of admission alone.”

      really thrilled to hear about that and excited to see how it happens for ya!

      i think i’m in the same boat, too. i used to be one of those “that sounds so cool” people, and now i’m doing (some of it). i think experiences like this can reaffirm what we want, and help us see what we still want to create in our lives.

      and wait a minute: did we chat at Jenny Blake’s meetup in Discovery Park? too cool!!

      *high five*

  21. Jami says:

    Thanks for writing much of my own thoughts. As many others I’ve talked to from the first WDS, I miss the intimacy and interactions of the first year, with people I met having a direct intercept for the direction of my life. Year 2 was manageable and as you state, much of the reason to attend was to deepen the relationships built on the first year. This year I looked and looked for some people and never found them. Although online interactions are great, I’m a hugger, which is why this “conference” is so different than many others.

    Although I thought about doing the un-conference thing, I shot it down, and purchased a ticket. Why? I’ve still things to learn from the speakers, planned gatherings (one which had HUGE! impact on me . I miss dearly the interactions from the first year and second, attending has become a gauge for my growth from one year to the next, a mix of personal and professional with others in business who don’t measure this by the ruler of the bottom line, but of growth from adventure and service when discussed with a community who doesn’t judge but encourage and is willing to offer support in a myriad of ways. And that ends with the BEST party of the year! :)

    • Nathan says:

      love the hugger part. :)

      what i’m realizing when i read your comment is that if I do the unconference thing next year, i may realize i hate that, and then come back for 2015—maybe i’ll miss the “in the hall” interactions. who knows?

      but i can’t think my way into a solution. just gotta see what feels right. and again, maybe there will be something run by the graduates in 2015…? :)

  22. Yuliya says:

    This is exactly how I felt. Just like finding that special someone these things are all about timing. This year was great but it didn’t ‘land’ the same way as last year. I didn’t go the first year, but I guess the progression is something like this:

    Get Inspired
    Get Focused

    So until I’ve executed and can come back as a speaker I need to skip next year ;)

    • Nathan says:


      Gather up as much as you can, work furiously, and then ship it!

      If Chris asks me to come back (to keep the culture going, to lead the way for others), I’ll hold out for the “speaker” invitation (or at the very least, Ambassador.

      thanks Yuliya!

  23. Am so glad a friend pointed me toward this post, as I was mildly disgusted throughout WDS… I don’t need a party or friends or inspiration. Am already up to big things. WDS was a huge disappointment from that perspective, though the folks I was with & I made a great, productive few days of it on or own in Portland. (see http://musicandluggage.com/portlandpianomagichappen)

    I wish I’d been there the first two years. Can’t recommend the event now, except to pre-newbie lifestyle designers.

    Also, I thought the speakers/program/curating *was* the problem. CG is clearly fantastic at getting the people gathered. Creating a transformational program might just not be in his wheelhouse. Gretchen Rubin was the only useful speaker, IMO.

    Thanks for being willing to tell the truth about the event.
    Rebecca in Switzerland

    • Nathan says:

      Hey Rebecca-

      I really feel like I can only tell *my* truth, as you did with yours. I’m sure there would be many people who felt the program was “perfect” and just want they needed/wanted/hoped for.

      I’m sure Chris would be the first to admit he’s learning tons about producing a conference, and as a fan/supporter, I’m eager to see how this develops. I may just not be a front-row participator.

      And of course thrilled to hear that the event created the opportunity for such an awesome impromptu concert!!


  24. Well said, as a 40 something parent of 2 teens, one leaving for college this year, my take away was “what an amazing experience, something my kids should have” and so the next WDS ticket I buy won’t be for me, it will be for my 16 YO daughter or my 18YO son.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Why I’m Graduating from the World Domination Summit"
  1. […] Unlike Nathan Agin, I’m going for my Doctorate in World Domination. WDS gives me a chance to reflect on the months gone by, recharge for the months ahead, and reconnect with myself and others who share so many of the interests that I do. […]

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