The Importance of Investing in Yourself & Lessons in World Domination

On July 10th, I stepped WAY outside my comfort zone and travelled by myself, to Portland Oregon, to attend a 'conference' (I use that term very loosely), called The World Domination Summit (WDS for short). This is a yearly gathering of more than 2 500 like-minded/hearted people from across the globe. It's the brain child of an incredibly humble, yet outstanding human being named, Chris Guillebeau. The whole event is centred on the question: 'How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?' Bloody good question eh? The three core values of this gathering are: Community, Adventure & Service. Everything that happens in conjunction with WDS, speaks to these.

While there, I met up with some soul sisters, made a ton of new friends, learned from a bunch of incredibly inspiring speakers, became a superhero, got to meet some people I really admire, attended an opening night party which featured a circus, and the closing night festivities which featured hot air balloon rides, a rock orchestra and a Bollywood dance party. Aside from that, there were the endless food trucks, a river cruise, an encounter with a shaman, fun meet-ups all over town, and surprises around every corner. Oh.....and incidentally, I am now a world record holder (well, me and 807 of my new friends). No guff.

This investment in myself (which I admittedly struggled to commit to), may have been the single best decision I have ever made to date...aside from marrying my
husband and having my two rockstar kids, of course. I had heard about this event while participating in the Connect With Anyone course with Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend (who is one of those 'people I admire very much'). As part of this course, I was connected with a 'mastermind group'. This sounds ominous I know, but it was actually AWESOME. Lucky for me, I ended up being connected with four incredible women, with a wide range of talents and expertise, from all over the place. Long story short, we a BIG way.

Over the course of the last 15 months or so, Melanie, Elyse, Christie, Gwen and I, have stayed connected, continued to support each other and to keep each other accountable. Truth be told, that accountability thing is REALLY Elyse's strength, but the rest of us know that she will (thankfully) call us on our stuff if we slack off, so we keep moving forward. Anyhow, the point is, we decided that if at all possible, The World Domination Summit was the perfect place for us to meet live and in person!

Next thing you know, I'm hopping a flight (well, more like three flights) to Portland to go to 'a conference' with a really crazy name. Did I mention that I had a bit of a struggle making this kind of investment in myself? I was worried it cost too much, I felt guilty for leaving my family for that long, I didn't think I could afford the time off work, and I was nervous about travelling on my own. Thank God I somehow managed to go ahead with it, in spite of all of those concerns. It definitely helped that my husband Sean, encouraged me to go for it, and that he repeatedly assured me that both children and pets, would be fed and taken care of in my absence.

So, here's the thing. If I had let fear and guilt get the better of me, I would still be exactly where I was, in the same headspace as I was, a few weeks ago. Which I guess wasn't all THAT bad, but it sure as hell wasn't where I'm at right now. Nope, as result of my experience at #WDS2014, things are definitely different. I can hear you thinking, "Oh spare me the drama please, you went to a weekend conference, not to a yearlong retreat with the Dalia Lama, what could you possibly have learned that was so life changing?" Well friend, thanks for asking!! Truthfully, I could write a book about my experience, but in the interest of getting this information out there in a timely manner, I'll keep it to the highlights - the stuff that impacted me the most. 

Here are seven lessons I learned in world domination:

Lesson One:

Take Imperfect Action

One of my favourite speakers of the whole affair was Jadah Sellner of Simple Green Smoothies. Her story, and the way she delivered it, really grabbed my attention. Her message of, 'encounter every lesson in life on purpose', was authentic and it made me feel hopeful and validated. She encouraged us to find harmony between the doer and the dreamer in us. Among other sage advice, she told us to 'Take Imperfect Action'. These three little words sent shivers up my spine and have been lodged in my mind ever since. You see, I have always struggled with 'doing it right'. Call it perfectionism, neuroses, whatever you want. The thing is, I have always hesitated to take the next step, because I want the next step, to be 'the right step'. My girl Jadah made me realize that doing something, even if it's not 'the perfect thing', even if you don't' know exactly where it will lead or what the next step after it will be, doing SOMETHING is always better than doing nothing. Like really, how the hell can we get anywhere if we're afraid to take action in the first place? THAT my friends, was an AHA moment.

Lesson Two:

We're ALL Connected.

A.J. Jacobs is one funny, smart and courageous guy. Among many other things, he lived an entire year according to all the rules in the bible, just to see what it would be like! And then....he wrote a book about it. His latest project is something called, The Global Family Reunion. My cousin A.J. says....every human on the planet is part of the same family. NOT just the same species....the same FAMILY. In fact, every person on this earth, is 55th cousins or less! The science says so, and just to drive the point home, he is working on something called, the global family tree.  Curious?  Go ahead, add yourself to the family tree and see how closely related you are to some famous, or infamous folks! Just like Sister Sledge sang it...and just like all the people at 'the conference' sang it after AJ spoke (yes, I'm serious), We ARE family!

I don't know about you, but knowing this, makes me feel more comfortable in the world. And although it can be sad to think that we are treating members of our own human family in atrocious ways, it also makes me have hope for the future. If people begin to recognize that we truly are all connected, then maybe we will all start treating each other with a little (or a lot) more kindness, compassion and empathy.

Lesson Three:

Listening is a Powerful Action

There were two speakers at WDS who made this point. One was Shannon Galpin, a humanitarian, activist, writer and speaker, who is also National Geopgraphic Explorer of the year. Shannon spoke about her work with women who have witnessed and been victims of atrocities in Afghanistan (see lesson two above), and how giving others a voice by simply listening to their stories, is a massively powerful act which has the potential to change lives and the world. In Shannon's words, "Sometimes listening is the single best thing you can do." Ultimately, everyone wants to be heard!

Well.....except maybe, John Francis. John spent 17 years in silence. read that right, 17 years! I went on a one day silent retreat a few years back and had trouble keeping my trap shut for that long. Can you imagine 17 years?! Incidentally, he also swore off the use of motorized vehicles and walked EVERYWHERE for 22 years! All this, because John is a lover of the environment. You might even call him an activist. John believes that, "How we treat each other manifests in the physical environment" (again, see lesson two above). I bet you're thinking that he must have lived like a hermit in the mountains of Tibet or something. Nope, during his 17 years of silence, John was a busy guy! He founded Planetwalk, an environmental awareness organization and earned three degrees, including a PhD! John fittingly broke his silence on earth day in 1990. According to John, "Being silent allows you to realize you haven't really been listening. When you don't listen, you can't learn." Yep, another AHA moment folks.

Both Shannon and John have made me think twice about always having to get the last word in, or feeling like I have something more important than anyone else to say. They are both doing incredibly impactful work in the world, which proves that you don't always need to be the loudest person in the room to get your point across. In fact, I have noticed myself making an effort to stand and listen, I mean REALLY consciously, actively, listen to people, and especially to my children, when they are talking to me. It's a work in progress, but I'm trying!  Getting quiet and listening to the sounds around us, whether it be nature, or someone else's story, can really help us know the world, other people, and ourselves more intimately.

Lesson Four:

Live Life By Design

Michael Hyatt is the author of the bestselling book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and now a full time writer, speaker and consultant, with a wife and FIVE daughters! God bless him! To be totally honest, I was not expecting to be rocked by Michael's words. I couldn't have been more wrong! In fact, Michael's story and message resonated with me deeply. He had a similar family upbringing, similar challenges, and he had a genuine connection to the audience, which I always appreciate.

Michael says that there are three ways to live life. Most of us are going around living either a 'drifting life', in which we are so caught up in the day to day distractions that we end up at a destination we never would have chosen consciously, or, a 'driven life', in which we are super responsible, always going after more, always trying to be the best at whatever it is we do. The 'driven life' is the overcorrection for the 'the drifting life'....but both are just opposite sides of the same coin because both are unconscious ways to live, and both will get us somewhere we don't really want to be in the end. The sweet spot, Michael says, is 'the designed life'. This is a life in which our choices are intentional and conscious, and it's the life that will get us to our desired destination. In order to live a 'designed' life, we must ask ourselves three simple questions and make our choices based on our answers. The three questions are: How do I want to be remembered? What is important to me? What single brave decision do I need to make today? Answer these questions often, and design your life accordingly.

Among other things, Michael's talk confirmed for me that I had spent many years living 'the driven life.' There are a number of reasons for this and I have become more conscious of this truth about myself over time. But Michael gave me a concrete alternative. He put it into simple words. He made us all really face the fact that nobody lives forever. Frankly, this is not something I like to spend a lot of time thinking about, but maybe I need to think about it more. Maybe thinking about it every day will help me to live a more designed life. We like to say, 'there's always tomorrow'. But guess what....eventually our tomorrows run out.

One last thing that Michael said that really made me sit up straight was, "Don't let the urgent, take precedence over the important!" Whoa! WRITE THAT DOWN! Honestly, so many of us, me included, were raised to do just that. We have good intentions, make resolutions, have big plans, and then at the first sign of trouble, we bail on ourselves. We drop everything to throw ourselves full on into the latest crisis or melodrama and in the end this serves nobody, and prevents us from living a satisfying, purposeful, designed life.

Lesson Five:


Dee Williams taught me how to be a superhero. Like, for real. In fact, she taught every WDS attendee this trick. Dee strutted on stage, took out her red superhero cape (which looked suspiciously like a Delta Airlines blanket).  Then, she made us all stand up, put on our own invisible superhero capes (we got real ones the next day), and hold the ever alert posture of a superhero. According to Dee, being a superhero requires one key skill... the power to participate in life. The only way to fully participate in life, is to be present, to be in the here and now, in body, mind and spirit. After all, How can you help that little old lady get something off the top shelf at the grocery store if you don't even notice her reaching for it in the first place? How can you save a child from walking out into oncoming traffic, if you are all caught up in thinking about what to have for dinner, or about the arrogant thing that Bob said at the meeting the other day? As a bonus, walking around pretending to be a superhero (even if nobody else knows that that's what you're doing), is a riot! Dee learned this lesson the hard way.  She used to work in the corporate world, and then she had a serious heart attack that forced her to re-evaluate what was important to her. In the end, she decided she wanted less 'stuff' to distract her from fully participating in life. So, she now lives in an 84 square foot house that she built herself. She also has a company where she leads workshops centred on tiny house building, green building, and community design. Let's all learn a lesson from Dee. Start sporting our own superhero capes and participating fully in life!

Lesson Six:

Face Your Fears & Do The Work (Trust me, they go together)

I heart Gary Hirsch. For one thing, he is a person who just oozes genuine nice guy. For another thing, he ever so gently urged us all to ask ourselves some bold questions. First off, 'What am I afraid of?' Drilling down to the core of your fears can help you realize that maybe they aren't as scary as you believe them to be. Then, 'What's one brave thing that I have done?' Realize that you HAVE done brave things in the past, so you CAN do them again. Finally, use that momentum to ask, 'What's one brave thing I haven't done, but want to do?' Then start taking imperfect action! (see lesson one)

Another reason why I heart Gary is because he gifted us all with a one of a kind, hand painted bravebot (which are sort of alien looking little robot creatures). Ever since I got my bravebot, I have been using it as a reminder to do one small (or big) brave thing a day. When I start to chicken out, my bravebot, whom I've affectionately named, Wilbur, whispers encouraging, fear smashing words in my ear. I think everyone needs a Wilbur in their life :)

The last formal speaker at WDS, was Scott Berkun, who described himself as' the cranky, curmudgeonly, creative thinker'. Personally, after hearing him speak and checking out his work, I think he's more of a renaissance man and I sense, he is someone who likes to push us to the edge of our comfort zone. Scott encouraged us all to 'save our creative soul' by turning our ideas into reality. This involves listening to that inner guidance that tells us, "this is a good idea, do something with it." He spoke to a problem that many creative types have.....the problem of actually 'doing the work'. In Scott's words, "When things are ideas, it's in the ethereal, not reality." In order to take an idea from 'the ethereal' and make it into something, you have to DO THE WORK. Sounds easy right? But, many of us know, oh how we know, that it isn't as simple as it sounds! Doing the work is the REALLY hard part of the creative process. Actually sitting down to write the book, or the poem, or the blog post, or putting paint on canvass, or any number of other creative acts, requires you to bare your soul, and that....especially for sensitive creative types, is scary as hell! But, as Scott also says, "You can't be a maker if you're afraid of your own ideas!" 

Thanks to both Gary and Scott, I feel like I have gained the courage to face my fears, put my ideas into action, and stake my claim as 'a maker'.

Lesson Seven:

Outside Your Comfort Zone, Is Where The Good Stuff Happens

This is a lesson I learned in many ways through my WDS experience. I heard it from some of the speakers, like crafter and blogger, Elise Blaha Cripe, cartoonist, Gavin Aung Than and maverick, visionary graphic designer, Saki Mufandikwa. I learned it through the words they spoke and the example they set with their lives and work. I learned it through the many other attendees who were doing amazing things. Especially through the ones who were brave enough to go up on stage and do things like share their stories, their vision for the future and, their last minute rap songs in front of all of us. I learned it through the example set by the WDS ringleader, Chris Guillebeau and his amazing team of ambassadors and helpers. But most of all, I learned it by consciously stepping outside my comfort zone.

The first step in doing so was choosing to invest in myself. I made the plans, bought my ticket, took three flights, checked into a hotel room alone, talked to a bunch of strangers, and jumped into the whole event with both feet. Heck, I even participated in The Great Namaste, where we broke a world record....and that was BEFORE I got my superhero cape or my bravebot! Stepping outside my comfort zone allowed me to have an experience that I will never forget, and to make connections with a huge group of beautiful people.  Stepping outside my comfort zone gave me the thrust to take increasingly brave action, and most importantly, it has taught me that playing small, is NOT something I'm interested in doing anymore.  Stepping outside my comfort zone has opened up a world of possibilities, and made me eager and excited for the next big thing. So Universe, if you're listening, then BRING IT! I am so ready for World Domination!  Who wants to throw on their superhero cape and join me?


+1 # Cindy Dubien 2014-07-24 01:52
What a truly interesting read Lara, you are brilliant. You have truly made a follower out of me. I am so hooked, looking forward to reading this over and over again until it really sinks in. I have so much to learn from you. Thank you
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+1 # Melanie 2014-07-28 15:16
I LOVE that you named your bravebot Wilbur! I, too, loved Gary Hirsch, and Dee, and the shaman. And meeting all of us face-to-face. And every tiny little thing about #WDS2014.

Great article, Lara -- here's to #WDS2015!!
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+1 # Richard Malette 2015-05-31 01:29
Fantastic article! Thank you so much Lara for sharing your inspiring journey and wisdom. :lol:
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+1 # Janis 2015-11-30 23:28
Hi! I've been reading your site for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from New[censored]ne y Texas!
Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!
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0 # Lara 2015-12-01 12:23
Thank you so much for the shout out Janis! It means a lot to know that folks are following and hopefully getting some value out of what I share. If you haven’t already, head on over and ‘like’ the Facebook page (Small town, BIG LIFE). I regularly post all kinds of stuff over there! Would love for you to join the party.
Massive Gratitude,
Lara :lol:
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