A Look Back at The 2013 World Domination Summit

Three weeks later, I’m ready to share my 2013 World Domination Summit experience. To be clear, I can’t possibly share that much of it — this is an event that everyone needs to experience to fully appreciate it. But I’ll do my best, as I’ve done for the past two years before this one.

I’ve attended every single WDS to date, and each can be described as truly amazing…but in very different ways. In 2011, I didn’t know what to expect, which made it all the more special. In 2012, I had an idea of what to expect, but those expectations weren’t just met — they were surpassed (and there were some surprises thrown in the mix as well). I went into this year’s event thinking that I was going to be amazed, but not necessarily altered all that much in the process.

The thing is I was already going through a form of alteration as I prepared for the event. It’s like my mind and body is attuned to know when WDS is approaching, and it starts to create change within. So I arrived in Portland excited and ready to immerse myself once again in the aura that only world domination can offer.

Before I dive into what I did see the World Domination Summit, let me share with you the fact that I didn’t attend any workshops. I took the time in between the larger auditorium sessions to connect with people and take breaks. I wanted to pace myself accordingly, and I did.

The main stage speakers that I did see were amazing. The quality of speakers was top-notch and I particularly enjoyed the talks delivered by Nancy Duarte, Jia Jiang, Gretchen Rubin1, and Donald Miller.

I had great times hanging out with many people who I’d met at past World Domination Summits, and many who were making the trek to Portland for their first one. I sampled plenty of espresso with Mike Rohde — and I also managed to introduce him to poutine in the process. I got to see Schechter again, along with Jared Goralnick, David Sparks (who was accompanied by his lovely wife Daisy), Jean MacDonald, Marc and Angel Chernoff, Brett Kelly, Brooks Duncan, Thanh Pham (and meet his Asian Efficiency cohort Aaron Lynn), and countless others.

And then there were those who I’d never met before — online or offline — that further enhances the whole WDS experience.

Which leads me to the photo placed at the beginning of this post. It’s been said that a picture says a thousand words. But the photo at the top of this piece doesn’t quite do the moments that led up to it being taken justice.

So here come the words that will try to do just that.

The story of the photo begins at a popular Portland brewpub. Several of us were sitting around enjoying each others’ company when I noticed one guy was wearing a ring. But it wasn’t just any ring — it was a Blue Lantern ring. I commented on how much I liked it, and showed mine to him. He returned the compliment, and we all went on chatting. Then Schechter chimed in with a line that went something like this:

“Vardy, I can’t believe you wrote a book that uses golf as a metaphor for productivity when you’ve barely played the game.”

At that moment, the gentleman with the Blue Lantern ring stopped what he was doing, looked at me and asked the following:

“Are you Mike Vardy?”

I said I was — all the while stunned by the tone he took when asking me. There was a brief pause, and then this (I believe) is how he explained said tone:

“You’re the reason I have this ring. I read your book (on the recommendation of Cal Newport) and the part about visual touchstones and avatars really resonated with me.”

He then went on to explain that hope was what he wanted to keep at top of mind, and that blue is the colour of hope in the spectrum of the Lantern Corps. I was floored. I knew people read my stuff and shared it, but this was the first real example of it reaching this kind of level. This guy, named Travis Collier, went out and bought a Blue Lantern ring because my work had inspired him to do so — or at the very least sealed the deal.

I spent a lot of time hanging out with Travis after that moment. I found out what he did for a living, that he writes on redefining success, and that he is as big a fan of bourbon (and clearly Green Lantern comics) as I am. The WDS experience allowed us to cement a connection that had been done through the pages of my book beforehand, and that was something that wouldn’t have been possible had we not simply gone with the flow leading up to — and during — the event.

So…am I returning to WDS in 2014?


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.

And to Chris Guillebeau and his simply stellar team who make this event happen year in and year out…thank you so much. Words cannot fully express how tremendous this event is and I am incredibly grateful that you do all that you do to make it happen.

Now that I’m done looking back at this year’s WDS, I can start looking forward to next year’s. And it will be another awesome experience. A different experience, I’m sure — but an awesome one all the same.

1 The chance to finally meet Gretchen in person was something I’d really been looking forward to. I’m glad we finally got to connect face-to-face.