Bravery, Courage and Voice – WDS 2014

“OK, hold the powder in both hands, but in the count of 3, only let go on the right hand. Only right hand, OK? 3, 2, 1!”

With that, millions, no, billions of colourful particles – green, red, purple, pink, yellow -flew into the air and massive rainbow coloured clouds emerged. Everyone was screaming with glee and my friend Mika next to me said, “I’ve always wanted to do this!” in Japanese.


Exhilarated, is the word that comes to mind when I think of this year’s WDS-World Domination Summit. The event is held every year in Portland. OR with Chris Guillebeau as the host. I’ve been following Chris since his first book, Art of Non-Conformity in 2011. He is the leader in “unconventional life”. Last year was my first time at WDS (and I’ve written about it here), and I went back for the second time this year. What is WDS?

WDS is not a business conference nor a social media conference. In my post last year I described that it’s a conference for creative people to get together to inspire people to have an unconventional life. 

At the opening of this year’s WDS, Chris asked us a question- How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?

I think that about sums up the theme for WDS. WDS is for the people who want to live a remarkable life, and we also have 3 key values in this community:




Each speaker shared his or her story based on these values.

This was my second year at WDS, and I noticed a little shift in myself. The speakers were fantastic and they all inspired me – but then I felt like I haven’t moved anywhere since last year. I felt a little self conscious. “What have *I* done this year? Did I make ANY difference?”

Among other events and conferences, WDS is extra special for me, as it is a chance for me to see my real good friends – more like my soul mates on unconventional living – Estuko from San Diego and “Eddie” Hori from Tokyo. We found each other online, and it was like we were meant to be friends. We also had a couple new friends from Japan! The WDS Japan Team is growing.

I love this pic of first-timer, Mika. Photo credit: Armosa Studios
I love this pic of first-timer, Mika. Photo credit: Armosa Studios

It was easy to get into “I’m a failure as I didn’t make any progress” type of self-loathing. Instead, I took it as an appropriate kick in my butt. Following are some of the speakers I resonated with:

A.J. Jacobs

I knew his name but wasn’t familiar with his books. Eddie said book The Year of Living Biblically was actually quite popular in Japan. His anecdotes on following the every rule in the bible was very funny (in fact, I bought the book after I heard him speak – and enjoying it tremendously). The part I deeply resonated with him was when he talked about acting his way into a new way of thinking,  rather than thinking his way into a new way of acting. His latest book is about family, and his discovery that most people in this world are connected (mostly as cousins) was fascinating. I have always been interested in Identity and family trees, so I found his talk quite interesting. He is having a giant family reunion next year in New York. I’d like to go!

Jadah Sellner

Jadah is a co-founder of She started her talk with a powerful poem she wrote a decade ago. Excellent public speaker, she pulled the audience into her personal journey of entrepreneurship. She told us about her struggle in her early days, and gave us 3 tips on making our dreams come true:


1: Say your dreams out loud

2: Make imperfect action

3: Let go

I thought all of these are important, but especially #2 resonated with me. Oftentimes, we withhold/sabotage ourselves from doing what we really want “Because we don’t have enough money” “Because the website isn’t ready” “Because I don’t have the business plan yet” etc. I realized I’ve been procrastinating writing a book because I hadn’t had the structure or proposal ready. But thanks to Jadah, I’ve decided to say my dream out loud -That I am going to write a book – and #3- that I am just going to start writing.

I also started checking out her Green Smoothies website and started having green smoothies too. 🙂

Shannon Galpin


Shannon is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. She is a rape survivor, and now an activist for women’s rights. Her talk was on how to overcome apathy. She told us about her visit to women’s prison in Kabul- most women there were in there because they were rape victims, (crazy I know) or because they spoke up. I loved her street art initiative to include the people in the art – then no one can ignore it.  “Women’s rights is not a women’s issue” – one of the most memorable quote from this weekend.

Michael Hyatt

Michael is an author and a publisher, but he didn’t talk business. I love when  WDS speakers share their personal stories. Michael’s story begins with his fond childhood memories with his dad, who later turns out to be alcoholic. His personal story about his father and how he promised not to be like him was, heartbreaking. Michael described his father’s life as “Drifting life“. The opposite of that, where people are obsessed with work and success, he calls “Driven Life“. Neither is great. Michael suggests “Designed Life” which he says equals conscious life. I like that a lot, as I’m always trying to be present and have a meaningful life. He also presented these 3 questions we can ask ourselves;

1: How do I want to be remembered?

2: What is important to me?

3:What single brave decision do I need to make today?

We all wrote down our own answers.

Towards the end of his talk Michael asked us one more question, that really resonated with me: “How are you doing with what you’re given?” Life isn’t necessarily fair. I’m a big believer of doing what we can with what we have. Are we making the most of what we are given?

Dee Williams

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios
Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

Dee is the co-owner of Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD). She started her talk with her childhood story growing up on a farm and pretending like a superhero. After an illness, she decided that she wanted to live a simpler life in nature, and so she built a tiny house. Her house is 84-square foot! She brought her cape (actually a red blanket from Delta airline :)) and taught us that we are all superheroes. She also shared a touching story of losing her neighbour and a friend with us, and how she felt powerless afterwards. Yet, “Simply showing up is a superpower” she said. How true is that. Also loved: “I’m a superhero. I need to pay attention” That is my mantra now.


Her tiny house was on display at the after party. So adorable. Would you like to live in a tiny house?

Elise Blaha Cripe

Elise is a craft blogger. She likes to make things. She said she always had a hard time explaining what she did when people asked that inevitable question “So, what do you do?” She is a creative person, and she likes to make stuff, and she has a blog, and she sells her stuff online….she used to feel awkward about having to explain all this. But eventually she came up with a perfect one-liner. “I make stuff”. 🙂

She shared her challenges in creating things all the time, and this also echoes what Jadah said, but she said to learn our way through failure. Her daughter doesn’t wait to learn all about walking before she starts to walk. She just starts walking, by failing occasionally.

She also encouraged us to share our dreams with others. She had everyone fill out a sticker that said ” I                                    .  I filled mine out. Here’s the proof!

These are just a part of the WDS experience. Each speaker was great, as well as all the attendee stories, WDS Foundation, scholarships, Portland Experience, etc etc…

For me, the key words I heard throughout the weekend was “Bravery” “Courage” and “Voice“. Be brave, Be courageous. And don’t ever lose your voice. That was the message I got from the weekend.

Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

And of course, the after party! WDS is known for its legendary after party. We got to ride in a hot air balloon (was my first time!) and of course, DJ Prashant. I am a huge fan of him, and I know certain WDSer come to the event pretty much to dance to DJ Prashant’s Bollywood tunes. The scene at the beginning of this post happened right in the middle of the after party while we were dancing. I’d never forget it.

Photo credit: Masatake. E. Hori

Thank you Chris, organizing team and ambassadors for making this year’s WDS another great success. Thank you also Armosa Studios for beautiful photos. See you next year!