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!

First Step of World Domination


I’ve just returned from my first World Domination Summit. This was my first time at WDS, and also first time in Oregon.

Water fountain

As I heard from many people, Portland is a beautiful city. Although I spent most of my time at the conference, I very much enjoyed my strolls downtown.

WDS T-shirt

What is World Domination Summit? The answer varies. As I was coming home, one of the TSA agents at Portland airport said “I’ve seen lots of people wearing the same shirt as you, and asked what the conference was about, but everyone’s answers have been very vague.” Then he asked me for my version of the answer: “Creative people getting together to inspire each other to have unconventional life.” At least, the TSA agent said my answer was the best he’d heard. Ha.


2800 people. Two days. It was a little crazy just how many people were there. I missed few people I knew was coming, simply because there were so many OTHER people! I *almost* didn’t have a chance to look for anybody I knew, as whenever I stop and look around, someone would approach me and introduce themselves. It’s not a bad thing, though.

I made a whole bunch of new friends and gained so much insight, knowledge, and inspiration. Every session was amazing, but here are three highlights for me.

Darren Rowse

He is THE Problogger. Anybody working online space knows him, but I was surprised some people had no idea who he was – which is actually a cool thing about WDS. All kinds of people in the spectrum.

But this talk wasn’t about problogging. Darren talked about dreams. He shared his story and told us to take responsibility for our future. Right now, this every day life we’re living is literally shaping your future. So do something every day to get closer to your dreams. He literally made us tell a fellow attendee what our dreams are. And he encouraged us to share the dream ten times a day. This will give us accountability. At this time, I identified my dream as working to connect Japan and the World. That is my dream. Sure, of course it requires courage to identify your dream. But Darren told us how important it is to know what we want and we need to take action.

Another thing he taught us, among others is, to Become Obsessed With Being Useful. This is why Problogger and Digital Photography School is so susssessful. What a great lesson.

After his talk, so many people were saying how humble, nice, and approachable he was. I felt the same…I also attended his Problogegr Academy Workshop on the second day, and again, he was giving away so much information for us bloggers. He actually stayed WAY after the session to answer as many questions as possible. What a great guy. I learned some very important tips I had never thought of before about my blog…and I implemented as soon as I got home. Thank you, Darren.

Jia Jiang


I had no idea who he was and what his story was about. (Which is one thing I was so impressed with WDS. I didn’t know many of the speakers but their stories were all absolutely amazing. By the end of the first day, I learned to trust the WDS crew.) Jia’s story was this. Everyone hates rejections. We all take it so personally. After he was rejected by an investor for his startup, he decided to do 100 days of rejection therapy, in order to de-sensitize himself from fear of rejection. He asked a stranger to lend him $100, and rang the doorbell of a stranger and asked if he could play soccer in their backyard. Amazing thing is, some people said YES! If you’re like me and haven’t seen his famous donut video — you have to see it here. Such a great story.

Another amazing thing about his life is, he has the most supportive wife. When he quit the job four days before his first baby was born, his wife gave him six months to pursue his dream. Four months in, when he was rejected and devasted, this is what she said to him; “I gave you six months, not four.” How awesome is she?! Love, love, loved his talk. Thank you Jia.

Gretchen Rubin

Credit: Chris GuillebeauShe is a blogger and the author of The Happiness Project. I own it, read it, but other than that, I didn’t know too much about her. Her presentation was great – very entertaining. Great speaker. Gretchen presented bunch of questions to us that will help us find out who we are and what we really want to do to be happy.

First one was “Who do you envy?” —Honestly, I am still trying to figure this one out. I don’t necessarily “envy” anybody….hmmm I guess someone like Richard Branson?! I don’t think that’s an envy thought, it’s more like admiration. Still trying to figure this out but I can see this is a great question to ask yourself.  You envy somebody who has what you want and doing what you want to do.Also “What do you lie about?” and “What do you do for fun?” are good questions to ask, she said—If you have hard time answering what you do for fun, she said to think about what we did for fun when we were 10 years old. This will show you what your essential self (I’m currently reading “Finding Your Own North Star” and that’s the phrase used instead of “Social Self” which you create to satify expectations from others and what you “should” be doing. Anyway, I digress.) For example, she loved making books when she was 10 – and now she’s an author. Her sister loved watching TV and now she is a TV writer…etc. When I pondered this question, what I used to love to do when I was 10, and still now is — reading books. And I felt kind of stuck. Is there a job where I can read books all day and get paid?! My husband said that means I would be a writer and also do book reviews…I’m not 100% convinced, but I will definitely keep you posted. Also I would love your opinion if you know what this implies for my dream job.

I know everybody took away different things from WDS, but for me it felt like that the message throughout WDS was “Follow your dream” “Find our who you are”…I had this vague idea of what I’d like to do, but maybe somehow, always felt like it was “just a dream”. Like it will never come true. WDS made me realize that the first step of World Domination is to know what my dreams are. Then take action every day to get closer and closer…until one day it is no longer a dream, but your reality.

Chris Guillebeau

Finally, I would like to thank Chris Guillebeau for hosting WDS — He is this guy who is quiet and unassuming, yet he has firm vision on what he wants to see happen. I’ve listed him as the person who influenced me back in 2011, and he still is on the list 2 years later. Thank you for being you, Chris, and see you next year.