Another World Domination Summit, the motivational/practical/magical conference for entrepreneurs, has come to an end. Throughout the weekend, I laughed, I cried, I brainstormed, I focused. And I realized that unlike the other conferences I attend, mostly in the travel industry, WDS is the annual event that’s best not just for my career, but for my soul.
(Backing up: Now in its second incarnation, the gathering is the brainchild of Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and other books/products that encourage people to start their own micro-businesses. This conference brings together people who are in different places in the process).
When I went last year, I still had my day job at Microsoft. While I was already making plans to leave the company, WDS taught me that successful solopreneurs were all around me, that I wasn’t the only one struggling with the essential problem of how to bring meaning back into my career. I’ve now been out on my own for nine months as a full time freelancer/travel content business owner. I’m making money – not a Microsoft salary, but enough to be significant (two deals came in today, must be that WDS karma). And so many of the messages that the speakers gave this year influenced me in a different way. I foresee that the same will be true next year, and the year after that, as my path evolves.
Standout speakers for me included Brene Brown, a researcher into shame who has given one of the most-viewed TED talks, and Chris Brogan, who is an internet marketing genius. I also went to sessions with Danielle LaPorte of FireStarter fame and serial entrepreneur Jonathan Fields. All of them gave me insights that are worth posting in a place of importance, where I can be reminded of them when my spirits are low and desperation is high.
But only one of the speakers asked me to give up something that might be meaningful to many Value Luxury travelers: the annual birthday celebration.
Birthdays have always important to me, milestones that have occasionally been marked in a big way. On my 22nd birthday, I went to Wimbledon. On my 25th birthday, I took my first trip to Rome. On my 33rd birthday, I bought a house. On my 40th birthday, I had no less than 3 parties, getting together with friends in Barcelona, Savannah and Atlantic City. It’s a time of grand meals and big gestures (which has come as an adjustment to my husband, who barely remembers his own b-day, let alone mine).
My friends, most of them Value Luxury travelers, tend to celebrate their birthdays in similar fashion. And so, apparently, do the friends of Scott Harrison, a former nightclub promoter who changed his life to found Charity: Water, an organization that works to provide clean water around the world.
During his presentation, Harrison told us stories from time spent in Africa, documenting medical problems that happen when people don’t have access to clean water. He showed us photos of children with parasitic tumors so large, they looked like a separate appendage. He shared tales of despair, about children who walk for hours at a time to fill up a jerrycan with muddy water. And he told us of the hope that communities feel once they are able to drink and wash with fresh, clean water.
The cost of building wells that change the trajectory of a town is shockingly low. Just $43, which happens to be the age I’m turning on Saturday, can go a long way. And with charity: water, you can be assured that 100 percent of your donation goes toward helping (the organization relies on private donation to fund its administrative costs). They have GPS coordinates and photos of every project they do – and their drilling rig has a Twitter feed! (@cwyellowthunder).
My birthday falls on Saturday, July 14 (Bastille Day, for the Francophiles out there). As soon as we walked out of Harrison’s talk, I turned to Don. “Cancel the dinner reservation,” I said. As soon as we got home, I set up my personal charity: water account and donated the money that we would have spent this weekend at Sitka & Spruce. We’re not going to miss the calories. If Harrison’s challenge sounds relevant to you, I encourage you to give up your birthday as well.
And as far as WDS goes, I can’t recommend it enough. We’re going again next year. It’s a tough ticket to land, but if you’ve ever lost your mojo and wondering where you can find it again, the World Domination Summit is a good place to start.