World Domination Isn’t Just Industrial Hip Hop

I was in Portland this past weekend for Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit. In any gathering of 1000 people it’s hard to say that there’s a common theme or purpose, but largely it’s about finding oneself and one’s place in the world and building an independent space — not waiting for governments to enact the right policies to ‘fix’ the economy, but figuring out how to be entrepreneurial with one’s own life.

Here’s J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly on the inaugural conference last year. Jonathan Feldman casts a skeptical eye at the conference in Information Week even as he recognizes its value and that some of the people there have something to teach him.

I admit the name of the event gives me a bit of pause, probably because despite any air of authority in which I speak on this blog I do tend to be pretty modest. And because I’m often uncomfortable with militaristic metaphors. But the conference does seem to be about dominating one’s own world rather than being dominated by it, and my serious hats off to anyone who can take the metaphor farther than that…

I think I fit in because the tagline of the event is about living a remarkable life in a conventional world, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to experience the world in a way that I never would have expected or thought possible, turning back the clock even 10 years.

Maybe the fact that I was departing the World Domination Summit is why I was rejected for TSA PreCheck on the way out of Portland, they viewed me as a security risk? Chris tells the story that last year some people explained to border officials the event they were attending at that caused at a minimum some extra scrutiny.

I’m included as a case study in Guillebeau’s new best-selling book on micro-business, and I attended his book talk in DC a couple of months back. Afterwards I was chatting with Chris and he asked, “So are you coming to Portland in July?” I wasn’t, but it seemed a good idea, and he asked if I would speak (and not about travel).

Since my spot was on the main stage, rather than a workshop, it was the most people I’ve ever spoken in front of.

I think my previous high was about 500. And good practice for later in the month at the Global Business Travel Association event in Boston, with over 10,000 people there it’s conceivable that the session I’ll on about corporate travel programs and how their goals can conflict with the desires of employee travelers (and how to square that circle) will have more than 1000 attending.

I hadn’t found myself in Portland in about 10 years, Seattle many times and of course San Francisco but just hadn’t found a reason to go to Portland (and so I barely get the jokes in Portlandria). But it was also a good excuse to check out Starwood’s The Nines for a few days, and I’ll be reviewing that property shortly.

Over the course of the weekend I met many fantastic people. I’m an analytic type who works with economists, I don’t usually get to spend my time with artists. Or people that have made a business out of serving brunch in the middle of the night (which I’d love to try – I really would – but it’s past my bedtime). Or who deliver mattresses by bicycle (he’s local to Portland, he has an awesome story, although I’m sure there’s a Portlandria joke in there somewhere). I heard Jodi Ettenberg‘s talk on how to seek out the best cheap foods in a new city and how to know if they’re safe, as well as what to do when it turns out you’re wrong. She likes eating near universities for consistent cheap quality. And recommends pills for rehydration after a bad bout of mistake.. At the opening party I got to eat from the food trucks, they had skee ball and sumo wrestling suits, the whole thing was an experience. I hope it works out for me to attend again next year.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Hey Gary – I actually need to be in Portland this week for work and I’m booked at the Westin. Would you recommend switching to The Nines? That is one of the options I have.

    Looking forward to the review.

  2. @Bill N – I haven’t stayed at the Westin. The Nines is a good hotel, probably the best in Portland, but it won’t be great compared to the best in other cities.

  3. I was at WDS for the first time and didn’t know what to expect. I’m nearly 50, have an MBA, and there’s nothing hip about me. And I was blown away by the conference, the speakers and the people.

    The spirit of WDS was evident at the event’s end, when all 1K attendees were each given $100 to invest/use as they saw fit, with the hope that remarkable things will result. (The money was the total profit from the event, supplemented by an anonymous donor.)

    I’m glad I went to WDS. I learned a lot, met some great people and left with some new goals to pursue. In fact, I’ve already signed up for next year. It’s a great event.

  4. Hope you enjoyed your stay here in PDX Gary! Would’ve loved to meet you in my hometown!

  5. Hi Gary… I wish I would have realized you would be in town. I would have loved to have met you in person and expressed my appreciation for all the tips as well as the help getting my Wife and I to Thailand with your mileage ticket booking service! Maybe next time you come! Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *