Action Makes Anything Possible. Here’s Why I Know

All WDS photos by Armosa Studios

A couple of weeks ago I returned home from a week crammed with insight, inspiration and transformation. Infused with energy during the 400 mile drive, I sang my favorite songs and listened to podcasts that reinforced my sense of possibility.

For the previous three days, while attending a conference called the World Domination Summit, I’d been deluged with stories, real-life examples, testimonials that showed me:

Anything, really anything, is possible if I just take action.

Now, that’s not exactly a news flash, not for me, you, or anyone who has opened their mind to ideas of personal development. But something switched over for me as I witnessed one successful person after another recounting their story, which nearly always began with “I had no idea what I was doing….”

Wait a minute. What?

I mean, all of you people who start amazing charities, create businesses that allow you to travel the world, write bestselling books, change lives by offering your talents – don’t all of you have copious amounts of confidence and belief in your own talents?

Haven’t you all been gifted by the creator with double helpings of said talent and competence? Didn’t you all immerse yourself in study and apprenticeship so you could approach your big project with the proper knowledge and training??

Um, no, apparently not.

In fact, I’d estimate that 90 percent of the successful, passionate entepreneurs, authors and activists I spoke with at World Domination Summit started their journey without the slightest idea of how exactly they would reach their destination.

In a matter of hours, my hundreds of reasons and excuses for not doing what I say I want to do were shot out of the air where they so reassuringly winged their way around me. Plop. Dead on arrival.

My ass had been officially kicked. Like really.

And I’m still smarting.

All The Excuses Fall Apart

It didn’t just start with WDS. An earthquake of transformation has been building in me for some time – it’s a natural side effect of the power surge of menopause. Portals of possibility have opened in my mind through conversations with movers and shakers I admire, through coaching, through the work I am doing in courses such as Summer Camp For Solopreneurs.

Hiking the rhododendron trail near Breitenbush

But mostly it’s been brewing inside. Two days before WDS began I hiked in the ancient forest surrounding Breitenbush Hot Springs. I walked along the narrow path, surrounded by glossy leaves of wild rhododendrons, shafts of sunlight bursting through gaps in the tall conifer.

A huge epiphany occurred for me during that hike, where I eventually found myself in tears on my knees. My monkey mind is often too busy to hear my inner guidance, but this day was different. In a matter of moments my excuses were methodically deconstructed and reassembled.

I knew right then that it was time to make a big change in my life, one I’d been thinking about for a while but had seemed impossible to actually manifest.

I’ll be sharing more details on this later. It was just so interesting that all this happened before I arrived at WDS, where I knew I would meet fascinating people, be inspired by motivating speakers, and make amazing connections with like-minded writers and entrepreneurs.

What I didn’t know was that almost every interaction I experienced would reinforce the message I’d received from my own inner guidance.

What exactly did happen at the World Domination Summit? And what is it anyway?

Although the name sounds a bit – well, kinky, or at least reminiscent of superheros and comic books, the actual event has nothing to do with either. Well, maybe a little with the super heroes…

The theme or underlying question bracing this event is this:

How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?

I see it as a gathering of kindred spirits  on a mission to change the world, make it a better place, through their creations. Those creations are often businesses, sometimes nonprofits. They are books, works of art, teachings, really anything.

One thing that attracted me to this ‘tribe’ is the universal acceptance that prosperity and good works are not mutually exclusive. This is a concept I’ve been wrestling with for a while and I’m still sorting my way to solution in my own life.

Excited to share everything I learned at the Summit with you. I sat down and wrote a blow-by-blow summary that began to creep toward 5,000 words.

Hmm, probably a bit more than you want to read. So instead I’ll give you a few of my own most potent take-aways from the weekend. If you’re intrigued and want the full rundown, shoot me an email and I’ll send you the long version.

As someone who loves to connect with people, look them in the eyes, share ideas, inspirations collaborations –  the most enthralling part of the event for me was the opportunity to meet and connect with so many fascinating, brilliant and like-minded individuals.

Whether it was at a formally planned meet-up, or in line for the ladies room, I encountered a plethora of new friends and people I’d love to get to know better.

And of course the conference included  keynote speakers, smaller workshops, dance parties – and all the usual accoutrements of such an undertaking. (Oh, and some less usual ones – such as  bungee jumping into the Columbia River – I took a pass on that one, but photos  prove it happened.)

When Chris Guillebeau, the creator of the event, walked on the stage to welcome us that first morning I knew instantly I was in the right place. He told us that WDS embraces  three important values. They happened to be almost exactly aligned with three of my top values.

Community (I call it connection)

Adventure (I call it freedom)

Service (I call it compassion)


wds2012-493Brene Brown, who has spent years researching how shame and vulnerability relate to our ability to experience joy, took the stage as the first speaker. She wanted to know what is so cool about being cool?

All it means is that we are not open to emotional connection. Sure we’re safe that way. But at what cost?

“The only true currency is in being uncool,” she told us. “Go forth and be uncool.”

What a relief for me – a person who has never had a problem being supremely uncool!

Brene’s work is all about vulnerability – and how it relates to our ability to experience wholehearted joy and love. Check out her Ted Talk – it’s amazing!

My eyes had welled with tears more than a few times while Brene spoke, but it was the next speaker that got me digging in my purse for the tissues. Hell, I’m surprised Chris didn’t hand out hankies at the beginning of the talk – there weren’t many dry eyes in the place after Scott Harrison finished his presentation about the innovative nonprofit he’s founded called Charity: Water.

Scott described a decade of excess as a young adult managing alcohol sales for exclusive night clubs, he spent thousands of dollars on drugs, booze and gambling and settled into a moneyed but spiritually bereft existence.

Scott Harris describes Charity: Water

At around age 28 he left this all behind to volunteer with Mercy Ships, where doctors give free medical care for poor Africans, including surgeries for people with hideous disfiguring conditions. Facial tumors and growths the likes of which most of us have never seen and can barely imagine.
After two years of this, Scott realized the root cause of many of these diseases was lack of potable drinking water. People were drinking from brackish ponds and puddles, and many of them spent hours or even entire days hauling water from source to home. Wells and water purification systems were virtually non-existent in these regions.

Galvanized by the injustice, seeing a need that with a relatively simple solution, Scott set about establishing Charity: Water – even though he didn’t have the first idea about how a charity was run. What he did have was connections with individuals with access to money – even though most of these individuals rarely gave second thought to giving any of it away.

Scott’s story, and his moving slides, touched almost everyone in the audience deeply. By the end we were all standing up and volunteering to ‘give up our birthday’ for Charity: Water. This is an creative fundraising campaign where people can solicit donations for their birthday, rather than receiving gifts or throwing a party.

(You’ll be hearing more about this come September!)

This presentation gave me a new way to look at an old issue that has torn at my heart for years.

I’d developed a belief system that activism, charity, social justice – and the whole nonprofit organization sector – could only be a labor of love, was rife with organizational strife and basically a super difficult path because of the challenges of raising money.

I learned there can be a new model for doing good in the world – and it doesn’t have to involve scarcity consciousness or accepting that burnout is just a way of life.

On Sunday Chris Brogan talked about fear. He told us that the opposite of fear is not courage or bravery. It is surrender.

Chris gave me one of my most important takeaways from this whole conference:

When someone tells you “I’m disappointed in you” what they are really saying is: “You didn’t act on the script I had written for you.

Wow. All I can say is that’s a HUGE change in the way I’ve viewed the world and my relationships up till now. I somehow never got that memo and I’ve spent way too much time trying not to disappoint others and leaving my own self high and dry.

Wish I’d gotten this particular message a little earlier in life – but hey, midlife is a great time to stop worrying about disappointing others and start focusing on not disappointing your own self!

Later we were treated to some beautiful travel slides and more inspiration to take action on our dreams from David and Audrey of

The couple is now into year six of a round-the-world trip they thought would last a year or so. Along the way, through connecting with human beings, they’ve learned and grown and found countless opportunities to give back.

Their big motto?  “Embrace regret avoidance.”

wds2012-843J.D. Roth gave us a similar message in the closing presentation. As founder and editor of the popular site Get Rich Slowly, and a co-producer of the WDS event, I expected J.D. to be an accomplished speaker. The fact that he was new to this – and nervous – yet there he was up on stage giving all he had was actually one of the most inspiring moments of the Summit for me.

It brought home the overarching message of the whole event:

We are all capable of so much more that we’ve given ourselves credit for. We each have something truly valuable and important to give to the world – and the only way the world can receive that gift is if we are willing to take the chance, step up, and give it.

J.D. reminded us that thinking, talking and listening about change is NOT change. All that matters is taking action. You have to do the work!

Change Yourself. Change The World.

And then to close the Summit, Chris Guillebeau blew everyone’s mind by putting some cold hard cash behind all that inspiration.

We’d been promised a closing surprise, but all 1,000 attendees’ jaws dropped in astonishment when he announced that against the advice of financial experts he’d made the decision to gift each and every one of us with a hundred dollar bill.

Despite operating the event at a loss the previous year, a generous anonymous donation and a small profit showing for this year allowed Chris to make this unprecedented gift.

But of course it wasn’t just a gift, or a refund of part of our payment, or anything like that. The $100 was a charge to all of us, a trust, an entreaty, a challenge. It said,

“Take all the knowledge and inspiration you’ve gained this weekend and turn it into something great.”

Of course Chris recently published The $100 Startup – a book that documents dozens of folks who have created profitable businesses with very little start-up money. Along with case studies the book gives concrete tips on how any of us can do the same.

Chris Guillebeau gives away $100,000

That closing gift was a powerful testimonial that this man believes what he preaches. Talk about walking the talk.

I’ve got my “Ben Franklin” safely tucked away awaiting my revelation of the greatness it’s intended to create. Along with 999 others I’ve been doing some soul searching, delving into ideas on how I can take $100 and make a mark in the world.

I welcome suggestions (serious only please!)

So, what are your thoughts on all this? Are you as tired of thinking and talking about making change as I am? What’s YOUR next big action?

All WDS photos by Armosa Studios

42 Responses to Action Makes Anything Possible. Here’s Why I Know

  1. Great post!! Really a great one.
    All I can say is that I really regret to leave to far away and not have the ooprtunity to participate in similar events.
    But you have written so well that I had a feeling that I was sitting next to you there!

    •  @Ani_LifeProb  I am so glad I was able to convey the energy of the event to you Ani – and that you could feel like you were there. And guess what? Maybe you don’t live so far away! People came from the far corners of the globe to attend this event. I was amazed! I think the visitor from the farthest place might have come from New Zealand – basically the other side of the world from Portland. So…nothing is impossible. Maybe I will see you there next year!

  2. I totally agree with Ani, I felt like I was there with you…. and

  3. LOVE this, and I think you captured the spirit and intention of WDS so well.  Amazed that you could do it in so few words, and I think even 5000 is rough.  
    The only difference between us and the people who shared their stories of starting out clueless is that they started.  That’s it.  Can’t wait to see where this journey takes you.

    •  @Ellen Berg You beat me to it! Other than they’ve already started there is zero difference. Zip. Nada. Nothing. 
      As Sarah O said, the reasons and excuses have fallen apart. And thank God for that 🙂 

      •  @Sandi Amorim  @Ellen Berg    So right Sandi! Just one deceptively simply difference.  Talk is easy, Action takes work. But once action is in motion, I’m thinking that the work becomes less daunting – at least sometimes!

    • You’ve caught the essence of it @Ellen Berg ! They simply started! And that IMO is the hardest part of manifesting anything – just starting. In fact I think I wrote a whole post about it eons ago. I call in inertia – and I think it affects our brains just as much as everything else. Once in motion, it’s so much easier to sustain. But when we’re not moving, we have to give ourselves a big kick in the pants to GET moving!

  4. I totally agree with Ani that I felt like I was there with you!   I think that a lot of people are feeling a shift into action.  This week alone, I bought a website and paid a far chunk of change for some big advertising. Next week, I am going to create a new Magazine 🙂

    • Wow @LoriLynnSmith! Congratulations! Sounds like you are up to some fun stuff. Your action-oriented ways are an inspiration to all of us. Are you starting a new website? And I can’t wait to see your magazine. I know it will be as awesome as the rest of your content. 

  5. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your experiences at WDS with us.  Like Ani, I felt like I was sitting next to you — what a gift.  I was feeling discouraged this morning about my own attempts to live a remarkable life in a conventional world.  After reading this post, I’m reinspired and don’t feel alone any more.  Another gift. 

    • That makes me so happy @Carol Hess , that my words could feel like a gift – and bring you right into WDS with me. I consider you a remarkable woman who is already living that remarkable life! Keep moving forward, trust your own gifts – because they are many! I’m super glad we can inspire each other!

  6. It gave me chills how you described how all that happened at WDS served to reinforce what your internal guidance system had ALREADY told you.  What a powerful real-life example of how our inner self really does know best what we need, if we only take the time and stillness to listen to it.
    I agree with you (and those who have commented) that the difference between those who go out and actually do stuff vs. those who just talk about it is simply….the fact that they do. Yet, there must be something that clicks and makes the action group turn into the action group vs. the theory group.   I wonder what the difference is between those who do and those who ponder.  As someone who has clearly moved into the action group….any ideas on that?

    • I’m still figuring it out myself@LynnHess . But as @Sandi Amorim so wisely put it below – I think there really is NO difference! It’s simply that the doers just started, just did one thing that took them out of their head and into the real world with their intention. Once you start with one baby step, the next steps get clearer. That’s what’s happened to me with my big shift right now.
      Maybe you and I can put our heads together sometime on how this all works in the business arena. I think you are similar to me in that you have so MANY ideas that it becomes difficult to decide what exactly to start. One thing I did learn at WDS, is that lots of people have all these ideas, and they just pick one and start something. And then sometimes it turns out that’s not the path they want to be on. So then they skip the regrets and just go on to the next one. As Chris Brogan told us – “Don’t settle – stop going down a path you don’t like just because  you started. Don’t be afraid to change course.”

  7. You’re amazing Sarah!  Your writing gives me such an emotional charge!  This is exactly what I needed to read at this moment.  While I’ve been taking some action to make a difference, you reminded me that I’m not operating near my potential. I’m kicking it up a few notches so watch out!
    With all that I’m reading about WDS, I know that I HAVE to be there next year.  It’s such a freakin’ amazing group of people!
    Thanks so much for sharing this here.  You’re the BEST!!

    • Thank you @PaigeBurkes ! As usual I get a charge just hearing your encouragement and excitement. You’ve already been kicking things up, so I’m excited to see what you’ll be up to next. I saw that you’ll be (already were?) on @Greg Berg’s Radio Enso. I’m excited to listen to that interview and hear right from ‘the horse’s mouth’ what’s up for Paige!
      I so look forward to seeing you at next year’s WDS. Be sure to get on Chris’ mailing list if you’re not already. He’s so onto something that resonates withe people. Those tickets go fast!

      •  @saraho  @Greg Greg is interviewing me on August 20.  I’m so excited about it!
        Can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!

  8. Really loved this Sarah!  I loved ‘midlife is a great time to stop worrying about disappointing others and focus on not disappointing yourself’ and the concept of regret avoidance and change yourself, change the world.  
    Thank you for bringing a little bit of WDS to those of us who weren’t there!

    •  Thanks@clairekerslake1 . Yes, that was truly one of my most important take-aways – stop worrying about disappointing others and move forward to embrace the change you want to se ein yourself. And guess what? I have a feeling if I can do that with clarity and a whole heart that a lot of those folks I thought would be disappointed with actually be pretty happy.
      So glad I could take you into a little of WDS with my words!

  9. Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been waiting to hear what you thought of WDS since you went there :-)) It sounds like such an awesome event, that even though we all know the lessons, you can’t help but be inspired all over again when you are in a company such as people who went there. 

    •  @kaizenjournaling It’s so true Dolly – it’s a completely different feeling to take the information in directly through people who are living their own passions and achieving goals they set for themselves. It’s inspiring, motivating and somehow more REAL. And I know that I, for one, need to hear the words many times (and sometimes see them in action) before they can fully sink in to my being.
      Hope to see you at WDS next year!

  10. Hi Sarah,
    Glad to hear discover Holistic Hot Sauce on the web and realize it was you behind it 🙂 Congratulations and hope it goes really well. Thanks for your overview of the WDS – I have been following Chris for years now and his journey also inspired me to start Global Yogi.
    See you next time in Bali !

    •  @ChelleGlobalYogi  Hey Michelle!  So great to hear from you and I’m so glad you came across the site! How cool that Global Yogi was inspired in part by Chris. That man is up to some serious world changing. And he’s so mellow about it all – he just walks the talk and makes big things happen. Awesome to see Global Yogi taking off – I love catching up on the newsletter and dreaming about joining in a yoga workshop in Spain, Bali or some other exotic locale! It will happen before too long!
      And yes – hope to catch up with you in Bali soon. Do you visit each year?

  11. Hey Sarah,
    I’ll be at WDS next year for sure. I’ve read so many amazing recaps (yours included) that it seems like a waste of my time NOT to be there.
    What are my thoughts on all this? Well, I have thoughts…lots of them. But I don’t think anyone wants to read a wall of text in the comments section of a website. So I’ll save them for when you and I get a chance to engage verbally, whenever that might be.
    I’m excited that your transformation is speeding up and it sounds like a great time to be you. 🙂

    •  @joeyjoejoe Thanks Joel! I’m glad this little recap is another encouragement to attend next year’s (un)conference. So worth it. Be sure you’re on Chris G’s mailing list so you can snap up a ticket as soon as they go on sale in Sept. This thing has gone crazy in how popular it is.
      I’d love to get a chance to share thoughts on this and other subjects verbally at some point. Maybe we could plan a Google+ hangout for our little group some time. Or just a conversation.
      I like how you put that – the transformation is speeding up – it feels a little crazy sometimes, but my heart knows I’m  headed in the right direction.

  12. I’m thinking I’m super excited about going next year (provided I’m not broke by that point)! That was a great re-telling of the summit. 
     My next big action… no idea…. hm… that’s not good. 

    •  @HappierHuman That’s exactly why I asked the question! Time to start thinking about that action I’m thinking. I’m with you on that. Be sure to get on Chris G’s mailing list if you’re interested in 2013. tickets go on sale in September and they will sell out within a few hours. Maybe you won’t be broke yet! (And then if you are come July – well, at least the ticket is paid for!)

  13. WDS sounds amazing! Thanks for recapping it here for us… It’s a message that I definitely needed to hear. I’ve been all about the thinking, questioning, sitting still lately… I think it’s time for me to stop wondering and start acting. What that will Thanks for the nudge, Sarah. =)

    •  @ZenCaffeine  Glad to give that little nudge. We all need t hem from time to time. It’s all about balance though – action and replenishment time. So don’t be hard on yourself Kaylee!

  14. wow sarah!  what an inspiration.! it seems we are always hoping for that stroke of insight,  to change, to open, to inspire…  and be strong enough to act on it!!!  we all want ‘some of that’…   following your heart..   being bold and brave enough to act on it…  thank you!

    • Big love to you @joanneofgrace ! Glad you found some insight and inspiration here – as I always do from you!

  15. What a great recap, Sarah! Meeting you was definitely a highlight of WDS for me, and I love getting a peek into what was going on for you during the weekend! I’ll look forward to hearing about your evolving adventures!

    • Thanks @MelissaDinwiddie! And ditto on our meeting being a highlight! So excited to vicariously follow your upcoming Istanbul adventure! 

  16. Wow! I will be requesting the long version!! I so wanted to be there but it did not work for my family this year. Looks like sitting here with NO IDEA how to fulfill on my great ideas is a great place to start. Thank you so much!!

    •  @blisshabits So glad you enjoyed this Kathy! Sent you the long version, so now you can practically feel like you were there. Next year I’ll have to take some video too!

  17. This is a great and inspiring recap, Sarah! Sometimes I find myself wondering why more change isn’t happening in my life and your post reminds me to get off my duff and do it! 
    Looking forward to hearing about your personal transitions as well.

    •  @BobbiEmel So glad you enjoyed it Bobbi. And I’ll definitely be keeping you posted on the big transition.

  18. Sounds like an amazing summit, anything that can give us a kick in the butt to step outside the comfort zone has to be good. So many possibilities in life let slip by through fear. Time for change. Good Luck with your big changes I hope they are earth shattering (in a good way!)

    • That’s just it @CiaraConlon ! It so easy to hang out in the comfort zone but so empowering when we venture outside to view the potential and possibilities that are waiting. Thanks for your well wishes and I’ll be keep you all posted!

  19. Hi Sarah, Thank you for sharing the conference with us. I imagine something great will be born from your search. Blessings on you! Love, Giorgio

    •  @AnthonyGiorgio   Thanks Giorgio, for your blessings and for visiting the blog! I’m surely hoping great potential will be born. Blessings and cheers to you too!

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