Portland, Oregon seems like the perfect place to hold the World Domination Summit, doesn't it?
No, this isn't some kind of Austin Powers joke. The city best known for its unconventional creative thinkers, farmer's market, food carts and people with interesting tattoos hosted this event for the second time this past month. It should also come as no surprise that one of the organizers behind such an unconventional conference would be the author of the bestselling business/lifestyle book, The Art Of Non-Conformity - Set Your Own Rules, Live The Life You Want And Change The World (Perigee Trade, 2010), Chris Guillebeau (who happens to live in Portland as well). What's the World Domination Summit all about? My friend, C.C. Chapman (co-author of Content Rules and the upcoming book, Amazing Things Will Happen) - a well-travelled professional business speaker - actually paid to attend this past year and describes it as a conference focused on "living a remarkable life in a conventional world."
Is this all sounding a little bit too new age-y for you?
Are you waiting for the talk of chakras and crystals to benefit your financial growth? Don't be. In what can best be described as an anti-traditional work movement, people like Guillebeau, Chapman and Tim Ferriss (New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef) are attempting to convince others to embrace their non-traditional perspectives, philosophies and strategies for what work is... and what it can mean in 2012 and beyond. These are the new entrepreneurs, and their thinking is changing the very fabric of business. They're not looking for sprawling offices and growing team members as an indicator for success. They're looking for self-actualization (and happy to make a lot of money if contentment comes first).
Self-actualization and happiness at work.
"Being self-employed is great, and it provides a great opportunity to think differently about life and the work that you are meant to do," Guillebeau explains via Skype. "I love to work, I love to make things and I've always been that way. I'm constantly focused on a project or the next project. So, in that sense I always have a job, I just don't have a job where I work 'for the man' or in a cubicle. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, I just don't come from that world, so I don't know that much about it. As I started expressing these ideas on my blog and in books, I started hearing more from people who want to break out of that world and start something different."
Delusions of grandeur or the new reality of work?
Guillebeau is about to turn 35. You might be thinking that this is nothing but post-university personal exploration and development. That Guillebeau will soon have a wake-up call, want to settle down with his wife, secure a mortgage and fall in line with that ever-elusive "American dream." He seems to be doing just fine owning, operating and executing on many micro-businesses. He explains that his entrepreneurial history has ranged from importing coffee from Jamaica, search engine optimization in its early days, Google Adwords and Adsense arbitrage, to building a small publishing company while volunteering in Africa. He now writes and sells a product he calls, Unconventional Guides, and just published his second book, The $100 Startup - Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future (Crown Business, 2012), which became an instant bestseller. If that's not enough, he's about to complete the journey that started it all: a desire to visit every country on earth (out of close to 200, he has a mere 8 to go).
The life you want to live.
"One of the many things that I learned while researching The $100 Startup, is that there has always been all sorts of people that have been self-employed in different ways," Guillebeau continues. "Micro-businesses have always existed since the beginning of commerce. When I lived in West Africa, you would realize that everyone in the village near Sierra Leone is an entrepreneur. There is no formal economy. They are simply hustling by selling their wares. But there is this new movement, because of globalization, access to technology, more and more people being comfortable buying and selling online, that allows people to go out and build businesses by connecting to people all over the world based on shared values, ideals and world view. Those are the conversations that I want to be a part of. The whole philosophy behind The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup is that you don't have to live your life they way that other people expect you to. On top of that, you can do good things for yourself and for others at the same time. It's not a false dichotomy. I think that creative self-employment is a great way to do that."
Do something that matters.
As participants left the World Domination Summit 2012 earlier this month, they were handed an envelope. In this envelope were two items:
- A note that read: "Thanks for making World Domination Summit 2012 a fantastic experience. We'd love to see how you can put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or something entirely different - it's up to you."
- A hundred dollar bill. When was the last time you attended an event and were given one hundred dollars back at the end to actually do something with the information you received and the people you connected with?
You are not alone...
Guillebeau is not alone. The World Domination Summit sold out their one thousand tickets in a couple of hours. He expects that next year's edition will do the same (if not quicker). It seems like others are beginning to realize that work can, finally, be whatever you want it to be.
So, what do you want your work to be?
My entire conversation with Chris Guillebeau will be posted on Sunday, July 22nd, 2012 in the next episode of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast.
The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - not yet published.
- Vancouver Sun - not yet published.