The World Domination Summit: Coming Out Of The Closet

I’m not going to tell you how great it was. 

I’m not going to tell you how amazing the speakers were or how the meetups transformed me or how many oh so awesome peeps crossed my path. 

If you’re looking for a “reach for the stars” inspirational review, I’m not gonna give it to you. 

Instead, I'm going to tell you about someone very special. Someone I never could have expected to meet. 

If you’ve followed any of my journey since I exited corporate America last year, you know that I live with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. 

While I've become increasingly vocal about them, until recently I had never shared these intrinsic parts of me in front of a large audience before. 

The World Domination Summit—or WDS—changed all that. The WDS team gave me the opportunity to share my story in front of several thousand people. 

It was utterly magnificent. Having been a performer all my life, it felt great to be on the stage again. 

Though what was far more profound was what happened afterwards. 

I met someone who shattered me. Who wrecked me. 

In the hours after my speech, a young woman approached me and said something that rocked my world:

"I have cerebral palsy." 

What. The. Hell? I had only met a few people with cerebral palsy my entire life, in controlled conditions. A serendipitous meeting like this wasn’t possible. This sort of thing just did not happen.

I was so moved and taken aback I politely excused myself.

I didn't want to cry in front of her, so I ran away.

And cried. 

In an instant, one of the thickest walls of my own bullshit was taken from me. I was laid bare.

Moments later I was overcome with a feeling of solidarity and compassion so strong I vowed to find her again before the weekend was over.

Yet within hours, I was panicked. I was surrounded by thousands of people. There was a chance I might not find her. I had forgotten her name as soon as she told me. 

This was Saturday afternoon. The conference officially ended Sunday night. 

By Sunday evening she was nowhere to be found. I knew I had would have one final shot: at the closing party. We would all be in one place. I had a sense she’d be there.

And she was. We had only a few minutes together. But that was enough.

The enough was in the hug. The hug ripped me open and left me exposed. Every bit of my self-hatred, rage and fear was on full display. 

I wasn’t charming myself out of this one. This time, I had to face it. 

For the briefest of moments, I was taken back to my infancy. To my moment of greatest helplessness. To the very beginning, when I almost didn’t make it.  

In that moment—in that feeling of helplessness—something died. 

That something was shame. 

Her embrace assured me that it was ok. 

That it was ok to not be ok.

That my cerebral palsy didn’t need to “mean” something, or serve as some sort of blessing in order to not be a curse. 

It could simply be the wound that it was, and I could be loved for it all the same.

That’s it. A young woman—through the sheer act of walking up to me—gifted a grace I had not experienced in years:

I didn't feel so alone.

Is there a greater gift than that? 

I’ve been on some unbelievable adventures over the past year, but meeting her was one of the highlights of my adult life.

And the best part of it all was that I never could have expected it.

Both this young woman and I weren’t supposed to live. We were supposed to die.

Cerebral palsy is brain damage. It is—for all intents and purposes—a massive stroke. Many babies who suffer this damage don’t pull through.

Yet we both persevered. I have no idea why we both came to thrive in this world, and I certainly don't believe there was some cosmic reason for it. To make that claim would be to dishonor the thousands of babies born with similar brain damage every year but who don't make it or are completely forgotten about.

What I can say is that meeting her reinforced what I'm aware of on such a fundamental level it scares the hell out me: that I have no business hiding myself—no matter how much I might still want to sometimes—and that I have a responsibility to reach those who have experienced similar traumas, and serve them in love.

I ran from this responsibility for years, but there is no other way.

So in a very real sense, I came out of the closet at WDS this year. The number of people I shared my disability with was irrelevant. 

The relevance was in my conviction. When I got on that stage, I was bold. I didn’t hold back. I called out to the millions of people in this world who suffer from some form of disability, but are left voiceless. 

I refused to play the “humble” version of myself that’s never been anything but a cowardly manifestation of hiding. I’ve done a lot of hiding in my life. It’s only ever been a catastrophic waste of time. 

By choosing not to hide—indeed, to proclaim—I met a woman who didn’t change my life, but who forced me to examine it as it is. 

A lot of people think they attend conferences like WDS because of the opportunities they present, or because they think they’ll be inspired or transformed in some way.

But I don’t really think that’s true. I think most people return to conferences like WDS over and over again because in attending, they’re allowed to gracefully come face to face with something terrifying.

Something that haunts us all, but which we run from like the plague:

Our loneliness. 

Loneliness is one of the greatest scandals of the age we live in, and our avoidance of it destroys lives. 

Yet for a few days every summer, my friend Chris Guillebeau brings together several thousand people and asks them to connect and serve one another. They don’t all succeed in doing so, but the opportunity is always there.

This year I was able to race towards that opportunity with every broken piece of myself.  

And it happened because a very special young woman said hello. 

Thank you, Kendra, for seeking me out. You punctured my loneliness with love. 

WDS was merely the catalyst. 

And for that, I’m eternally grateful.