Photo Credit: Armosa Studios

When I signed up to attend Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland, I was motivated mostly by the desire to connect with my blogger friends. I had no idea I’d come away from it noodling how I will change the world with $100.  But before I share my ideas about how I might do this and invite you to share how you would change the world with $100, let me give you a little back story.

An Investment In Community

In 2011, the first World Domination Summit was kicked off at a loss of about $30,000, which Chris felt was totally worth it, as an investment in bringing together his online community live. He viewed it as a way to give back, to bring people together, to thank his online community, and to experience the joy of witnessing the tribe that unites around his Art of Non-Conformity message.

Nonetheless, as a savvy businessman and author of The $100 Startup, he knew it would be good business to at least break even the second year around.  So he raised the prices a bit.

In the interim, Chris, whose business is famously non-commercial and sponsor-free, was approached by corporate sponsors who offered to offset the cost of the summit, in exchange for banners, sponsor announcements, and the other kind of hoopla you often see at large conferences. But, true to his integrity, Chris made the decision to stay aligned with his policy, even if it meant running the conference at a loss again.

The Anonymous Donor

Then a private donor, who asked to remain anonymous, showed up and offered a large sum of money to help fund the conference in whatever way might be of service. At this point, Chris had several choices. He could pay himself back from 2011’s loss. He could put the money in the WDS business pot and enjoy a big profit this year. He could save it for future events, and with more revenue, expand the conference to make space for the 4,500 people that wound up on the waiting list because there was no room at the inn this year. Or he could pay the volunteers who donated their time to make the conference a reality.

Then he did the math. As it turns out, the donation, divided by the number of attendees at the conference (1,000), turned out to be just enough to give every attendee an investment of $100. (Remember, this is the guy who wrote a book called The $100 Startup, about how to start a microbusiness on a shoestring.)

Sign from the Universe, anyone?

The way the math turned out left Chris with an inspired idea. When he looked at the books, it turned out that World Domination Summit 2012 not only broke even, but turned a small profit. Which gave him the freedom – and courage – to pay it forward.

The Surprise

After telling us all day that there would be a surprise at the end of the day, the end of the day rolled around, and Chris told us this story.  He also told us, in a moving, inspirational speech, that, as we left the conference, we would each be given an envelope with $100 bill in it, along with a note that challenged each of us to use the $100 to go change the world. Under the words “The $100 Investment,” the actual note reads, “We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use. Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different – it’s up to you.”

I was awe-struck, and I wasn’t alone. The room was silent before it exploded into wild applause.

How To Dominate The World

The whole experience moved me to tears. I have to say, I’m well acquainted with Chris’s work. I’ve read his books. I read his blog. I’ve heard him speak. I also consider him a dear friend. I know he likes to travel and is almost done visiting every country in the world. I also know he likes to talk about world domination, which, I have to admit, always struck me as a little… I don’t know… aggressive. In fact, I met a few people at the conference who came from other countries, and when asked at customs why they were entering the United States, eyebrows were raised. (The consensus – next time you’re traveling to something called World Domination Summit, tell customs you’re visiting friends.)

Personally, I consider myself more of a world-changer, a world-shifter, maybe a world-illuminator, though even those feel a bit grandiose and unattainable. But world-dominator? Nah. Not so much.

Until this weekend. Now I’m a convert. If this is what world domination is all about – opening our hearts and being vulnerable, as keynoter Brene Brown challenged us to be, proving that one man can bring clean water to hundreds of thousands of Africans, as charity: water founder Scott Harrison has done, making peace with who we really are, as introvert Susan Cain inspired us to do, and living in service to others, as Chris challenged us to do, sign me up.

By the end of the weekend, Chris, the other speakers, and the whole WDS team restored 1,000 people’s faith in the inherent goodness of the human spirit and the capacity for one person to make a difference.  But as was often said at the conference, it’s not enough to get inspired. To change the world, you must take action. And through his grand closing gesture, Chris made sure we had no excuses.

How To Use My $100

For the past few days, I’ve been marinating on how to best utilize the $100 investment.  Like Chris, I don’t want to just deposit it into my bank account to pay myself back for any world-illuminating work I’ve done at a financial loss.  I too want to pay it forward.

I could give my $100 to charity: water, as I suspect many World Dominators will do. I could give my $100 to Kiva.org, one of my favorite nonprofits that provides microloans to businesswomen in developing countries. Or I could give it to one of my favorite nonprofits, NancysList.org, who I’ve been helping with fundraising since I started blogging three years ago.

But in the spirit of Chris’s generosity, I want to pay it forward in a similar community-rallying way so we can all pay it forward together.

How Will You Use $100 To Change The World?

So here’s my idea. In the comments below, tell me the story of how you would use $100.  From the stories you tell me, I’ll choose one person and pay my $100 investment forward.

But let’s not stop there. I challenge the rest of you. Read all the comments with me. I’ll give people 24 hours to tell their stories, then, on Friday morning, I’ll announce in the comments section who will get my $100 investment. Then I’ll choose 5 runners-up to receive a copy of Chris’s book The $100 Startup.

But I suspect we’ll have more than 6 people who could use $100 or a book about achieving a visionary dream.  That’s where the rest of you come in.

Help me out! Who in our community might you invest in? Are there others willing to send $100 to help support someone else and their dream of a better world? I suspect we have investors and visionary world-changers among our readers. How can we help each other?

So tell me, how would you change the world with $100?

PS. WOOT! People are donating! If you’re one of those who has offered to donate to fund someone else’s dream, please  give your donation here, and we’ll handle distribution of the funds. (So far, the top donator has given $500! Are you next?) Thank you for reminding me how many beautiful hearts and souls are out there in the world. Stay tuned while my team makes arrangements for distribution of the donations, and I’ll be announcing who will get my $100 tomorrow.

With $100 ready to give,

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