WORLDZ 2018 – A Stunning Gathering, Chasing True North

It is difficult to adequately report on the depth and breadth of this year’s WORLDZ gathering. Founder Roman Tsunder introduced the gathering as “the third chapter in a ten chapter journey.” This year’s chapter was named “Chasing True North.”

Speakers ranged from Senator Barbara Boxer to Perry Farrell, with senior executives from companies ranging from Rolling Stone and Ducati to Amazon and Live Nation. The influence of media, entertainment, gaming (including eSports), music, marketing and technology made for a heady stew at WORLDZ.

With deeply inspiring speakers from a range of disciplines, WORLDZ both stimulates and humbles attendees. The goal, however, is to stimulate action.

I expect many attendees determined to give the boot to complacency after their two days at WORLDZ.

The opening sequence was a stirring production, featuring the inspirational words from Claire Wineland. She was one of last year’s most stirring speakers, and stands as a beacon for many. The world lost a bright light when she died from cystic fibrosis in September.

RZA was one such inspiring speaker. As an integral part of Wu-Tang Clan, he believes “the gods speak through the arts” and encourages all to participate.

Stephanie Gilmore, a six time world champion surfer was equally inspiring as she described her journey leaving the shore (a WORLDZ theme). Fusion physicist Dr. Tammy Ma described her amazing work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; if she and her colleagues are successful we will see a massive shift away from fossil fuels and attendant improved national security.

Dr. Alaa Murabit had us pondering her amazing journey growing up Muslim in Canada and becoming a catalyst for change as a UN High Commissioner.

In between speakers and sessions indoors, we had the opportunity to meet folks like Travis Brewer. Moments earlier he had just broken the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest one arm plank on medicine balls. How cool and who knew?

Travis Brewer being scrutinized by the official from the Guinness Book of World Records

I put myself into the hands of Jason Nemer, who developed acroyoga several decades ago and now has legions of instructors around the globe. “Put your phone down and pick up your friends” is his clever approach. He fixed the tightness in my shoulders with a few deft moves.

Jim Kwik provided tips to “hack your brain to unlock your memory potential.” I enjoyed the discussion of “New Kids on the Blockchain” as well as the panel on “How Cannabis is Going to Save the Country.”

Baron Davis and Tony Gonzalez flank Fox Sports analyst Curt Menefee

I did not expect to be impressed by a pair of retired major league sports stars, but I was wrong by 180º at least. Baron Davis described how he decided in the third year of his 13 years in the NBA to take control of his career, as he had only met his manager twice. He took equity in lieu of dollars for his Vitamin Water deal, and after his pro career he has made strategic investments in a portfolio of startups. Tony Gonzalez was frank and effective describing the potential depression after the athlete retires. His 17 years in the NFL far outstripped the league average of 3 years. What turned him around when he led the league in dropped passes to become a Hall of Famer? Books. “Read,” he implored the audience. Gonzalez brought up what I had been thinking, would he encourage his son to aim for the NFL? Gonzalez said he will sit his son down and describe the pain and sacrifices required. Most of all, if his son is only in it for the money and not love of the game, he’d discourage him from pursuing a pro sports career. Davis nodded in concurrence. Both retired pro athletes have tried to instill a sense of perspective when asked to speak to rookie athletes. But what the pair had to say was inspiring for any of us too unskilled or too old for pro sport participation.

That perception-spinning session was one of many that WORLDZ offered participants.

The organizers go to great lengths to encourage mingling and meeting, with easy access to many of the speakers and panel moderators.

As I have noted before, gatherings of this stature are like massages for the brain.

Click here for a great video summary of WORLDZ 2018.




Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.