My first TEDx

Sometimes the key to a successful day is simply getting out of the house. It only got better from there.

For months, I have been watching TED talks online (and by watching, I mean reading the transcripts). If you don’t know TED, they are an organization that holds conferences for the sole purpose of spreading ideas. TEDx is a smaller regional version of the TED conferences. Since TED is $8500 for entry, I have decided to go to as many of the smaller TEDx conferences as possible. They range from free (SnoIsle on Nov 6) to $75 (Rainier on Nov 21). So I can go to tens of TEDx conferences for the cost of the real 5 day TED conference.

So, I drove 40 miles through the city to spend an entire day hearing about ideas. It was wonderful. I was engaged through every session, even closely following speakers that I did not agree with. I’ve zoned out in enough aerospace conferences to know that this conference was truly unique. Because I wasn’t the only one engaged. The entire room seemed to watch the speakers’ every move. The whole audience burst into laughter at the same points. I felt like a part of the group.

It was difficult to select my favorite TED talks, but I have a pretty good quantifiable indicator. I took notes. (Overachiever habits die hard – or not at all). For some of the speakers I scribbled a few lines, but a rare few inspired me. I started jotting notes around their names and in the margin; their thoughts sparked so many of my own. So, here are the things that I circled, starred and hope to think about more in the future (and maybe even take action?).

(Social enterprise) is the business model of the for-profit with the core values of a non-profit. Jeff Ericson – Camano Island Coffee.

I liked this idea because I agreed with his argument that non-profits are inherently unsustainable. If the donors go away, they wither and die. However, I think that there is a lot of good that businesses can do. It takes a shift from the goal of making as much money as possible to sustaining workers, suppliers and the community. I thought that, if I had a business, I’d want it to make money (because I hate asking for money), but not more than is necessary to sustain it and do some R&D. I think I’d prefer for my profit margins to go to customers and suppliers. At least I say that now.

Ignoring death (thinking ourselves immortal) makes us stuck. Jennifer James – Most compelling person I have ever seen speak.

While she described an uncomfortable subject for most, death, it was the most lively talk I’ve ever heard. It ranged from hopeful and expansive – discussing how the knowledge of your death can give you power over your fear – to tragic – the things that she wished she understood about death earlier in her life. It was a rollercoaster ride of a talk. It was weird to think of death as a tool to make decisions, but I’ve run across that concept in other books and articles. This speaker made the idea much more compelling.

Trying to find a trend in these conferences is enlightening because usually it reflects something about yourself. The statements that I wrote myself, in-between speakers or at lunch break, are all about emotional intelligence. Many speakers talked about how they overcame their own fears (all in different ways, mind you). Others proposed methods for finding your true path. But what I noted the most is that these speakers knew who they were. They were aware of their own false beliefs, fears and shame. Yet, that seemed to be the magic power that made them successful. Awareness. Everyone dealt with fears and beliefs differently, but they all required some sort of awareness of themselves.

This has been my theme for the year too. Who am I? I’ve spent so long pursuing this image of myself as a “success” that I forgot what I really liked to do and who I wanted to be. That was one of my first bits of awareness. Now I’m noticing fears and old sadness that I never dealt with, anger that I buried for a long time. It’s disconcerting because I’m not who I thought I was. But I feel like I’m beginning to be more real and true. I don’t filter my thoughts and feelings as much. I’m still learning though.

Awareness seems to be a key component of success. (At least if you count getting to talk at a TEDX conference as success – which I totally do.) It’s good to feel like I’m on the right path.

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