This past weekend I attended the 4th annual TEDx Portland. Over 2,500 people converged on Keller Auditorium to hear some ideas worth spreading. My take is that fans of TED talks, we are a bunch open to inspiration & generally hungry for a different perspective – so the vibe was that of positive optimism as the speakers engaged the audience with their thoughts on the idea of “Perfect” – the 2014 TEDx Portland theme.
It took me a couple of days to assimilate all the information, it’s an overload! The thing is you think that every one is going to be as touching and inspiring as the next, but that’s not what is happening – some presenters are describing their journey while some are highlighting one event or one invention. Each talk is resonating with a different part of your brain, or eliciting a different emotion – as a whole, it’s fairly exhausting. But more than worth it, I’m already looking forward to next year’s event! (And no, it’s not just for the amazingly sweet swag bag.)
The trick is to maintain that positive, productive, proactive, I’m-going-to-kick-ass vibe that naturally settles on you after listening to countless people overcome obstacles that make your problems seem mundane. These are the main points I took away from this event and these amazing speakers (videos of all the talks should be live on the TED site in a month’s time), that I will refer back to when I’m feeling less than 100% & need a kick in the pants ….
- Be intentional. This was a popular theme that came up either overtly or covertly in many of the talks. James Keller spoke on being thoughtful about what apps you download and spend your time using. Choosing games that are described as “thought provoking” rather than “addictive”. Aaron Draplin chronicled the idea of “Free Fridays”, where he lends his creative time & talent to people that don’t have money for branding & marketing services. It’s no mystery that we waste a lot of time, so the idea of harnessing some of that to be proactive and selective is definitely compelling.
- Create your life. Of course none of the TED speakers show any room for excuses or regrets. It’s like they had this laser focus that needed to be realized and they persevered to that end. I realize this makes for a much better speech than the fact that you accomplished half as much because of your inability to make decisions. But regardless, there’s inspiration in being motivated to create your own client, having a second chance after paying for a bad decision or adopting a set of particular philosophies based on your personal heroes.
- Listen. This is rooted in the idea of losing some of your built-in defenses and assumptions you may have about other people. Allowing perspective of how we as humans deal with each other and communicate, going into interactions presuming that the other has the best intentions. Lisa Sedler of Green Zebra fame, spoke of not being afraid to look foolish and asking for help. Living by the mantra: “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”
- Give back. As with the “Free Fridays” idea sparked by Aaron Draplin, giving back to the community was a meaningful topic. After a storied career in the footwear industry, D’Wayne Edwards set up the first academy in the US dedicated to footwear design. Aiming to leave the industry better than he found it, Edwards pays it forward by offering a free, highly specialized education for talented youth. This talk connects with the idea of your legacy, shaped by your passion. G Cody QJ Goldberg spoke on the topic of play and inclusive playgrounds as being his passion. His hard work and tenacity towards funding his dream, while keeping his day job, reminded me that it does take a lot of effort and grit to get things done. The fact that after his playground project was completed, hundreds of people reached out to him for help in their own communities, tells you how much the idea of an inclusive play ground resonates with people and how an inspired idea can take root.
- Be open. 91 year old Frank Moore told the story of his life, full of ups and downs, tragedies and celebrations. His memories were so vivid and elicited deep emotion, years after these events happened. I recognized in his stories the idea of being open to all these experiences and being engaged in the moment. Sharing this day with countless other like-minded people emphasized the fact that we aren’t alone, that each action has an equal or opposite reaction. Being a witness to the courage that it took for these speakers to take to the stage and share a very personal part of themselves, forced me to question my own path and my unfolding story. It’s hard to hone a plan without a goal, so start with that small step and move forward with your best intent.