Be curious. Open your mind. Challenge yourself to listen and learn. Respectfully explore new perspectives. Discover your own inner Icon\Genius\Maverick.
Great advice in any setting. Prerequisites for attending a TEDx event.
Here’s a summary of this year’s talks:
Stella Young—I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. Stella was born with a disability that limited her growth, and confines her to a wheelchair. Is it difficult being disabled? Yes. Is she special because she’s disabled? She doesn’t think so, and her goal is that you won’t either.
Stella told a story that happened when she was about thirteen. Her parents received a call from a representative of their town council saying they’d like to give Stella an award for her community achievements. That was puzzling to her parents (and her), since she hadn’t really achieved anything for the community. She was more interested in watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dawson’s Creek than actually doing anything for someone else.
The real reason for the award was that she was disabled and could be an inspiration to others. But that’s just it. She says that being disabled shouldn’t be something special, or an inspiration. After all, isn’t the inspiration we feel based upon the silent (and instant) comparison we make to that disabled person’s difficulty…and our relief that it isn’t us? By comparing ourselves to someone we think should have lowered expectations, we give ourselves permission to have our own higher expectations, at their expense.
Stella can’t wait for the day when being disabled isn’t special: the day when we take our inspiration and lessons from the good within people, whether they’re disabled or not.
Dan Pallotta—The way we think about charity is dead wrong. How much should a charity spend on fundraising? How much overhead should they have? Is it better to have a bake sale and raise $375 with no overhead, or spend $350,000 to produce an event that raises $5,000,000? If you’re an MBA graduate, should you go to work at a for-profit company, or a non-profit?
Dan says the way we approach these questions, and the ethical standards we put on charities and non-profits, is shackling them and reducing their ability to grow. We should be focused on what they are raising, how successful they are at providing their services, and not their overhead rate.
He provided a number of examples of the ways we apply different standards to for-profits, compared to non-profits. And yet, for all the advantages that for-profit organizations have in terms of access to capital, access to talent, permission to make mistakes, and their ability to focus on growth; they are not equipped or motivated to provide the type of assistance (economic and otherwise) that’s required in the lowest 10 percent of our society. Philanthropy is the marketplace for love. We need a robust and well-funded non-profit community to meet the very real needs of those less fortunate.
To get there, we need to upend the way we think about non-profits. We need to remove the shackles and give them the room they need to grow and succeed.
Mina Morita. What you value is defined by what you risk. Mina’s mom risked everything to come to America from Japan when she was 20. Mina gave up her corporate job to pursue her love of theater. Through many twists and turns, she is now the Artistic Director of Crowded Fire Theater. She’s fulfilled and happy. Not because her life is perfect. It’s fairly messy.
She gets to tell stories and create unique moments that can only happen in theater. Theater fulfills dreams. It’s a place where failure and judgment are in the flesh…every night. She has missed a lot of life’s joys, sacrificed special moments with family and friends. But, she’s happy because her life is what she wants it to be. What you value is defined by what you risk.
Brian Vellmure. Brian is a management consultant, but his talk wasn’t about that. It was about how to prepare our next generation for the challenges that lie ahead. What does he recommend? Team sports and adventure travel.
Team sports show us how to work with others, how to rise to a new challenge, how to go beyond what’s expected. Most importantly, team sports show us how to respond and bounce back from failure…and the fear of failure.
Adventure travel makes us all kindergarteners again. We don’t know anything. We don’t know the language, the customs, the food, or the geography. Outcomes are uncertain. It’s perfect practice for dealing with the challenges that our future will bring.
Why do some people succeed while others fail? Brian says successful people have three things above all else. Curiosity. Grit. Character.
Ryan Gattis. Ryan is an author, but more than that, he is an explorer of life. In 2009, his life had bottomed. He boiled it down to a series of numbers and stats, and none painted a good picture.
As a storyteller, Ryan told us that every good story has five elements:
Cause & Effect
How did it feel?
Concrete specific detail.
All of these elements are nothing if the story (and the author) lacks authenticity. Authenticity is the invisible power that makes a story matter.
Ryan weaved three stories together that contained all of the elements. We heard about the depths of his despair in 2009 and the course he charted to climb out, followed by an intense meeting with a Los Angeles area gang leader, asking permission to do research for his next book, All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots. The third story, and also an unexpected element within the first two, was something that happened when he was seventeen. He wound up on the receiving end of a punch from a football player named Lump. The punch destroyed and relocated all of the cartilage in his nose to an area on his cheek, without breaking a bone. Two reconstructive surgeries later, he was fluent in pain.
It was that pain that gave his stories their authenticity, along with all the other elements. He discovered that once he opened up to his pain, his prose opened up as well.
Doug Woo. Doug is the president of the Smart Display Division at FUHU. FUHU focuses on providing digital solutions for families and kids. They have a line of tablets, aimed at the unique needs of families. Their Big Tab displays are as big as seventy inches. They resemble large flat screen TV’s, but they act like tablets.
Their innovation was to create a whole new category, based on something that everyone thought they already knew. Tablets. Innovation is practical change, driven by desperation or inspiration. FUHU went “big,” and focused on how to connect the family with their technology. Their cause was bigger than just the technology. Togetherness, collaboration, sharing. These were their motivation, and the Big Tab displays are the result.
These tablets don’t isolate family members. Instead, the entire family shares in the immersive experiences that only the Big Tab can provide.
Dotsie Bausch. In the first minute of Dotsie’s talk, we learned that she was a fashion model, a cocaine addict, bulimic, and attempted suicide twice. This was all before she entered three years of therapy. As she made progress, her therapist recommended she take on a new activity, and she chose cycling on a whim.
By 2012, she had become an Olympian track cyclist. She won a silver medal in the team pursuit event. She says that she has a voracious appetite for winning.
But, that wasn’t the subject of her talk.
Her talk focused on the benefits of a plant-based diet. It all started when she watched a documentary about factory farms, and witnessed the cruelty that animals face on their way to slaughter. She considers it an act of Olympic-level compassion to eat a plant-based diet.
She says that a person who eats only a plant-based diet is consuming 200,000 less gallons of water per year than someone who eats a meat-based diet. Athletes who eat plant-based diets recover 50% faster than their meat-based counterparts.
She asked each of us to go meatless for one day to start down the path toward a plant-based diet.
Todd Irving. Everyone is someone’s child. Todd says this should be the dominant thought in education at all levels. Parents send their most precious possession to school, and they should be treated that way. Todd is the teacher, now principal, that we hope all of our kids get. What makes the most difference to a kid? Taking time to make a connection with them. Getting to know them, their dreams, and their fears…one-on-one. Every child needs to have hope, and that’s the job of every educator, and each of us in the community.
Lesley Fightmaster. Yes, that’s her real name. Lesley is a yoga instructor. She led us in a short, guided meditation. We started by focusing on our breathing and our posture. With our eyes closed, breathing a little more deeply, she guided us through a series of peaceful thoughts that we directed out to the world and then back within ourselves.
Meditation helps us focus on the present moment. This moment is great. Be there. Namaste.
Dr. Anthony Chang. Dr. Chang started his talk with some sobering statistics about the relative happiness of physicians in the US. Nine out of ten physicians wouldn’t recommend their profession to others. Only 6% are happy with their careers. We are creating a perfect storm for reducing physician morale. They are under pressure to see high volumes of patients in a short amount of time. They are inundated with data gathering, data entry, and billing challenges.
Dr. Chang gets his inspiration from his patients. He told us about three of his patients, Hanna, Elsie, and Shirley. Hanna helped him renew his idealism for his profession. Elsie showed him how important it is to take all the data we have and somehow turn it into wisdom for patients…intelligence in medicine. Shirley reminded him about the importance of innovation in medicine.
Dr. Chang wants to integrate artificial intelligence into the practice of medicine. When we were learning to fly, we watched birds. Our first attempts tried to mimic their method, and didn’t work. Only by learning the underlying characteristics of flight, were we able to solve the riddle of flight in our own unique way.
It’s the same with artificial intelligence. Rather than attempting to mimic the way our brains function, the best approach is to extract the lessons we can learn and create our own unique methodology for bringing intelligence to various fields, like medicine.
Dr. Brenda Wiederhold. Dr. Wiederhold is a clinical psychologist and entrepreneur. She uses virtual reality to create transformative therapies for her patients. Therapies that free her patients from the bonds of fear and anxiety, and help them regain control.
Virtual reality is an excellent tool for transporting a patient into another reality. A reality that scares them, paralyzes them, or holds them hostage. Once the patient enters this reality, Dr. Wiederhold can work with them in this safe environment, showing them how to control their emotions, and ultimately their subconscious mind. This frees the patient to use what they’ve learned in the virtual reality environment, in the real world.
Phu Hoang. Build your dreams over time. Phu is the co-founder and CEO of Virtium Technology. He says there are two types of entrepreneurs. One is the “reckless abandon” type that makes a breakthrough and dives into it without really knowing which way he’s going. We’ve heard of many of them, yet there are only a few of them.
Then, there’s the rest of us.
Phu’s advice is to always have a dream, but also a belief in ourselves. He always believed that if he put time into learning about something, he could master it. By continuously improving, he could become the best. Choose a niche in something that is already growing rapidly. Look where the big guys aren’t looking and take that bite size niche. Become number one in that niche and build from there.
It’s okay to build someone else’s dream while you’re building your own. When you’re ready, make the leap and work full-time on your own dream.
Rob Seitelman. Rob is the speaker coach for Chapman’s TEDx. His talk was a letter to his daughters on the power of failure. Everything worthwhile has to cost something. Sometimes that cost is failure. Create a fall-through plan, not a fall-back plan. Sometimes you can do everything right and it still doesn’t work. The reality is that life is all about family, friends, and most importantly, love.
Never let someone else dictate your happiness. There is such a thing as best, but it’s only what’s best for YOU that matters. What’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you. Think about the “why” of things. The most important “why” is: for the benefit of those who will come after us.
Ahmed Younis. Ahmed is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University. He focuses on the architecture of social change, youth employment in the Arab World, global Muslim public opinion and Islamic reform for social change. He started his talk by saying that he’s been working on terrorism for the past fifteen years. But, he hit a wall about a year ago.
He began to lose faith. A vessel can only pour what is within it, and he feared that his vessel was empty. It’s his job to articulate hope, and yet he was out of hope. He went on a search for hope and found it in a surprising place. He found hope in graphic novels and comic books. His favorite comic books? Pride, Cairo, Captain America, Black Panther, and Ms. Marvel.
Each tells a story where hope triumphs amidst tragedy and conflict. Each is a story of heroes rising up from nothing to take on a world of ugliness and darkness.
How we engage the ugliness determines our hearts, and gives us hope.
Mandy Len Catron. Mandy published an article in the New York Times in January of this year, titled, To Fall In Love with Anyone, Do This. It highlights a study done more than twenty years ago by Dr. Arthur Aron. It’s an experiment built around the intimacy that comes from sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self disclosure.
Here’s the premise (from the article): A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.
Intrigued, Mandy tried this experiment with an acquaintance. After they had asked each other the 36 questions, they stepped outside the bar where they were for the evening, and onto a bridge. They then stared silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.
Did they fall in love? Yes, but that’s not the whole story.Her story received over 8 million views. Suddenly, she was an international news story. Unfortunately, so was her new relationship. The most asked question she receives is, “Are you two still together?”
She doesn’t think that’s the question we should be asking.
When you admit to loving someone, you admit to having a lot to lose. What she wants from love, and probably what most people want, is a guarantee that this love will last forever. That’s why everyone asks if they’re still together.
Falling in love and staying in love are two different things. Love is terrifying, and there aren’t any guarantees. That’s part of the deal.
Are they still together? Yes.
If there was one overarching theme from all the talks, it is that hope is precious. Without it, life becomes ugly. With it, everything else becomes possible.
Past Chapman TEDx summaries: