Three Lessons I Learned from TEDX

Last Friday I had the honor of attending a TEDx event. When it comes to TED, I think most people fall into two camps. If you’ve heard of TED and know what it’s all about, you probably think it’s awesome. The other camp usually consists of the question, “Who’s Ted?”

For the uninitiated, TED is a huge conference of incredible people giving 18 minute or shorter talks on various topics. They are huge events but the real goldmine behind TED is on their website where nearly all the talks are available to watch and listen to for free. A TEDx event is a smaller and independently produced version of an "actual" TED conference.

At our TEDx event there were six speakers (check out their bios here) covering topics from non-profit funding, leadership, neuroeconomics, combating AIDS, urban farming, and music. I could write an article for each of these speakers as they all did a fantastic job and talked about incredibly interesting topics. However, instead of going through a point-by-point breakdown of the evening I’d like to just leave you with a couple thoughts that hit me the hardest.

THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT SOMETHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT SOMETHING

Jesse Dubois gave an excellent talk about urban farming. He is the founder of a company called Farmscapethat is trying to increase the amount of food grown within the city limits of Los Angeles. One of the main problems his company is facing is the fact that people have a hard time thinking about the production of food in a way other than what we understand as “farming.” People think that food has to be grown on mega-sized company farms well outside the city.

Is there really a reason it has to be this way? Jesse asks if the way we think about food production is really the only way to think about it. Going one step forward, why do we landscape our yards with aesthetically pleasing plants that have no actual value to our lives? What if it was normal to landscape your yard with food producing plants?

This talk made me think about other areas of my life where I might just be making assumptions about the way things “have to be.” Where can I reject faulty assumptions and develop a healthier and better way of thinking?

DON’T OVERCOMPLICATE YOUR DREAMS — JUST ATTACK THEM

Grammy award winning composer Mateo Messina booked a symphony in Seattle’s new symphony hall before he’d ever even written one. In fact, he couldn’t even read music. He just knew that he always wanted to write a symphony — so he figured out a way to make it happen. He tells the story of how he bought a children’s book about orchestras, a keyboard and some software that would transcribe the notes he played on it. He then sat down and played out the notes that each instrument in his orchestra would play (after checking the picture in the children’s book first, of course).

He had a dream and he didn’t overcomplicate it. He could play the piano and knew there was software that would transcribe what he was playing. Who says you need to be able to read music to write a symphony?

Where am I overcomplicating the things I want to do with my life? Attack your dreams with single-minded intensity and they won’t stand unconquered for long.

PEOPLE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT INCREDIBLY DIVERSE THINGS — ASK THEM ABOUT IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

The last, and probably most enjoyable, part about this TEDx was the conversation break we had in between the two sessions of talks. Everybody had a name tag that had 3 self-chosen “Talk to Me” points. The easy access to conversation starters and the environment of TED led to incredibly engaging and passionate conversations.

What if it was normal to expect someone to come up to you at any point and ask you about your passions? What if the spirit of TED infused every part of our lives?

If you ever have the chance to check out a TEDx event (or an actual TED conference) I encourage you to jump at the opportunity. I can’t think of another time where I’ve been so surrounded by passion and inspiration.

Have you been to a TED event? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments.