I’m glad to say that I’m not a Ted virgin anymore. Sometimes I think that I’m “behind the 8-ball” with a lot of things – I simply don’t jump on the bandwagon with everyone else. I’m the one who watches other people jump over each other to get onboard that wagon, watch it squeak past me and if the wheels or people dont fall off, I’ll walk behind it still contemplating if there’s room for me. I tend to question, analyse, ask others and then ask again before coming up with the pros and cons and only then will I make my decision. Once it’s done – it’s done, it’s final and in a majority of cases – if not all, I have been happy with the final outcome. I just arrived there a bit later than everyone else. That can be a good or even a bad thing nowadays.
So attending a Ted event was going to happen at some stage and it happened on Friday 24 August. Admittedly, the topic didn’t really inspire me that much “Future Leadership 2012″ because we didn’t get the guest speaker list until quite late after registration. However TedX has such a reputation now that it doesn’t matter who’s going to talk, you need to register as soon as possible or risk missing out (maybe it’s because everyone is jumping on that same wagon again?) So with that in mind, I paid my registration and hoped that I was going to be inspired with creative, engaging ideas and to listen to exceptional individuals who have gone above and beyond to make the world a better place.
The topic was on how will leadership face the 21st century; what type of leaders do we need to become; what sort of thinking is needed to leadthat previous generations couldn’t possibly imagine. I’m unsure whether the speakers actually answered these questions in the end but there were some pearls of wisdom that I took away with me.
First of all, maybe it’s an indication of my age or experience but speakers who are on the corporate speaking scene; who provide consultant advice on leadership to company CEOs should not, in my opinion, speak at Ted forums.
I had to hold back my yawns when I saw them up on stage talk about their leadership models in their obligatory Ted uniforms of black jeans, business shirt and business jacket. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard and experienced these models myself in the past? Maybe it’s because I have read the same leadership books and applied those models? Or simply, it’s not new – we’ve been through it all before. I would have gained more value by hearing a senior leader of a company actually doing something so different, so innovative, so creative and engaging and how they inspired their company to become greater in this uncertain world than listening to a consultant. (They did have a speaker who did this but it was one of the taped presentations). Actually, I would have preferred hearing from one of their clients.
A couple of the presenters did this however and they talked about the stressful situations that occured in their lives and how it changed them. In particularly, Adam O’Donnell, who spent 15 years in the Special Air Services. Admittedly, any presentation from members of the Defence Force hold a special place in my heart because of my own personal experience in the Service, but also knowing the dangers and the committment that men and women of our armed services do for their country. His presentation was personally confronting – to admit something so serious in a public forum and to submit to that knowing that it changes a person the instant it happens, to reflect and to learn from it and then to share the story and the learning to a wider audience.
Also another confronting presentation was from Philip Wollen who was ex-president of Citibank some years ago until he saw an act of cruelty that changed his life completely. From that moment he decided to give his wealth away and die broke. He supports over 500 projects and he spoke eloquently about how our meat eating ways are destroying our planet. The awful images of animal cruelty just made us realise that the life of an animal is no less important than the life of an animal.
Another highlight for me was Catherine Moolenschot. At 13, she wrote her first novel and now at 17 is writing her second book interviewing successful people about why they believe they’re successful. Her exhuberance, her passion and her story of how her life was transformed with the concept of the ‘Funnel of Greatness’ was enthralling. She was delightful to watch and to listen to because here was a young person who was saying her personal journey and what she is doing to make her life great. I liked her presentation because she showed, that no matter what age, simply by putting into your funnel good things (good music, good books, good movies, good conversations etc) you come out great – put in bad, negative, immoral or unethical into your funnel, expect the opposite. Her story showed we are very much a product of our environment but she explained it in such a way of a young teen who has the whole world ahead of her.
I also enjoyed the presentation by Prilyanca and Jamil because here were two young people who are committed to social change. They came up with Imprint, an urban rejuvenation initiative that empowers the local residents in their community to create green public spaces.
With every Ted event, there has to be a musical interlude and we were entertained by Rosario De Marco magical music. I’m not an expert in music but the instrument he was playing looked like a smaller and flatter version of a guitar. I had never seen it before but I liked to watch his fingers jump over the strings and create the beautiful music. I caught myself thinking that I was jealous that artists, like musicians, can get so enthralled with their own creations (their paintings; their art; their music) to get totally lost to it. I watched him play and he was in his own world, his own space. Just him and his music – and for a split second, I wanted what he had on stage. It only made me realise that I have those moments too, with my knitting – and it made me think that is it because we are in the moment of creations with our hands that we can truly achieve a sense of true bliss?
Overall, my first Ted event was interesting and I’m thankful that I got to hear some exceptional speakers who have had some personal challenges that have inspired them to action for social change. I left thinking, “what is my social change action?” “What will I do?” “What legacy will I leave?”
An idea that has been mulling over in my mind for some time is a reintroduction of the “nanna arts” (crochet, knitting, sewing) into school age children. Many times I have thought about creating a group where my love of yarn and the art of knitting could be taught to primary and secondary children but then also to use the products that they make to learn how to create a business or to provide them to charity projects around the world. I would love to inspire a new generation of young people to learn these crafts.
So that was my first experience with TedX, lots of great speakers who provided pearls of wisdom and inspiration. Has it changed me in any way? No, it hasn’t. If anything it has left me thinking that there are so many wonderful people in this world with so many different ideas, ideals, experiences, outcomes, perspectives – it doesn’t matter who you are, the colour of your skin, your education, or your background – we can all make a difference…in our own ways.
So thank you TedX Melbourne for hosting this event at the Melbourne Convention Centre. I had a wonderful day – and on top of that, got to spend some time and get to know my fellow Rotary eClubber , Paula whom I ran into at the event!