My TEDActive FAQ

Random Observation/Comment #506 : My life needs a meditation room and smilebooth.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED
Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

I’m a big fan of summarizing into lists and preparing my day for common questions. Here are answers to the main ones I suspect this week:

Q: How was the conference?

A1 (in general): It was the best week of my life, but not something I can do more than once or maybe twice a year. At some point I felt like I was taking 40 credits a semester and jamming 12 sessions of over 90 expert lectures into this 5-day cram session. Whistler was beautiful and the people were what made the conference awesome.

A2 (to geeks): So we’re going to Mars in 2027 because Elon Musk is probably a Martian from the future. There’s also some crazy technologies coming our way that can change the future of manufacturing with 3D printing and extracting sound from video. It was a great conference with a lot of very proactive, geeky, and social introverts.

A3 (to organizers): The venue was incredible and I feel like everyone helping was on the same page. I like how there were 3 rooms for viewing the web casts: 1 device-free and silent, 1 in a whisper device open, and 1 just fully open. The veteran TEDActive goers made us feel at home and the schedule was jam packed. The TEDConnect app was super useful for scheduling and connecting – I think it’s something we should adopt for our new joiners in our firm.

Q: Which speaker was the most inspiring and what was your favorite talk?

A1 (in general): This is a really tough question because they were all so moving and inspirational, but they had two sessions about “Life Stories” and “Just and Unjust” that just brought me to tears with every speaker. In those sessions, Anand Giridharadas and Gary Haugen really gave me a different perspective and shocked me. Anand spoke about the split of Americas and how forgiveness is core to giving second chances. Gary gave a shocking overview of poverty and violence around the world that I couldn’t shake afterwards.

A2 (to management): From a technology stand point, David Eagleman gave an amazing speech about rewiring our brain to expand to other senses. He has a vibrating vest that he’s found people learn to “feel the internet”. He trained a few people to feel the stock market to decide on buy/sell. From this year’s TED Prize, David Isay pushed forward Story Corps, a project that records stories and uploads them to Library of Congress. It’s now available on the app stores.

A3 (to geeks): The tech is still in stealth, but within the first session, Abe Davis from MIT gave a preview of his research on extracting sound from video. Stephen Petranek also gave a speech about how we’ll live on Mars by 2027.

A4 (to humans): The Monica Lewinsky speech was actually quite moving because I remember how easily the whole country labeled her and marked her as the mistress that had an affair with the President. The media really took full advantage and used her as patient zero to cyber bullying. At the end of the day, we all forgot she was someone’s daughter and made mistakes as any 22-year-old might.

A5 (to artists/design): Two really beautiful and shocking speeches I found were by Elora Hardy and Neri Oxman. Elora spoke about the architecture of bamboo and Neri showed a whole different side to biologically printed clothes and a hundred other side projects that I looked up. It’s bizarre.

Q: Why is it better to attend in person than just watch the talks?

A: The TEDactive conference was not just a simple conference room web cast of a live event. It was back-to-back events that connect you with the smartest and kindest people around the world. These TEDx organizers covered companies, universities, cities, states, and countries. I was constantly listening and learning from those around me, and I’m sure I learned more in these connections than from watching talks. The reflection and sharing of the ideas after those talks really solidified a meaning around them.

Q: What did you learn?

A1 (to management): I learned that the attendees really make the conference what it is, and we all have our own skills to contribute to a bigger cause. I have never felt out of my league in a room of international super stars, but I have also never felt more inspired. I want to continue to surround myself by a community like this and help others with forwarding their own causes. I really hope TEDx this year will be just as great as last, and we can motivate others to get involved.

A2 (to organizers): TEDActive maintains a brand for not promoting a company or agenda for a good reason. When you strip a selfish layer of speaking-up at a conference and start to listen and contribute to shared ideas, this is where real building and collaboration happens. I also found TED used a lot of playful/silly breaks between speeches (either short viral videos or 3-minute speeches) that helped people transition into a more relaxed mode. As for lessons learned, I have a whole list of them on my blog.

If you ask me these questions, I will most likely not give you these answers, but you’re Damn sure I’d be excited to share more about the talks, people, planning, and feelings I’ve felt the entire trip.

by Clemens Wan

This post originally appeared on Clemens Wan’s personal blog. You can find it here.

“Beers Worth Spreading”

The second annual TEDActive Beer exchange kicked off last night!

This event was born last year when TEDActive attendees decided to get together to share and sample local craft beers from each of their communities. Each attendee brought craft beers with them, introduced the beer to the group, and then offered samples of their particular favorites. This event was organized via a very active Facebook group, that describes the event as “Beers Worth Spreading.” The group spent a few days leading up to TEDActive to discuss what they might bring to the highly anticipated exchange.

Here are a few of the beers they sampled this year:

Credit: Céline Thommesen

First, they sampled “Posturing Professional” from New Zealand.

photo: Dumitru Onceau

Followed by “Dark Matter” from Victoria, British Columbia

credit: Dumitru Onceau
photo: Dumitru Onceau

And then “Surly Furious” from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

credit: Dumitru Onceau
photo: Dumitru Onceau

Also some “Oblivion” from South Carolina.

credit: Dumitru Onceau
photo: Dumitru Onceau

by Diana Enriquez

Are you Supernormal?

“How do we explain resilience?”

Today, Dr. Meg Jay hosted a workshop where she challenged TEDActive attendees to think about “resilience.” Meg gave a talk in 2013 based on some of her research on twentysomethings. Her first book was titled “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter — and how to make the most of them now.” This workshop was part of her research for her next book. Her workshop titled “Are You Supernormal?” was a conversation about her upcoming book, adversity and the secrets we keep.

The first definition she offered was “good adaptation despite diversity.” But this definition was too clean and didn’t capture the heart of what Meg wanted to explore with her research and the book she was writing. She challenged the group to think beyond the concept of “resilience” and think through the process of what it means to overcome adversity and begin to heal as individuals.

Meg introduced a series of case studies through descriptions of her patients. Each person she described had struggled with tough issues, including sexual abuse, mental illness in the family, bullying by peers, and neglect, but they had also managed to create their own successes. Many of the patients she described were, by any public measure, thriving and building incredible lives for themselves.

When Meg told some of these patients that they were resilient individuals, the response was frequently, “Who? Me?” They had trouble recognizing what they had accomplished, instead downplaying their efforts by comparing their situations to much more extreme examples of adversity.

Meg argued that this type of thinking might be more isolating than healing. She explained that some of these patients took on the roles of “superheroes,” and felt pressure to be perfect, able to adapt quickly to their environments under changing conditions, and constantly “good.” The persona she described said: “On the outside, I look successful. The people around me tell me that I am amazing, but on the inside, I have secrets.” Her patients had trouble appreciating their own strength and putting it in context for themselves.

She found that healing, for these individuals, came from accepting points of weakness.

She asked TEDActive attendees, were her patients “Supernormal” for being able to overcome adversity? Or was this resilience, in fact, remarkable but also part of being truly human?

Meg added that challenges like loss of a parent, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, mental illness in the family, poverty, neglect, and a handful of other topics were far more common in the lives of our peers than we might expect. That, in all likelihood, we had all had friends and family members and colleagues who may be struggling with similar challenges.

One goal for the book will be to open up conversations about adversity and resilience. She hopes that readers will realize “I’m not the only one.” That their resilience counted, even if they had not won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

More of her research and ideas will be available in her forthcoming book that she is writing titled “Supernormal: The Secret World of the Heroic Child.

By Diana Enriquez

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