This past weekend, while many were shaking off 2-Up hangovers, I was with 2,700 of my closest friends wedging ourselves into the Sydney Opera House for TedX 2014. Hungry, starving even, we all climbed the iconic steps and stepped on toes as we worked our way into the world’s most famous Concert Hall. Starving we were not for mere food, but the much greater sustenance of inspiration. What would we learn today? TedX has high standards to live up to, and even higher expectations to meet.
Taking in everything that was said throughout the day was a big task, but it became clear to me that the key messages being delivered were succinct, clear and definite.
The first was brought to us by Stella Young. A comedian, disability advocate and extremely funny woman, she proceeded to admonish us for our addiction to Porn; Inspiration porn that is. As we all sunk lower into our chairs (we were at TedX afterall), it became pretty clear that our lives are overflowing with gifs, photos and pithy quotes designed to uplift, inspire and excite us. To make us feel better. She implored us to focus on what good is being done, what achievements have been made, and what you can actually do to make the world a better place – Live it, don’t just Like it.
Next, Marcus Zusak the highly awarded author of The Book Thief, showed us how his failures have become the best experiences of his life. He encouraged us to use negative thinking to liberate us, allowing us to push boundaries, explore unchartered territories and to seek perfection. By not believing that anyone will think your work is any good you permit yourself you to create for your own happiness. Work that you pour your soul into produces the best output, and makes you a happier person in the process. Do it, and do it for yourself first.
Neuroscientist Cyndi Shannon Weickert spoke passionately about her twin brother who, diagnosed with severe schizophrenia at age 17, inspired to find a cure for what crippled, and ultimately killed, him. Her research and work, carried out over the past 30 years has pushed boundaries in schizophrenia treatment, and has at times found her at extreme odds with her colleagues. And yet, she believed in the results she was seeing and the vision she had so stuck to her guns when everyone had turned their backs. By doing this, she has found new ways to treat the disease, impacting thousands. Believing in yourself, your vision and doing it in your own way is more often than not, the path to success. Listen to you inner visionary.
And finally the most positive message which I took out, was how important community and family are to becoming the best person you can. That support from the right people at the right time is all it takes sometimes to achieve the impossible. Both Judy Sharp and Jihad Dib showed us how with a lot of effort, a lot of care, a Renegade approach to problem solving, and unwavering belief in the power of people can overcome any obstacle. For Judy, it was providing a richer life for her severely autistic son and for Jihad, Principal of Punchbowl Boys High, it’s how he forged real behaviour change from the students and parents alike followed. Do it differently, you’ve nothing to lose from trying.
So what did I learn? I learnt that respect for ourselves, our ideas and each other is way cooler than adhering to the norm any day of the week. And I learnt that, inspiration porn or not, when a group of true Renegades take the stage to teach you something, shut up and listen.