I spent my afternoon and evening yesterday at the first TedxBoulder. It definitely lived up to my expectations, which were incredibly high knowing some of the organizers. I had originally planned to write this post last night after returning home, but it was too fresh and there was too much to process. There were 22 presenters last night speaking on topics as diverse as romance novels and donating your body to science, including video of a human dissection & display of a real human heart–those 4th row seats seemed less desirable during that particular talk. There were many talks that followed the theme of finding and loving your true self. There were talks out to save the planet and its people. There was a former professional triathelete, Buddhist monk, school board member, venture capitalist, improv theater owner, astrophysicist, graphics designer, and much more (all the speakers). This wasn’t the kind of night that you happen upon–unless you happen to live somewhere like Boulder.
David Thomas, a video game journalist (jealous?), talked about what makes a place fun. His thesis? We think a place is fun if it is and isn’t at the same time. Huh? So, he thinks that we think buildings like Lucy there to the right are fun, because the building is an elephant but it’s not. It’s an interesting way to look at the world and how we can introduce more fun into it.
Peter McGraw, a marketing and psychology professor at CU Boulder, talked about what makes things funny–a similar topic to David Thomas. Does this say something about me? :) This is actually the second time I have heard Peter speak, the first being Ignite Boulder. He posits that things are funny if they are both benign and a violation, like someone falling down the stairs but not being injured. This might help me with my goal of one day doing stand up comedy–which was a fairly well guarded secret until now.
Grant Blakeman, a designer and developer, had a simple message, but his talk was beautifully crafted. Through a mile-a-minute walkthrough of his day (which could be anyone’s), he highlighted the lack of negative space aka free time in our lives. It was simple. It was beautiful.
Nathan Eagle, CEO of txteagle, spoke about the state of mobile devices in Africa and how in many ways, the western world is being leapfrogged by developing nations. I was somewhat aware of this, but one example in particular struck me: ditch diggers are organized by SMS. They look for texts to see where the job site is for the day. That is the very definition of ubiquitous to me.
Diane Israel, former professional triathelete, was simply heart-touching. I don’t mean to go all after school special on you, but of all the talks, she made me feel the most. Some of the other speakers had cheesy little ice-breakers that I did my best to ignore. Diane was genuine from the moment she stepped on the stage. Her message of being embodied and accepting and loving yourself is something we could all hear more often–especially in such an incredibly unvarnished way.
Brad Feld, early stage investor and entrepreneur (and guy with cool shirts), had an unexpected topic. When I’ve heard Brad speak before, it has exclusively been about startups and venture capital. Last night, he got personal. He spoke candidly about his marriage and all of the things that can get in the way. His solution, or perhaps more accurately, his wife’s solution? A quarterly week off the grid. No phones. No email. No contact with the outside world–just time, solitude, and each other. This is quite a lovely idea, and this idea may have been the most practical of the night. It’s also the one I heard most discussed afterwards. My husband and I (married 6 years, together 14) have played with the idea of weekends off the grid. When we even have a few hours of this, we love it. It sounds so hard, but the rewards on even such a small scale are great. It’s something we’d like to give a longer try.
My takeaway: The talks were fantastic, but my biggest takeaway of the night was that nights like this need to continue. In order for them to continue (and to spread), people like you and me have to make them happen. That’s my TedxBoulder pledge–to do my part in bringing events like this to the community that I love.