This year’s TEDxSydney, held at the end of April at the Opera House, proved to be another day of inspiration and education. This was my second one and again reiterated the need to consciously immerse ourselves from time to time in environments that offer something different. When we live in our geographical and career bubbles, it’s too easy to forget that there are so many other people whose priorities and interests are ones you don’t even have on your radar.
Here are some of the top tidbits I took from this year’s event. Some points are lessons, some are observations, and some are questions.
Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief
- Encountering failure made Markus strive to have success and achieve more.
- “Every success I’ve ever had has come in a gift-box of failure” – Failure can be a very powerful motivator and teacher.
- Markus applied a degree of ‘negative thinking’ when writing his fifth book, ‘The Book Thief’. He thought, “no one’s gonna read it, so I might as well write it exactly as I want to. That little bit of negative thinking gave me the courage to follow my own vision completely.” (And what a success that was!)
Adam Alter, Author and Academic
- External factors influence our true selves – it appears we are quite malleable and reminding ourselves about different aspects of our character changes how we behave.
- Humans are inherently more honest when we believe we’re being watched (put a photo of eyes next to the office charity snack box and people will be more honest!)
Stella Young, Comedian / Disability Advocate
- Despite being a person with disabilities, and living in a wheelchair, Stella was brought up like any other kid. Once she was nominated for a community achievement award at 15 – but she hadn’t achieved anything. “I wasn’t doing anything that was considered an achievement if you took disability out of the equation.”
- “We have been taught that to live with disability makes you exceptional.” People often experience disabled people as objects of inspiration.
- ‘Inspirational images’ showing disabled people living their lives are designed to make you think no matter how bad life is, it could be worse. “I could be that person. Well, what if you are that person?” The kids in those types of pictures “aren’t doing anything extraordinary, they are just using their body to the best of their capacity.”
- In response to “inspirational quote” ‘The only disability os a bad attitude’, Stella comically said, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”
- “I wanna live in a world where we value genuine achievement in disabled people.”
Cyndi Shannon Weickert, Neuroscientist
- Cyndi’s now deceased twin brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Cyndi was not. After extensive research, Cyndi and her husband found that there is a correlation between oestrogen receptor genes and the mental illness, and she continues on a quest to find a cure. The latest development is a trial using a pre-existing drug (used for another purpose) thereby bypassing the lengthy R&D process.
David Kilcullen, Author and Strategic Design Firm CEO
- David spoke about the importance of always working in close partnership with the communities that he does work for to ACTUALLY understand what they’re dealing with.
- “We are dealing with a crowded, coastal, highly urbanised and highly connected planet.”
- New phenomenon: 2 billion people talking on cellphones without access to clean water or sanitation.
Mary Jerram, Retired State Coroner of NSW
- Mary talked about the correlation between justice and vengeance. She talked about how when criminals go to trial and are sentenced / jailed, families of victims are given a feeling that justice has been served. Where does vengeance come to play?
- Mary gave an example of a case in which two women were found guilty of euthanasia. They assisted one of the women’s husbands in ending his life. He had asked them to do so. It is against the law, and they were convicted and went to jail. “For whom did justice flow in the jailing of those two women?”
- “If you want vengeance, don’t go to the law. Closure….is very seldom achieved at law in the courts, and vengeance, never.”
Oliver Percovich, Entrepreneur & Founder of Stakeistan
- Oliver introduced skateboarding to the girls of Afghanistan. 40% of Skateistan‘s students are girls.
- In a place where all recreational sport is dominated by boys, Oliver introduced something new. “Skateboarding was a loophole! It was so new, that nobody had had a chance to say that girls couldn’t do it yet.”
Clio Cresswell, Mathematician
- Clio talked about patterns, formulas and correlations using mathematics. Mathematics is a wonderful, factual language. She showed us formulas that express how our hormones work, and it was interesting to see that the male formula for the fluctuation of testosterone was far more complicated than the oestrogen one for women!
- “Pattern recognition is right at the core of the animal kingdom. Even reptiles recognise whether it’s something to eat, fight or have sex with.”
Megan Washington, Singer
- I’d seen Megan perform at the Opera House before, and found it a little odd that she hardly spoke during her concert. After her TEDxSydney talk, I now know why – she has a stutter and it is something she’s found very challenging throughout her life. Except for when she sings. Which she does beautifully.