TEDxHouston 2011

TEDx Houston 2011 at Wortham Theatre University of Houston

This past Saturday, members of the Schipul team (Alex, Jonti and Ed) and I (Sarah) had the privilege of attending TEDx Houston 2011 at the University of Houston Wortham Theatre.  This was my first TEDx conference to attend in person – having been a longtime TED video watcher and fan.

The conference asked all of us the question “Where do we go from here?”

First, all of us at Schipul want to give huge props to the Culture Pilot team and the amazing volunteers and sponsors that enabled TEDxHouston to run smoothly Saturday. Running a conference for a bunch of smart out-of-the-box thinkers is a challenge, and they were incredibly successful.

All of the speakers were amazing, and their speeches sparked new ideas that I scrawled alongside my notes from their presentations, including:

  • Dr. Robert Ness’s speech on Innovative Thinking in education – I wondered to myself if evolution and creationism had to be two distinct concepts or if perhaps, life does have a plan to it and the diversity and struggles within “survival of the fittest” is part of the intent?
  • Micki Fine asked the audience the question “Where are we now?” and talked about mindful living.  As someone who falls asleep the moment I sit down on a yoga mat, (really – ask me to sit still and 5 minutes later I’m dreaming), I loved that she didn’t just talk about how to meditate and slow down – she gave me questions to ask myself like what matters to me most and how do I act from true intentions?

Here are three TEDxHouston presentations that struck a chord with me – read on for other Schipulite feedback on this great event and check out all the TEDx Houston photos taken by Ed Schipul:

Kurt Podeszwa, Director of Camp for All

(Disclosure:  Camp For All is a Schipul client) Kurt spoke brilliantly on “How do we promote service above self?”  With an emotionally moving, or as Kurt would say “creates contact problems” presentation,  heshared his viewpoint that the work he does is “selfish selflessness” and that those who volunteer their time and energy “do not promote service above self, rather it is service because of what we get back from it.”

This discussion brought light to the notion that when we volunteer, we are helping those who make the real sacrifices – the ones who take the real risks.  For Kurt, he was helping those children who had to deal with their scars, diseases, disabilities and keep living life joyfully.

Michael Holthouse, Founder of Lemonade Day

Michael Holthouse, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Lemonade Day, presented on “Entitlement: now what?”.  Entitlement and generation Y seem to go together nowadays and in a lot of ways, I suffer this plight.  Michael began by talking about economics and the great depression and welfare.  He used the parable of giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish to transition to how our society in America has created this sense of entitlement in our culture by not teaching our children how to do the work needed to succeed.

Lemonade Stands held at TEDx Houston 2011 raised over $600 that was donated to TEDxHouston!

Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs

After lunch, TEDx Houston presented a video of Aimee Mullins that was from TED 2009 entitled “Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs.”  It is difficult to believe that I not only had never seen this presentation, I had never heard of Aimee Mullins until Saturday.  Aimee Mullins had both legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant.  She has had to learn from the beginning of life to walk on prosthetic legs and she told the stories of 12 pairs of prosthetic legs she owns, including a pair that look like glass and a pair that adds 6 inches to her height.  Aimee ends her speech with a story about an evening out with friends. As Aimee walks into the restaurant wearing her extra-tall legs right after they were made, one of her girlfriends remarks “But you’re so tall!” and then “But Aimee, that’s not fair.”  Hearing how the conversation has now gone in reverse where the disadvantage doesn’t necessarily go to the disabled person anymore really changed the way I will think.

Some of the Amazing Women @TEDxHouston from Alex

The day started with a talk by Dr. Roberta Ness about the hot topic innovative thinking. Steven Johnson’s recent book brought this issue to the front of a lot of people’s minds last year, right after a Newsweek cover story told us that we are in the middle of a “creativity crisis” in America. As an issue that seems to pop up all over the place, this was a great way to start the day and get people thinking differently about how to answer the conference’s theme question: where do we go from here? Dr. Ness spoke about the desperate need for innovation and creation to solve the most pressing problems in our world (many of which we delved into deeper later into Saturday) and encouraged us all to break the frames that we use to see the world. It couldn’t have been a better way to set the tone for the day, as many of the subsequent speakers challenged us to “frame break” with them.

Angela Blanchard of the hugely successful Houston non-profit Neighborhood Centers challenged us to think differently about underprivileged areas in our city and throughout the world. Although we typically associate negative, broken images with these areas, Angela encouraged us to figure out what is working and build on these assets to make improvements. Like she said, nobody ever got into college by listing all their flaws on their application. The personal touch that Angela brought to her story is, I think, a hallmark of TED talks that makes these videos and conferences different and even more inspirational than those from many other events. The work that Angela and the Neighborhood Centers crew is doing in Houston, along with her story, had many of us close to tears – sometimes also a hallmark of TED talks.

Super-smart businesswoman Nina Godiwalla spoke in the afternoon about the topic of her book Suits, being a minority woman on Wall Street. Nina has a very specific and unique story, but her experience’s are common to many fringe and minority groups who find themselves in unwelcoming environments. The current that ran throughout her talk was that the small picture of her story was not the important part. What is important to Nina is clearly that men, women, old, young, all ethnic groups, etc. were able to read her book and relate to her experiences. Nina’s call to action at the end of her talk was to stand up and speak up whenever groups become exclusive of people for the wrong reasons.

I so wish that I could write about each and every talk I heard on Saturday; they were amazing and inspirational. Be sure to follow @TEDxHouston and check them out yourselves as they get posted. I think the conference’s theme speaks to the takeaway I heard from most of the attendees: Come to TED to get inspired, and then go somewhere from here.

Some TEDxHouston tidbits from Jonti

I enjoyed a series of off the agenda surprises, like speakers such as Hear our Houston audio Walking Tours and  Laura Spanjian from Mayor’s office for Green Houston. Laura outlined the success and future of Houston becoming one of the most green and sustainable cities in the United States. Previewing plug-in vehicle stations and Green Office challenges, she also has her sights set the goal of 100% curb recycling and increased renewable energy solutions for Houston.

Another surprise speaker and chef Justin Yu encouraged a stronger relationship between your food, humble exploration and culture to rediscover what is great about your own culture. Each surprise was part of a Hidden Gem theme building on the hidden gems of Houston.

Volunteers and Emcee Chris Johnson at TEDx Houston 2011 take a bow

2 Replies to “TEDxHouston 2011”

  1. It was truly an awesome, AWESOME event. Thanks for sharing some of Michael Holthouse's thoughts as well. [a quick correction … the lemonade stands actually did not raise money for Lemonade Day – all the profits were donated to TEDx Houston]. The business owners who ran the stands raised over $600 for TEDx Houston! Thanks! ~mandy

Comments are closed.