Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's your Gobi?

Yesterday I had an amazing day at TEDxToronto and I just wanted to share my thoughts on this experience. Most of TED talks seem to have a very common theme despite the context ranging wildly. I suppose, then, that it is the secret ingredient that makes ideas worth sharing. To me, that common theme resonates with me as resilience.

Speakers almost always challenge the definition of impossible and the supremacy of the status quo. It's always about realizing one's own capability of overcoming burdening conventions and making a better world more accessible. A TED speech is typically about an ambitious vision that leverages a solution so simple we overlook it, a method that requires an unexpected yet accessible ingredient.

Often, the alchemy between different fields is what brings forward the most impactful innovation. A few examples from TEDxToronto are the coming together of designers, usability experts, patients and doctors at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation to design health technology that includes and engages patients with their health management. Or the Citizen Lab, where hacking and activism meet to defend the privacy and freedom of speech of the digital world. But it doesn't have to be a big thing. Sometimes, just picking fruits with strangers can reduce waste and build a stronger community. And sometimes, it takes one's lowest point in life to realize one's full potential and run the 6 first marathons in the Gobi desert.

Resilience. To run when you don't want to. To keep trying beyond 1500 "no"s. To say no to language poisoning that is so pervasive it seems invincible. To keep pushing for change when all the world wants is the comfort of the status quo. To be creators instead of passive consumers. To believe in success beyond your fears of failure. To train your brain to build neural connections it didn't have. People say "think outside the box" but sometimes, there's just no box! Adaptation. Plasticity. Embracing change. They all require this resilience that permeates virtually all TED speeches.

Below are some of the quotes I blindly scribbled in the dark yesterday as I absorbed the incredible experiences being recounted on stage. I hope you will find them useful.

"In this age of technology, you can either program or be programmed." - Ryan Henson Creighton

"You cannot create in another man's dreams" - @brother_mustafa

"Great things come from small beginnings" - Marcelo Da Luz

"25 years gonna go by anyway" - Marcelo Da Luz when told it would take him 25 years of full time work to create his own solar car.

"To replace oil, we need something that eats, sleeps and breathes like oil. We need to look at the economics of oil. One input, many outputs. It shouldn't change the way consumers consume. It should be competitive with respect to oil and not rely on subsidies." - Jon Dwyer

"I'm sorry about your loss... But remember... You're next" - Joe Cafazzo

"Patients can do incredible things given the right tools " - Joe Cafazzo

"It's your fault. You're letting that person live in your head rent-free." - Drew Dudley

The following quotes are all from Stephane Danis' speech, which was probably my favourite in terms of delivery and style.

"Resilience determines the meaning we give to events and how we react to them. It's how we can shorten the cycle between a negative event and the perception of new opportunities."

"They said the race was 50% physical and 50% mental. So I decided to run only when I didn't feel like it. When it was raining, when I wanted to go to bed. When I was very full after a large meal. When I had a little too much to drink. I made a friend out of each obstacle."

"Sometimes, we need someone else to show us what we can do. Now I think of all the areas where I've been walking instead of running. I knew all the concepts, but I needed this experience to fuse them all together. It completely change my relationship with adversity."

"IQ and EQ aren't enough. We need emotional grit. The good thing about it is that it's proven that you can grow it. It's like a muscle. "

"We're blind to what we can do. Be your words, not your feelings. Most of the people who signed up for the race never even made it to the START. They didn't FEEL like it. There are 309 known emotions and 2/3 of them are negative. When our words conflict with our feelings, we often choose to go with our feelings. Be your words, not your feelings."

"Expectations can be the hardest of burdens."

"Create your own adversity project. Something outside of your comfort zone. Because when adversity strikes, you can either get marked by it, or use it to make a mark."


  1. Seems you had a great day at TEDxToronto. Thanks for your kind words. Let me know whenever you want to go for a run! Stefan

    1. I did! I hope you did too. And yes, I'd love to go for a run! I've never really run (due to health issues) before but planning to start now. Your story will keep me motivated for sure!

  2. Enjoyed your blog, especially the quotes. Just watched a video from TEDxToronto, found their site & then your blog. A tortuous route but worth it in the long run!

    1. Thank you Mary, glad you enjoyed it :) it was an amazing day