Saturday, December 10, 2011

Conferences, Storytelling, and Progress

Last week I attended TEDxSMU and posted that it was not that great. I want to explain why.

Aim Ridiculously High

”The solution is simple: Aim almost ridiculously high.” - Max Levchin cofounder of PayPal on jumpstarting innovation. -Forbes
TED is the best I have ever seen when it comes to finding and collecting great content and having the original author describe what has captured their passion and why it matters. This is why I expected so much of an event that has the TED logo.


The world is awash in information but it is short on meaning. Most of science and technology is boring at face value. It is when you see how it can be used to do something that matters that science has value. As Steve Jobs has demonstrated, great things come from the collision of science and art. The world is broken. It needs great storytellers to spread the word on what is broke and why we should work so hard to fix it.

Ira Glass on storytelling
Excellent storytelling, Malcolm Gladwell on the Norden Bombsite


People are more important than information. Who they are, why they strive, how they got to where they are, all matter in the bigger picture. Great things are made by people. How people change, how they learn, how they step out of the shadows and do something great, all matters as much as the accomplishment. This is especially true for local events where the people you know could be the first hires in a startup, the people you share great ideas with at a party, or the people that lead something great that you should be a part of.

"A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." - Charles Darwin
Any event has to be judged against what one could have been doing with that time. There are so many great sources of exceptional content that the bar is set pretty high.

Here are a few:

Informed, Spirited, and Soulful
“I believe there is a place in the spectrum of television for really good conversation, if it is informed, spirited, soulful.” - Charlie Rose

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address
During the course of peoples lives they do what they must do. The degree, the job, the presentation, the project. Its simply a concern for acquiring power and wealth and avoiding unpleasant things. This is not where great things come from. It comes from a great love for searching, understanding deeply, and working on something greater than yourself.

There is a moment when you see what the world was like before you existed and what the world will be like after you are gone, and you see all the knowledge and culture that we have inherited from our ancestors, that you are not motivated by the status quo. You want to understand things deeply, and put your name on the next step up the ladder of progress. This is what TED conferences mean to me.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

TEDxSMU 2011

Today was TEDxSMU, all day, a chance to not only hear some great speakers but also bump into random people with their own ideas. The audience was a kind of select group of about 500 with an application process and $138 ticket price. I’ve tried for many years. This year I got in with an extra ticket from a friend.

First off let me say I take this kind of material seriously. Its important, and to me somewhat revered, work to go out and do good journalism about things they think are “Ideas worth spreading” and tell the story and why it matters. I am an amateur connoisseur of journalism and regularly enjoy the best of Charlie Rose, Frontline, TED, and anything else social media delivers my way.

But TEDxSMU this year was not great storytelling. There are a few that rose to the level, but none that were great.

Worth listening to:

1. Jaewon Ahn - extraordinary cellist

2. Brent Brown - Building homes in Dallas that fit a community. Something makes me think he takes his work seriously.

3. Jaume Plensa - artist that makes wonderfully giant blissful statue heads and other works. Some examples.

There were around 19 speakers/artists. I don’t want to describe why most were not relevant to me.

So what works for finding great stories about great things?

Here is my list:

1. Ignite Dallas. Its an evening of speakers from Dallas mostly made up of the creative web entrepreneur types. Its cheaper, better, and they let anyone attend.

2. . Its the original. Some speakers deserve the title of insanely great.


4. Twitter (find interesting people and see what they have to say)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Those that make it

Life, the process of change, including culture and technology, that goes counter to the decay of entropy, thrives on the availability of choices, the freedom to acquire the features that enables something to thrive. How many paths of people starting out, dreaming, wanting to accomplish something great, ended when there were no other choices but to give up. All that we have today are the few that made it, a Steve Jobs, or an Edison, the lucky ones who had all the ingredients to thrive. So the question is, is there a brew, a set of ingredients, that explode the choices of life, like a magical elixir that turns barren earth to lush lavish greenery twisting and exploding with activity. This life accelerator is probably words, insight about how creativity and intelligence works, how people can assemble and be more than the sum of their parts, how people transcend their animal beginnings, how people best search, dream, and make things that are real, that change the world forever.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Old Musicians

Actors and musicians when they are older and less able are still better than they ever were. They no longer have to prove their greatness. They see the big picture and serve the material. All the effort and concern for themselves goes to understanding the material and takes it beyond any average actor.

Life is like this too. You don't control the world. You are not the sole author of anything. Its all bits and pieces out there, steered and examined, pushed into something greater than what was their before. Those that put their name on and own all that they touch miss something. They never look out and see the world. They only look in and see what the world sees of them. A small vision that leads to a small person. Better to look at the world with no concern for vanity, and find something greater than oneself and be a part of it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Optimism and Dreamers

I found this quote from Theodor W. Adorno while watching one of the last episodes of Bill Moyer's Journal.
‘The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things from the standpoint of redemption. Knowledge has no light but that shed on the world by redemption: all else is reconstruction, mere technique. Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one day in the messianic light. To gain such perspectives without velleity or violence, entirely from self contact with its objects – this alone is the task of thought. It is the simplest of all things, because consummate negativity, once squarely faced, delineates the mirror-image of its opposite. But it is also the utterly impossible thing, because it presupposes a standpoint removed, even though by a hair’s breadth, from the scope of existence, whereas we well know that any possible knowledge must not only be first wrested from what is, if it shall hold good, but is also marked, for this very reason, by the same distortion and indigence which it seeks to escape. The more passionately thought denies its conditionality for the sake of the unconditional, the more unconsciously, and so calamitously, it is delivered up to the world. Even its own impossibility it must at last comprehend for the sake of the possible, but beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption itself hardly matters.’