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.

No comments: