I just spent most of last Saturday at the TEDx event that was held here in Ubud. TEDx (versus TED) events are smaller regional happenings organized to highlight projects and people doing extraordinary things in the local area — in this case Bali, and other parts of Indonesia. In the past, I’ve spent hours on the TED website watching videos of brilliant speakers from past events so, I was ready and eager to be dazzled. Here’s what I took away from Saturday…
While the speakers that participate in the primary TED conference are extremely eloquent, often genius presenters (past TED speakers include- Pres. Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Steve Jobs, etc), it quickly became evident that, although all of the participants are doing extraordinary things, many were not all that practiced at being in front of a large group of people. At first, I was a little disappointed — I was hoping to be enraptured and entertained as I often am on the TED site. And, while I’ve loved watching videos of people like Taylor Wilson (the kid who developed a nuclear fusion reactor at 14), I also know the closest I’ll get to a rocket scientist most days is watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. Like a shot of espresso, It’s easy to watch the TED talks, get a quick hit of inspiration, and then move on to more important things like deciding on what to feed the kids or why the cat just puked on the rug.
Yet on Saturday, it wasn’t Bill Clinton or the Dalai Lama making the presentations. These were real people. People I might have gone to school with or known from work. And although, all of them were quite accomplished and successful in their own right, it was their (for lack of a better word) ordinariness that made them imminently more memorable. While it probably isn’t a big deal for Bill Clinton to prepare for a TED talk, these people all showed tremendous courage getting up in front of the large audience (most with high expectations like myself) and putting themselves out there. And they’re all, without exception, doing amazing things. There was a young, exuberant woman bringing libraries to poor villages in Bali, an earnest, Indonesian man running an NGO focused on human trafficking, and a French woman who created an organization that is restoring the coral reefs off the coast of Bali, to name a few. They were all up there making themselves vulnerable to critics like me sitting in the audience.
After sitting through the event, I couldn’t help but think …..what am I doing in my life that is making a difference? I haven’t donated a kidney or started a foundation for blind orphans. I’m not even a vegetarian and sometimes, (gasp!) I forget to bring my own reusable bags to the grocery store. What does that mean for me? Am I doomed? Can I make a difference even if I’m not doing grand works mandated by a meaningful mission statement? If Woody Allen is to be believed and 90% of life is showing up than these people from TEDx are killing it – they’re showing up and bringing sandwiches. It begs the question – how can I show up more in my life? How can I be more courageous and passionate? Could I turn off the computer when my kids get home from school? Could I more than pretend to listen when my husband had a bad day at work? These are small things but, maybe they can lead to bigger things. I found it funny that after all the brilliant TED talks I’ve watched, it was not the Dalai Lama who generated these thoughts for me, it was a group of relatively unknown people speaking at a modest TEDx event in Ubud who radiated such optimism and showed by example that everyone can change the world – the first step is showing up. But, just in case….if you hear of any blind orphans looking for a kidney – let me know.
The TED website — http://www.TED.com