There were laughs, tears, standing ovations and many a motivational quote during a series of lightning talks Saturday, on what was deemed by Raleigh City Council to be the official "TEDx Raleigh Day".
More than 700 people attended the event either live at the newly renovated Nash Hall or at a livestream location, and the audience was diverse, with both families and those like myself who braved the event alone. Our expectations were high, as many of us had attended previous TEDx events or watched talks online, but the day didn't disappoint. One attendee told me she wasn't just "showing up to something, but to become a part of something”.
I found myself with tears in my eyes at the close of numerous presentations, and I walked away with some lessons and insights that I found worthy of sharing with our audience here at ExitEvent. Here are a few:
Technology doesn't just make lives easier, but increasingly, can save them.
New medical technology that can run without batteries may no longer be a thing of the future. Dr. Veena Misra of NC State University and the NSF ASSIST center spoke about the emerging technologies under development by entrepreneurial engineers in our community. The medical devices she presented to the audience were not powered by batteries, but instead by the body itself, specifically by its heat and motion. These devices will be able to use sweat to monitor biochemical status and blood sugar levels, and therefore to provide early detection of strokes and heart attacks.
Misra believes that these devices will “become a seamless part of society, which allows for long-term continuous monitoring of patients", and therefore, will change society.
Add value, even when it's hard.
I got goosebumps during a talk by Michael Penny about his traumatic experiences in the Middle East as a U.S. Marine. Now a veteran, entrepreneur and podcast founder, Penny told the story of an insurgent attack on him and he fellow soldiers, that gave the audience and myself goosebumps. When you pursue your goals, he explained, you may hit what he calls "a personal IED” or something that sends you to rock bottom. The only way to survive a hectic or overwhelming moment like that is to add value in any way possible and carry on. Penny also encouraged individuals to build their support systems carefully. It's not always family that provides support, but people who share your same values.
Look at your projects as art, not as work. Through experiences as a developer and designer at startups DxLab and PrecisionHawk, Ricky Hopper has come to view technology as a creative endeavor that allows for constant learning. Hopper described in detail the pleasure that he received from giving a friend a guitar that he had crafted by hand. He suggests that weaving this creative energy into our everyday endeavors can not only create more satisfaction in our work, but also allow for more learning and growth.
Skills are still critical to doing work.
Using the example of his father, who only earned a high school diploma but had impressive technical skills (like creating a wood lath with a lawn mower motor and scrap metal), Peyton Holland of SkillsUSA North Carolina conveyed the importance of learning specific skills. He discussed the “skills gap” that has been created as society has valued academic education more highly. It's left construction and other trades with shortages of capable workers. It may be that academic education gets you to your goals, he said, but it can also be skills and craftsmanship that provides a great career.
Hold on to your dreams even if they do not fit your desired timeline.
Lynnette Lewis, the leader of Lewis Leadership Group LLC, gave a tear jerking presentation about pursuing her dreams of marriage and a family. Not only did these dreams take longer then expected to reach, but they were interrupted by heartache and tragedy, especially when she lost a stepson to cancer. She explained that when one dream is on hold, you must go and live another dream until the time for the first is right. Lewis also stressed the importance of keeping hope through the dream process. “Hope is like a muscle and you must exercise it”, she says.
Find a mentor, or five, each to fill a different role in supporting you.
Doug Stewart made his way to college on his athletic prowess as a basketball player, but all along, he struggled with reading. That is until he had an "alarm clock moment" and found an academic advisor to work with him to improve his 1.4 GPA to a 3.4.
Stewart encourages people to find not only one mentor, but multiple, citing the five types of mentors everyone needs. The "worldview mentor" can help give an overall perspective of the world. The "streetview mentor" has the same view as yours. He also discusses how anyone around you can be a mentor if you simply pay attention to who's around you. Stewart calls these "stealth mentors." "Time machine mentors" are those from your past who you learn from, while "anti mentors" are people who teach you things you don't want to know. It was through these mentors, that Stewart, a child who could not read, ended up a man who writes and speaks for a living for the Dale Carnegie Training Center.
Use failure as a way to change your perspective of the world.
We all face failure in the pursuit of our goals—we get a resounding "No" just when we think we have achieved something. Dhvani Bhatia, a high school student from Apex, told the audience about her story trying to raise money for charity, but being rejected by fellow high school students who called her "a liability." The only ways to deal with it are to cry, rinse and repeat (try again), or step back and explore a new option. She says that this simple change in perspective can make a world of change. After all, all the things we love today were the results of failure, the result of people being told no.
Lean into discomfort.
Bill Cummings and Darian Colbert are best friends, but their friendship didn't come easily because they had diversity to overcome. Though both men are founders of successful nonprofits, Lemonade International and Cohesion Network, respectively, Cummings is white and Colbert is African American. They grew a friendship by listening to each other and celebrating their diverse backgrounds. This may be uncomfortable, they told the audience, but the best way to learn something new about the world and yourself and to see the beauty of diversity is to lean into the discomfort.