It will always be worth it (a Tedx retrospective)

It’s 1:06 am and I have spent almost the entire day being shot in the face by information and inspiration.

I want to go to bed, but I’m afraid that sleeping with distance me from the amazing experience I had today. I’m just going to go for it and tell you everything. No matter how cliched I might get at times, I’m just going to do it. (Note: I think once they post the videos I’ll embed them in the appropriate places. Is that inconvenient? Hmm)

Matt, being the more fatalistic person he is, has introduced me to the idea of the universe trying to tell you something. Like, really. Getting it personal. It tries to guide you, cheer you up when you’re down, or put you in your place. Not an entirely new idea, but we talk about the universe intervening in our lives like it’s a meddlesome aunt instead of an abstract coincidence. The universe is always trying to tell us something. Sticking the proverbial note in our lunch boxes, so to speak.

I went to the TedxMileHigh conference today that I have been in a tisy about for two months now and the theme of these talks were “Risks Reward.” I hadn’t given it much thought until the I was immersed in the topic. Since being in Colorado, the theme of “risk” has been Denver’s main squeeze so it just seemed natural that yet another event would play off of it. Stuff like being shot out of a cannon to snowboard down a glacier with a some local microbrew in your Camelbak. Or climbing a fourteener barefoot with nothing but a portable garden and solar-powered esspresso maker. Sigh.

But it was about more than that, it wasn’t about putting your life at risk, it was about putting your happiness at risk. Or, more accurately,  loosing the opportunity to be happier if you’re not willing to take a risk. The Universe was saying, “heeeeeeeeeey.”

The first time it really hit me was during Natalie Baumgartner talk on “fit.” She is a psychologist that works with person-environment fit and she explained that, by around the age of 18, we’re pretty much who we’re going to be. We shouldn’t be forcing ourselves into our workplace cultures, trying to change who we are. Rather, if we find a place that reflects and nurtures our countenance, and we’d be more loyal and productive workers in addition to happier people. We spend the majority of our day and lives at work, why do we need to change who we are at work? It’s more taxing and leaves the plaque of resentment in our mouths. She cited the statistic that 49% of new hires fail because 89% of the time they’re not a cultural fit. When companies take the time to ensure that their employees match the culture and values of the company, they are usually six times more profitable. “It’s a  greater risk to stay where you don’t fit.”

Todd Neff: Even small risks can create tremendous success.

Five time cancer survivor and story teller Woody Roseland: “You are here. What are you going to do about it?”

Ryan Martens: Ryan talked about the importance of social enterprise, using the power of business to solve real programs by allowing your business to express your values. I love the phrase he used: “Doing good along with doing well.” The poetic semantics you instantly forgot when your third grade English teacher taught you, but made memorable when reintroduced by Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock.

Along with an extremely moving violin performance from Kayvon Coffey, and a heart-wrenching call-to action by Laura Merage, this was basically session one and then we we had an hour break. In order to make this a realistic and more grounded account of what happened, let me just say this: My deep love of attending thought-provoking lectures like this is equal to discomfort I get from Networking (or more accurately: being surrounded by people networking while I avoid it).

When I first arrived at the event I was mildly optimistic that I would find someone I knew that I could kind of be around in a non-annoying way during the event. I explored the exhibits lounge slowly, snacked the foods primly (sorry for cutting the line, I really am, I didn’t realize until it was too late), and did banter with someone briefly, but nothing that really stuck. People don’t often go to things alone. Seems like only I partake in these social-kamikaze missions. After obviously not connecting with the person sitting next to me at the first session, I decided that my shoulders were too delicate a thing to rub with others’. So, after grabbing a free granola bar, per etiquette, and sat back in the auditorium to wait the remaining 45 minutes out. I have to say, it was probably the best thing I could have done to maintain my rep’. Plus, I got to see Gregory Alan Isakov do sound checks and warm-up songs, which was kind of like have a very short, private concert. I really like ol’ Gregy thanks to a Spotify from Jordan.

The second session had some amazing speakers on some of the charities they were working on. Which you might think would make you feel guilty maybe even that they’d be a little boring—in reality, they were just as enthralling, moving, and purposeful as the other lecturers. Two particular talks that I adored from this half were Adam Lerners and the Evan Walden/Nathaniel Koloc talks.

Adam Lerners’ experiences as someone who felt the compulsion to prove his worth to the world resonated with me and I couldn’t help but be impressed by his journey to find the middle ground. To find something that gave him the intellectual exercise he wanted, but in the way that came naturally to him. His story behind creating Mixed Tastes (formally The Lab) was wonderfully done—a fantastic project for the community and world that also brought joy it brought him. I loved the playful and witty vibe of Mixed Tastes. The humor and stunts they pull remind me of the tomfoolery that I have often longed for in my work life. I want to chance to be the stretch the limits of my creativity simply by being around people who naturally cajole it out of me.

Evan & Nathaniel’s talk about connecting your passions to your work resonated with me as it would anyone. We all want to live fulfilling lives and our work can take us away from it. Sometimes I think I sound like a silly, young, lost person when I talk about what I want for the future, I only know that I can do it. I know that I can do it. Whatever you ask of me, I can work hard and help you somehow. I’m just trying to find out who you are and what you want….

At this point, the electricity of the event was building up. Every speaker was getting standing ovations now. The seams of our minds were taunt and the air was buzzing. The final performers they had to the stage were the slam poetry champs Ken Arkind, Bobby Lefbre, and Theo Wilson doing a joint performance that 100% completely exploded my heart. I love slam poetry and haven’t watched in a while. It was so beautiful and powerful. I can’t wait until they put up the video, because there is no use describing a poem.

It’s 3:08a now, I should go to bed. Tomorrow’s here.

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