I returned this morning from the TED conference in Long Beach. This year I found it exceptionally inspiring. And also draining: the content on stage, the people you meet, the people you don't meet,the locale, all of the activites — it's a jam-packed five days that leaves you feeling simultaneously energized yet also a bit like a spent tube of toothpaste. Wow.
I logged on this evening to write a summary of the week, but in the course of seeing what my friends wrote about their experience there, I came across John's amazing story of his experience in Long Beach, and decided that all I'm going to do is quote him here. What he wrote is just beautiful, and it captures the essence of what happens there:
… Every time I go, there are at least a couple of experiences that I have that change the way that I look at the world, the way that I want to be when I go home. TED makes you want to be better, smarter, more present, more thoughtful, more impactful, more human. To be a better citizen and a better professional and a better dad and a better husband and a better friend. That type of inspiration doesn’t happen all that much, and it’s worth the price of admission every time.
And that’s why June Cohen and Tom Rielly, on the TED team are two of my true heroes. They both have chosen to spend their lives working on building up TED outside of just the week of the conference every year. Tom has built the TED Fellows program, which started out pretty damn great and at this point is starting to move into basically ass-kicking-terrifyingly-awesome territory. And June, who put TED Talks online for everyone to see, including subtitling into 80+ languages.
That, my friends, is how you change the world.
That’s how you take this beautiful, wonderful experience for a few people in California each year and turn it into something that anyone — anyone! — can use to make themselves, their community, their world better themselves.
Well said, John. I can't wait to post some of my favorite speaker videos. I had tears streaming down my face in just about every session of the conference.
TED is something different from what it was half a decade ago. If you can ever go in person to one of their events, or to a TEDx event, I heartily recommend you do so, but I do agree with John that the essence of the TED brand experience is by no means limited to those who hear it in person. If you can take the time to watch and absorb the videos which appeal to you — and many of those which won't at first glance — you can have the same kind of transformational experience. Perhaps even better.
Tears optional, but highly recommended.