By Jason Womack
At the airport in Vancouver, TED was in the air; both on our arrival and on the day of our departure. Landing at the airport, there was a little applause by the few of us who had traveled from just 2 and half hours away (I can only imagine what it was like for our brothers and sisters who traveled more than 10-20 hours to get to Canada). Of course, we were all ready to dive in to the deep end and participate in the TED experience.
And then, just like that, it was over. When Julia Sweeny took the stage, that was the moment the real countdown started; we all know what was coming: The post-TED-ache. After about 96 hours of being, doing, having and talking about “TED,” we started making our way back home. Sure, some of us stayed there in Whistler a few more days, but at some point or another, we’ve all found ourselves out in the “other” world. (I won’t call it the “real” world; personally, I have not experienced a world as real as TED).
Now that you are HOME, there are four things you can do to keep the TED experience alive. It may be months or even years until we see each other again, so in the “in-between” time, here are things I know I can do to stay focused on the amazing-ness that is TED.
Years ago, I met with a successful business man in his high-rise office. He had invited me in, and I had asked for his advice on an idea we were considering for our small, growing company. On his desk was a computer, a mouse, a keyboard, a yellow legal pad, a pen, and a framed quote. The quote said, “Around here, hope is not a strategy. Dream … Plan … Act … Assess.” There, in his office, I took a picture of that, I know it would be important later on.
Leaving TEDActive, I’m filled with hope; and, as such, I’m looking at the world through the lens of what that word means to me. I do believe that because so many of us gathered together, and we’re continuing to keep the conversation going through Google Hangouts, Facebook posts, emails back and forth, Skype conversations and phone calls, something good may happen. In fact, I think many somethings good will happen. And, I’m personally excited to hear about them from you, my new, growing family of friends.
In a recent Google Hangout, 10 of us got together for just a half-an-hour to share our stories of how the first wee had gone for us all since returning home from TEDActive. I know I speak for several of us when I say one of the ah-ha moments during that conversation was when we started talking about how “different” the TED Active world is from the world we had returned to. However, when we started looking at it, and talking with some specific examples, we realized (ok, here I’m specifically speaking for myself) that in our every day lives we have the chance to create mini-TED-like conversations in our own communities.
This manifested itself just last weekend for me. I drove to Omaha, NE to hang out for about 36 hours with Brian Smith, TEDxOmaha. At 10am, we sat down at a table of 6 people. At 12pm, another table of about 20. At 2pm, another group of 8. Over dinner at 6:30, there were just three of us chatting. Then, the next day at 12pm noon, 9 of us gathered to dive deep in to a conversation. Each one of those meetings reminded me of what it was like to sit down with some of the world’s most engaged people and point our focus toward something that we all had an opinion about. It was magical.
My takeaway from this year’s experience at TEDActive: Keep the conversations going. Put a meeting on your calendar. Email all your friends. Invite your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat … You get the picture … friends to get together and continue looking for new opportunities.
Ok, I’m coming from a place of transparency here, but I am 100% positive that we are smarter together. I’ve just sent my third email to a TED friend asking if they’d be willing to meet me by phone or Skype for 5 “mentoring sessions” this year. You see, by taking what I’m thinking about from what happened during TED, combining that with what I’m thinking about for the upcoming year, and asking really, really smart people for some phone-time to talk about it, I can really build the foundation of that learning that I’ve been doing.
Does the word “mentor” freak you out? It doesn’t need to be that scary. A mentor (this is my definition, use it if it works for you) is someone who knows something more about something than I do, and is willing to listen to me and share some ideas of how I could possibly get better over the course of my life. Phew, does that help? I remember when I realized that THAT was what I needed (back, way back, when I was a high school teacher in the 1990’s). I started meeting about every 2 months with someone who was willing to help me out. I realized that 5 meetings over the course of a year was enough to push me forward and through to my next level.
Don’t wait. To my TED friends, please let me share a short story. The Sunday after TED ended, I got the most difficult text message from my Dad I have yet received. That morning, my younger cousin was in a terrible, horrible car accident. In fact, as of today as I’m writing this, he is still in the Intensive Care Unit Trauma Center in southern California. Since that moment, and since flying to San Diego to see my aunt and uncle, and since trying to keep up with the moment-to-moment changes of his physical and mental conditions, I have been on a roller-coaster of emotions.As fast as I can reflect back on the wonder and beauty of the TED experience, I can “pendulum-swich” to the sadness of wondering if my cousin will ever be ok. Over the past several days, I’ve used the emotion – not just the content – of the TED experience as an anchor holding this tiny ship fast to the large sea. Sure, we get rocked, things show up to test us, to push on us, and to make us wonder if it’s all worth it. I’m here to say that it is worth it. It is.
It is going to be easy to look back on the TED experience fondly, longingly, thinking that the space we were in for those four short days was something magical, something unique, something that was a once-in-a-lifetime. I’m here to ask of you – to beg of you – keep the energy of the experience going. Every day you return HOME, reflect back on the goodness that is TED, and look for ways to spread that out around you in a 10 meter bubble; starting with yourself.