How soon is now?

Culture in a 24 / 7 world

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  • Published: Oct 4th, 2013
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Hard Questions [UPDATED]

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tedxles

This morning I received an email from the organizers of the TEDxLowerEastSide event, which is scheduled to be held later this month at The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts. As one would expect with a TED event, the speakers’ list looks fantastic and the theme for the day, The Hero’s Journey, is a strong platform on which to build an emotionally and intellectually compelling program.

I’ve been to one previous TEDx event, TEDxHarlem, and it was terrific, so I was eager to fill out the application. Sure, I’d be getting home late the previous day from London, but these type of opportunities shouldn’t be missed. So, I started to fill out the application which was pretty standard stuff until I came to this part:

Please choose one question and answer in 500 words

  • If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on who you are and what you do, how would you be? What would you do?
  • What is it you are trying to create in the world and how is your work helping to manifest or support that?
  • What question are you living?

Could you answer these questions? Have you even asked yourself these questions? If you’re at all like me, things just got really uncomfortable for you. Uncomfortable in a way that punctures your probably comfortable life. My guess is that you are reading this from within a well-lit, climate-controlled environment, or perhaps off of your smartphone. Sure, we all have hardships and challenges in our lives, but by and large you are probably reasonably comfortable. Go read those three questions again.

You hear a lot of talk about “getting out of your comfort zone” but it’s hard isn’t it? A job, kids, leaky roof, maybe elderly parents, there’s a lot going on in your life and quite frankly staying inside your comfort zone sounds like a damn good idea. I get that. So I’m not going to ask you to quit that nice gig, or even give up your $4.50 latte. But do this for me – copy and paste those three questions into a word document. Don’t try to answer them right now, just print the questions out and tack them up on your office wall. Just read them each day for a week, or maybe a month. Think about them a little bit. Then, when you are ready, try to answer just one of them. If you do, I hope you’ll share them with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

UPDATE: After I wrote this blog post, I sent a note to the TEDxLES organizers saying that I appreciated the invitation to apply for attendance, but didn’t feel I could honestly answer any of the three questions. this afternoon they got back to me and referred me back to the application page, noting that based in part on my comments, they have amended the application essay question. It now reads as follows:

  • If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on who you are and what you do, how would you be? What would you do?
  • What question are you living?
  • What is your favorite TED talk and why?
  • TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Which of the 3 are you particularly passionate about and why?
  • If you were to give a TED talk, what would it be about and why?

So they added to more questions, which are ‘easier’ to answer. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Actually, yes, I am sure. I don’t like it. Now people can take the easy way out. We have too much of that in this life. If I do decide to apply for attendance I won’t choose one of the latter to questions.

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Telling a story, telling it with passion

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Starbucks didn’t buy big ads saying, “Our coffee is really, really good and you’ll like coming to our outlets.” They lived it passionately instead. Nike was started by some guys who passionately believed they could make better running shoes. The world didn’t think they needed better coffee or running shoes, but when presented with an authentic, compelling story, consumers bought in.

The world may not think it wants classical music. But don’t tell that to Benjamin Zander. The conductor of the Boston Philharmonic is passionate about classical music, but more importantly he is passionate about life. Listen to this talk, then ask yourself: “How passionately do I feel about my business/product/job/relationships/etc., and how am I conveying that passion with every interaction I have?

Hat tip to Mitch Joel from the Six Pixels of Separation blog for bringing this to my attention.  This inspiring performance (speech isn’t the right word) was given at the TED conference earlier this year. Having this level of passion is not easy, but the dividends are so huge that it is more than worth the effort. 

 

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