TEDActive 2013: An Intellectual Feast

You know how you sit down for a meal, maybe at Thanksgiving, where you eat so much you can hardly move? You feel so full you say to yourself, “Why did I eat so much?” Yet the food is so good you just can’t pass it up?  This is kind of what TEDActive was like--except with intellectual nourishment instead of food (although there was plenty of that available too).

TEDActive 2013 was the largest intellectual feast I’ve ever experienced. Unlike leaving the Thanksgiving table, I left TEDActive without any regret for taking in all the intellectual nourishment. In fact, I left fulfilled and wanting more. Words can’t accurately describe this incredible experience. In my opinion, the only way to fully understand the TEDActive experience is by being there in person. That being said, with my feeble writing skills, I’ll try to give you a flavor of what my experience was like.

A little bit of business…

TEDActive was held between February 25 and March 1 this year at La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs with two days of workshops for TEDx Organizers, followed by four days of live talks and livestreams from the main TED2013 conference, happening simultaneously in Long Beach. More than 700 attendees from more than 70 countries gathered for this “brain spa.” This year’s theme: The young. The wise. The undiscovered.

The TEDx Organizer Workshops were helpful. Our own Jacqui Chew, co-organizer of TEDxPeachtree, shared some of our best practices, and in turn, we came away with many great ideas for TEDxPeachtree. It was at these workshops I began to meet and develop relationships with several fellow TEDsters. One workshop was given by the organizers from TEDxMarionCorrectional. Yes, you read that right--a TEDx event held in a prison. Not something I ever thought about--but, I do now!

I remember Jacqui saying, when she came back from TEDActive last year that it is a safe place to share ideas. After having attended one myself, I now understand what she meant. Acceptance is at the core of TEDActive. We certainly did not all agree with each other due to different  values, culture, experiences and education) yet we were all accepting of each other as fellow human beings. We respectfully listened to and shared each other’s ideas, experiences and points of view.

…And a whole lot of play

I would start out a typical day attending yoga with fellow TEDsters before heading over to get my personally handcrafted cappuccino from one of the coffee bars staffed by world-class baristas.

Then I had to make a decision--should I join the majority of the group in the Main Theatre? Or, should I go to The Lab, where I could view the talks and jot thoughts or questions on the chalkboard to be shared with the group? Or, should I go to one of the more intimate venues like The Study or The Design House? Usually, I wound up at the Main Theater where the energy was electric!

On one of the days, we were given picnic baskets with lunch for seven, and we had to find six other individuals to share with. I decided to share mine with a former inmate from Marion Correctional, a person I met from Asheville, NC and a few TEDx organizers from around the world, including New Zealand, Beirut and India. The evenings were filled with a variety of events that allowed us to continue our bonding, meet new people and experience other intellectual delicacies. Maybe by now you are just starting to get a taste of my experience at TEDActive.

Oh, and about those TED talks!

The experience of immersing oneself in more than 90 talks over four days was a true delight. Even though the talks could be viewed online, there was something unique and beneficial about spending four straight days of hearing them live, talking about them with other attendees and learning to look at the world differently. I’d like to share some of my personal favorites, all of which can be found on the TED site:

  1. Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in south central LA
  2. Amanda Palmer: The art of asking
  3. Jennifer Granholm: A clean energy proposal--a race to the top
  4. Shane Koyczan: “To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful
  5. Bono: The good news on poverty
  6. Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

And, a few other special mentions: Phil Hansen’s Embrace the Shake, Orly Wahba’s The Magic of Kindness, Joshua Prager’s In Search of the Man Who Broke My Neck, Hyeonseo Lee’s My Escape from North Korea, and a surprise visit from Ben Affleck talking about his work in Eastern Congo. Don’t miss the virtual choir led by Eric Whitacre.