I was fortunate to attend the TEDx Tampa Bay event yesterday and hear from a lineup of incredible speakers. Motivational speakers. The theme was, “The Future of Storytelling.” As you may know, TED is a not for profit organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” I cleared my schedule at the last minute and signed up for the event without expectations but with an open mind.
Speakers ranged from artists to writers, entrepreneurs to scientists, and explorers to professionals of play (like me). The event schedule said 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. I pulled into my parking spot at 8:05, and when I walked inside, I was thrilled to discover that there was a one-hour “meet and greet” factored in, with coffee. Speakers didn’t come on until 9. So, I met a young woman named Kelly. We talked about our reasons for being there, and I learned that she recently moved to St. Pete and wants to start her own not-for-profit someday. I told her about my business and my writing, and we chatted up until the time doors opened. A few friends showed up too: Vinny (who I knew would be there), Tracey (one of my hoop dance students who I ran into unexpectedly) and George (a former colleague who I haven’t seen in 9 years! Turns out, he’s friends with Vinny, too).
The announcer was energetic and funny, and as the first speaker approached the stage, I had a feeling that it was going to be a powerful day. I was right. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about learning.
All of the presenters were incredible, but I think I connected most with Kathleen Taylor, Nora Gaunt & Ryan Mitchell, Sharon Britton, Michael Kruse, Mark Gordon and Reuben Pressman & Hunter Payne. You can read bios here.
Kathleen is a licensed mental health counselor who spoke about her years working for Hospice. She said that people often ask her why she enjoys working with terminally ill patients. I loved her response. “It’s because they are incapable of bullshit,” she said. She explained that when people approach death, they speak truth. They make amends with family members who they haven’t spoken to in years. They reflect on their lives, and as they prepare for death, they wake up to the preciousness of time.
“Do you know the number one regret people have, when they look back on their lives?” she asked. “It’s wishing that they had lived their truth.”
I learned from her talk that, in the end, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. And it doesn’t matter if you follow the norms that society has set out for you. What matters is living to your true, authentic potential. There is only one you, and it’s never too soon to take action and make positive change. When we tap into our true, authentic beings, we increase understanding and decrease fear. This results in joy.
There were more talks with the “happiness” theme. I loved Nora and Ryan’s take on it: Wealth is not measured by possessions, they told us. Wealth is measured by happiness. After traveling halfway around the world, this duo had wise words to share about wealth in experiences. They found themselves in far away countries, where language barriers were broken with smiles and hard work. They choose to invest in experience and personal connections verses worldly possessions.
It was a talk that I really enjoyed. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes guilty of “retail therapy.” You know… shopping for the sake of shopping just because it makes you feel better, when really the root of the problem is something else. Most of the things I buy when I feel this way are things that I don’t really need. But when I turn off the TV, put down the cell phone, and truly take the time to connect with people, I have the most amazing experiences. For these reasons, I go to hoop dance & yoga retreats and spend time on the water with people I care about. I make it a point to pick up the phone and call old friends, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to do an even better job of this moving forward.
Then there was Sharon Britton – a high powered New York City attorney who left it all to become a painter. She practices yoga and talks about replacing fear with love. She discussed higher vibrations and how we should move away from ‘anti’ campaigns and move towards ‘love’ campaigns. Sharon calls herself a neurotic hippie.
Michael Kruse was one of my favorite speakers of the day. There was no power point presentation, and he organized his speech much like I would imagine he organizes his columns for the Tampa Bay Times. The man is an artist of words and stories. He ended his discussion with a little nugget of inspiration that I especially loved, in relation to the event theme. He said that the future of stories was stories, and I agree. Throughout time, storytelling has been present. We live in a fast-paced world, with technological advances happening at an alarming pace. But we re-tell stories from those who came before us, and we can only imagine what stories are yet to come.
Mark Gordon was fascinated by the ocean for as long as he can remember. He talked about walks on the beach and staring out into the water, as he daydreamed about treasures under the sea. Today, Mark owns a company called Shipwrecked, and he’s a professional treasure hunter. His company uncovered more than 40 tons of silver from a World War II shipwreck, which was located 4,700 meters below sea level (this is deeper than the Titanic).
Next up… Reuben and Hunter. I’ve been connected with these guys for a while now. Our paths keep crossing (St. Pete becomes a small town when you surround yourself with like-minded people). Our businesses are very similar, in the sense that we promote joy, laughter and personal connections through play. Reuben and Hunter are the founders of Swings Tampa Bay – a spontaneous community building organization that hangs hand-painted swings (created by regular members of our community) all over Tampa. We’ve run into each other at professional networking events, the Saturday Morning Market and through mutual friends. These guys rock, and their energy on stage was contagious.
The day was filled with “delicious listening,” as one of the presenters so creatively referred to it. I left yesterday’s event feeling thoroughly inspired and also eager to keep learning. This morning, I watched more inspirational TED talks online, and I think that I’m officially a TED junkie now. I’m going to make it to that national conference someday. And who knows? Maybe it will be me speaking on that stage. The sky is the limit, baby!
Next week, I’m packing my bags for a Buddhist Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, CA. I’m so honored to be teaching at Hoop Camp, the largest hoop dance gathering in the country. I can’t wait to share, learn, connect, re-connect and meditate in this beautiful, serene place. I have a feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of writing on my trip also. More to stories to come…