When I was asked to give a talk at TEDx Thessaloniki, I had mixed emotions. While I am infinitely curious, and passionately share TED’s “belief in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world,” this time I hesitated.
The city which I left more than thirty years ago rings a special emotional connotation with me – about roots, country, family and heritage and somehow the responsibility loomed even larger. Traveling all over the world, it’s easy to get lost in the anonymity of strangers and crowds but this city is somehow mine. No strangers here – even if I have never seen most of them in the auditorium before in my life. Contradictions, conflicts, regrets, pain of separations, so many farewells and unfulfilled promises of the prodigal daughter return.
And along with the agony and creative struggle of formatting the ideas in my head – came the language dilemma. In my bilingual life, I primarily write in English – as Greek is a luxury language for the non-Greeks. But as a presenter, the speaker’s primary responsibility is to the audience. You honor them; you give the talk for them and not for you. So, it was the shortest lived dilemma to figure out that my talk would be in Greek.
And now that the talk is on YouTube and until and if/when it gets subtitles, so many non-Greek friends cannot watch it. Huge debate about the language of marketing on this one. And is the TEDx talk a marketing and branding exercise? Views and likes and thumbs up/down and all that paraphernalia, it’s all about the audience in the end. And in the end, they, my Thessalonikian audience made my day – and for that I will be forever grateful.
* As at the end of 2012, more than 16,000 talks have been given at more than 5,000 TEDx events in 1,200 cities in 133 countries.In June 2012, five TEDx events on average were being organized every day, in one of 133 countries.
I don’t have any special talent. I am just infinitely curious.
I usually end up exploring and discovering and pushing the limits of my Marco Polo-ish spirit while TED has for years been one of my major accomplices. Inspiration, challenge, denial, acceptance and often awe at the simplicity and beauty of all those “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”
And now I humbly stand ahead of the challenge of being one of the speakers in my hometown’s TEDx event. 700 people in the Olympion auditorium with over 5,000 viewers from around the world through the webcast; over 2,000 applications to register for the event and a spirit of positive emotions that is slowly sweeping the city. This year’s theme is thepower of “syn.”
In a world full of divisions, polarities and extremism, the positive + sounded as the perfect emotionally cohesive glue amplifying synergy, synthesis, symbiosis. In my mini-terrorist comedian mode, I toyed with the idea of speaking about the power of “sin” – after all occasionally such delectable pleasure comes out of sinning
But seriously: Seeing things from a positive perspective, being tough enough to resist the collective depressive state, and finding the strength to get up and try hard the things you do best and have that deeper meaning that lifts your soul – that’s what really matters.
So, that’s what I will talk about: + vs. -
And while the “blasé factor” increases exponentially with the degree of adversity, the “been there, done that, don’t need to pay attention to this or that” spirit takes us to the dark, fatalistic mindset. Can you shift and see things differently? Do you want to fight and live the way you really want to? And why are you really hesitating?
The carnival tradition of barbecuing all kinds of meats was long forgotten in my urban existence. But, not only did I not remember the tradition. Being the far removed expat, I was blown away by the dancing in the streets, the smiles, the laughter, the singing, the raggedly funny costumes. No, not Rio but humble little Greece in the middle of the crisis, the austerity, the unemployment and the budget cuts. Puzzling as it is, I found the collective feast spirit sanely healthy. People have to have an out; they need the distraction, the joy, the camaraderie, the “unbearable lightness of being.” Greeks are stereotypically extroverts, friendly folks who have had more than their fair share of suffering lately. Local shopkeepers are being run out of business so why not bring everyone out for a party? Ingenuity or desperation with dirty cheap “souvlaki” stands and blasting music to break the bleakness. I am all for it. Occasionally we all deserve our break.
Maybe it’s just that I am in a good mood because I am back ”home.” Maybe it is because I am always routing for the underdog and I am getting oddly sentimental with what’s going on all around us. Or maybe the sweet old guy who has the flower stand around the corner insisted on wrapping the bouquet of freesias I bought for the house. “No need to waste paper,” I tried arguing rushing as usual me. He smiled.”Ohhh…” he smiled. “These are flowers; they deserve to be pretty, I’ll tie a beautiful white ribbon on the bouquet.”
Customer service manuals thrown out the window, my marketing hat smoked from the great practice. The old florist is a natural. He made me feel so good. He had heart, passion, pride for his flowers; not a lot of money for what he sold – but a lot of beauty and color and splash of joy and warmth.
I played the sentimental/accidental tourist in my old hometown and snapped his picture. He posed boasting he is not as young anymore. I started whistling an old song as I left. Happiness is in the littlest things. And dancing in the streets on Fat Thursday in a small country named Greece – that, too…
Wildly interesting hues of creative fire shooting in all directions – that’s how I’d describe his work. His commencement speech teases the free artist in all of us – kids, executives, entrepreneurs or kings. How does it matter how you label yourself – as long as you simply do whatever it is you are supposed to be doing / want to be doing.
(If you want to skip the video, just read his 10 “commandments” below).
Truth or Dare. Really…
Accept that you don’t always know what you’re doing. And don’t listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.
If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.
Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you’ll probably feel like a fraud. It’s normal.
Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you’re out there doing and trying things.
When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.
Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.
Now a practical tip. You get freelance work if your work is good, if you’re easy to get along with, and if you’re on deadline. Actually you don’t need all three. Just two.
Enjoy the ride, don’t fret the whole way. Stephen King gave that piece of advice to Neil years ago.
If you have problems getting started, pretend you’re someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.
Leave the world more interesting than it was before.
PS: I first discovered Gailman through Open Culture. It’s a fabulous portal. Highly recommend it.
“…Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil…” Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
As I am reading this, I can’t help wonder. When? When will all this stress and tension finally pay off and I will get to star in my own “Phoenix Rising?”
2012 has been a hell of a year. This was the year that changed my life and the lives of my family. Fragility of life, the “moment” the serendipity of blows unforeseen and irreversible, unwanted and unavoidable change, pain, fatigue and the occasional, unavoidable despair about the uncertainty of the status quo.
I acknowledge all that. I know that the depth of this emotional turmoil is going to end up making me stronger, resistant, less vulnerable and in the end, as Taleb admonishes “antifragile.” It’s damn hard while the fog has not yet lifted and the clarity of the picture of life is still unclear. Yet, I know that all of us have this “protean” gene. As I wrote in an older post “…People change when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of making the change…”
And while good intentions don’t often survive a head crush with reality, moving beyond the intention sounds like a New Year Resolution – and how many of those have you checked off during your personal year-end inventory? Regardless of inventories, check lists and promises why not stick to the lessons learned instead, the trust earned, the moments that mattered, the connections that worked. We all have the stuff that anchor us to the ground under our two feet. My recipe is going back to those, bowing and paying tribute to the people who support me through time, hardship and pain.
So, here is to all of you, my invaluable friends – may 2013 pay off in kindness, contentment and less hesitation.
What interests me is helping sharp, intelligently curious people overcome barriers that may be keeping them from achieving more. Passion and boldness can make the art and science of leading easier to navigate. So, have fire; feel with your brain; don't be afraid.