An ever-grateful relationship with The Brooklyn Bowl saw me snag myself a place at the TEDxBrooklyn event on Friday Dec. 2.
The organizers Varghese and Justin intro’ed the day explaining that we all talk about creating a better world for our future generations, but we rarely stop to define what that “better is.” And so the theme “Redefining Better” was born, and the famously 18 minute slots of inspiration began. Here are some highlights…
The first “speaker” was actually a short, guided meditation session for the audience with Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki.
Jullien Gordon, “purpose finder”, was up next. Even though his talk was centered on his company “The Dept of Motivated Vehicles”, he managed to avoid being pitchy and ended up being one of my favorites.
He talked about the notion of “I have a dream 2.” and how things have changed from one person having a dream and everyone else following, to every single one of us having our own individual dream.
His concept of “underemployment” talked about how most of us are on the path to being “extra-average,” blindly following in our parent’s footsteps with the goal of being as successful as them, if not a little more. Too many people are spending their precious life not solving problems that are meaningful, that they care about, and not using their passion.
The takeaway? Do you want to be a back seat driver, or drive someone else’s vehicle (aka dream), or do you want to drive your own car. Delivered in a compelling way, by a guy that is clearly now driving his own car.
Chad Dickerson, the CEO of Etsy was up next to talk about how the hacker community makes things better. He has been CEO of Etsy for 4 months after being CTO for many years.
I have to be up front here also. The first time I heard of Douglas Rushkoff’s “program or be programmed” theory, I was a bit taken aback. Hearing it again in a different context (and with some reflection time inbetween) I can see what he means.
Chad talked about how hackers see that another word is possible and that anyone can be a hacker, they don’t necessarily have to be a coder. Dickerson started Hack Day at Yahoo when it was a 12,000 person company.
Hack days are special because there are no rules, no obvious leader. You have to create a prepared environment (he used an example of the Montessori bells), reinforce ideas united with action (you don’t get to demo anything unless you build something) and a cultivation of joy, storytelling, faith in people (give people space to do something and they will do something great) .
I really loved the synergy he drew between #ows and events like hack days—not everything is all clear and designed upfront and it takes a while to shake out the bugs. #ows really does have that beta attitude. A great example of modern day non-tech hackers.
Farai Chideya talked to us about the power of hello in the context of gentrification. She lives in Crown Heights, where the population is predominantly west Indian & Caribbean. An interesting observation was the sense that by moving from Manhattan into a neighborhood like Crown Heights, Manhattanites assume THEY are bringing the goodness to the neighborhood, rather than being open to receive what good it can provide them.
Next up was a video of a TED talk by Aaron Koblin. You can check it out yourself, but I learnt during this one the backstory to that awesome Johnny Cash “Aint no grave can hold my body down: videoclip of flickering artwork that makes the video. He partnered with Chris Milk of Arcade Fire videoclip fame. So interesting, worth a watch.
Liz McPherson, artist, gave us a quick overview of her fantastic array of artwork. She’s done a stack of artwork for promoting bands such as Modest Mouse, The Melvins and Franz Ferdinand. She also makes toys, paintings, a Hello Kitty doll, comic strips and has written two books through Dark Horse.
Funnily enough she was having an exhibition at her story Cotton Candy Machine later that night which we ended up going to, and my friend bought some artwork. Very cool!
Sean Meenan from the famous Habana Outpost chatted to us about how he discovered the site that is now the Outpost while walking through Fort Greene to check out all the pretty girls on his way to boxing in Bed Stuy. Although born in manhattan he touts that now, the whole world is in Brooklyn. People from everywhere, and although Manhattan used to carry this torch, that was sometime ago.
The Outpost has the “grandma gene”— come and eat and have a good time. The first thing he did when he started construction was put up a 40 foot awning of solar panels and interesting fact was that Etsy started in many ways, in the courtyard of Habana Outpost.
His parting guidance on Redefining Better? Start with yourself, how do you make yourself better? What do you love? What do you like to spend your time doing?
Viraj Puri is the Co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. He talked about the three trends that will strain modern agriculture: population, urbanization, global warming. Cue: urban agriculture and controlled environment agriculture. They use intensive hydroponics (which actually translates as “water working”) in a greenhouse in Greenpoint, with solar panels, to produce pesticide free fruit and veg using 10 times less water than traditional agriculture.
Paul Steely White spoke about transportation alternatives and the “agora”; the public space platform where public discourse takes place and the resurgence of the public sphere. Pop-up cafes, bike lanes, public plazas, public bike shares, the upcoming New York program that will see some 10,000 bikes and 600 stations make their way into NYC. His outtake? The only thing that moves the needle with regards to physical exercise and obesity is when cities make it viable to walk and bicycle and work activity in their daily lives.
Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight video: amazing. You should check it out, it’s only 18 minutes and really shows us the power of our brain.
All in all I thought it was pretty good (this may be because I am in love with Brooklyn Bowl). I would say that some of the speakers missed the mark on what a TED talk shoots for and ended up just pitching their business, and of course there were the ever-present technical issues, but if you walk away with a few nuggets of inspiration, then I’d say, it’s been a good day.