Four Big Ideas From TEDx Sydney 2015

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of being in the audience of TEDx Sydney 2015 at the Opera House. It is the first time I have attended TEDx, and after years of watching amazing TED Talks on YouTube, the day did not disappoint.

There were 19 incredible speakers and eight musical and entertainment acts that inspired and moved us. It was a full day and at the end, although we nearly all had TEDxhaustion (thanks, Julian Morrow), it was a truly inspiring, educational, challenging and entertaining day.

I’ve heard it said that your mind is like a parachute and that it only works when it is open. Well, TEDx Sydney 2015 opened my mind, made me think and challenged my beliefs about what is possible for my life, our future and the future of humanity.

My big four takeaways of the day clustered content from different speakers that really moved and inspired me. 

1) Hope and courage trumps everything

TEDx Sydney 2015 was book ended by two incredible speakers, Charlie Teo and Nadine Champion.

Charlie Teo is an Australian neurosurgeon who is a world leader in some of the most difficult and innovative keyhole techniques that saves the lives of people with brain cancer.

Charlie spoke about being shunned by the medical fraternity and, despite this, pushing forward to conduct surgeries with incredibly slim chances of success, based in some part, on the hope of his patients and their families.

In particular, he talked about quality of life and importance of the patient’s self-determination. He reminded us that while there is still life there is hope and where there is still hope there is still a chance that things can change for the better.

Nadine Champion is literally a champion (and apparently she hasn’t changed her name). She is a martial arts sensei and undefeated fighter. Through her talk, we followed her journey of growth to become a champion fighter by changing her thinking, confronting her fears, tapping into depths of courage and not turning away from pain. What we didn’t know is that she is also a recent Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer survivor. It took all of her martial training to get her through her chemo and conquer the disease. She finished her inspirational talk with a demonstration of breaking a board of wood with her bare hand, the first time since the cancer. Inspirational, and not a dry eye in the house.

2) Our world is fragile but fixable 

A consistent theme of the day was the fragility and interconnectivity of the ecosystems of our planet, and the negative impact humanity is having on it. But there were also some great ideas on how we can change things for the better by thinking and acting differently.

Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist, shared some very compelling and frankly damning statistics about legal and illegal industrial fishing of our oceans. He provided a graphic warning to Australia that if we don’t think beyond our coastline and start protecting this great resource we may end up a great desert in our oceans with no life at all.

Hamish Skermer also known as “MC Faeces” is an Australian who has invented a compost toilet that is an environmentally friendly dry toilet that turns human waste into something useful – compost. He was entertaining, but at the same time brought home a serious message: We need change our perception about “number twos” and think of it as a resource.

3) Words count more than ever 

Unexpectedly for me, the highlight of the day was Susan Butler, the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary. She handles the selection and writing of new words. Far from being a nerdish job, Susan says she brings out “a mop and bucket” each year to pick up the genuinely new words left behind “after the party” and toss out the rubbish. Susan convinced us that the dictionary was not an anachronism in a digital world. Far from it. It still has relevance and by not being constrained to physical number of pages, new words and usages of words are not limited. Who knew charityf**k was an actual word? Apparently it is. So is dadbod. The people have spoken.

4) For things to change, first I have to change 

One of my most important takeaways from TEDx Sydney 2015 was that for our world to change, each of us has a role to play in affecting that change. Whether it is how we think, how we behave or what we will no longer tolerate. We cannot be passengers. From how we consume and what we waste, to what we create or what we demand from our governments and legal systems – we, the people, have the power to change the world.

Barrister Julian Burnside (a Living National Treasure) gave an incredible talk about the importance of justice and fairness and how he came to work in the field of human rights. His message was clear: Stand up for justice. Stand up for fairness. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation.

I could not possibly attempt to provide a review of the entire day or provide a review of each speaker. It was truly inspirational. I’d highly recommend going and watching the video of the event. Who knows, perhaps your parachute may open too! If you have the opportunity to attend TEDx next year I’d highly recommend it.

Also check out this video: Archaics Anonymous – In the Thicket one of the several great video presentations of the day.

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