Three ideas about ‘thought leadership’

I had the privilege of attending TEDx Auckland today, hearing the stories of almost 20 inspiring and incredible speakers on topics as diverse as nanotechnology, creativity and the magnificent oceans of Antartica.

It’s difficult to single out any particular ‘stand out’ talk because each story was so extraordinary, and told in a unique yet effective way. Had they not spoken today, I could have passed any one of the speakers on the street completely oblivious to the fact that they are all individually shaping their communities and fields in a very significant way.

It makes me wonder how many other people are out there crafting and shaping the world in ways that are invisible to us. I suppose actually every single one of us is doing that, on a smaller scale, in our work and for our community of friends and families.

It’s hard to capture your thoughts when you’ve just been bombarded with so many different and exciting ideas over the course of a single day, but here are three things that I’ve taken out of TEDx Auckland 2012:

ONE: You cannot unsee what you’ve seen, and unknow what you know.

To be able to accomplish what has been accomplished, people need drive and determination. And to use a perhaps overused term, you also need to have passion. All this arises from an experience or discovery that has shaken your mind, or rerouted the way that you think about the world. Maybe you saw something, the image of which has not been able to leave your mind since. No matter where that spark of curiosity, passion or insight has come from, you cannot ctrl + z (undo) to go back.

TWO: Define your own boundaries

Dr Assil Russell’s charity has evolved from a cookbook she wrote in a Dunedin flat to raise funds for an Iraqi girl’s life-saving surgery, to an international collaboration that has changed the lives of many Iraqi orphans and disadvantaged children. Matthew Simmons agreed to supply speaker systems (one of which was called the ‘Bladder Buster’) that hadn’t yet been created. Philip Patston rejects his labels and Pip Hall came on stage in her togs (swimsuit). Paul Wood turned his life around while serving a long prison sentence by passing his first university paper, and then going on to eventually complete a doctorate in psychology by getting his supervisors visit him at the prison. The only person that can truly tell you ‘no’, is yourself.

THREE: You need human interaction.

Whether it’s to make a creative project viable by having participants, or to serve a machine’s purpose of empowering the end-user, you cannot achieve great things without other people around you to support you and make your project meaningful.

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