Sunday, March 7, 2010


This week, I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural independent TED event - TEDx Brisbane. If you’ve never heard of TED, it’s a conference about spreading ideas that attracts speakers from Gordon Brown through to Jamie Oliver and they broadcast all their speaker videos here. The event was amazing and inspiring and I am dedicating this post to providing you with a summary of my favourite speakers and the lessons I learned.

Nigel Brennan - Freed Somalian Hostage
“100 days ago, I was freed after 465 days as a hostage in Somalia. I am told this is the longest time period a surviving hostage has ever faced in captivity”. This is how Nigel Brennan’s speech began and the thing that struck me was his use of days as a marker of time - when you are
a hostage, time must pass in the smallest increment of time and months must seem unimaginable.
Nigel, a photo journalist, traveled to Somalia to tell the story about the poverty and war facing the country. He believed that the full story wasn’t being covered in the media and he wanted people to know what was really happening. Traveling with a female Canadian journalist, he was
kidnapped three days into his journey and savagely tortured and beaten until his family were able to negotiate his release. He told the story of how, three months into his ordeal, he and his colleague were able to escape through a shared bathroom window, running to a mosque in hope of safety. He told how this half an hour before his captors found him was the most thrilling and terrifying of his life.
Nigel’s message was not to take anything for granted and as he wrapped up his TED Talk, there was not a dry eye in the house.

Robert Pekin - Founder of Food Connect
“Live like you will die tomorrow, farm like you will live forever” was the key quote from Robert Pekin’s story. As a young, idealistic man, he bought his father’s farm with dreams of turning it into an organic producer. When milk prices started to drop and the farm started to struggle, he contemplated suicide until he happened on the fact that farmers have a suicide rate of at least double the Australian population. He was forced to sell his farm back to the bank, and drove off the land with nothing to his name but an old dodge truck and $90K worth of debt. He fled to the wilderness of Tasmania where he lived, literally, off the land and spent a lot of time in contemplation. He developed an affinity for the Aboriginal people, realising that he had only lived on his farm for 40 years and was so passionate about it, whereas Aboriginal people had been displaced for 40,000 years. It was after his time in the metaphorical and physical wilderness that he started Food Connect, a ‘social business’ which helps local farmers distribute their goods to the public.
Check out the website here.

Deborah Fleming - Founder of Australian Story Deborah’s story is one of doing what you love and believing in what you do. Deborah, an ABC veteran of the 7:30 Report, wanted to tell the stories of the lives of everyday Australians without any of the hyperbole of typical current affairs programs. The only ABC show to be produced completely in Brisbane, Deborah’s favourite program was the story of Wayne Bennett and his severely disabled son.

Chris Sarra - Stronger Smarter Institute Chris Sarra, the son of an Italian father and Aboriginal mother, founded the Stronger Smarter Institute. The goal of the Institute is to encourage Aboriginal children to believe that they can be
academic, smart and achieve at school. Chris remembers from his school days teachers saying to him “You got 75% in this test - must have been an easy test!” While these statements were
said jokingly, they all contributed to the stereotype, that even Chris himself believed, that Aboriginal kids just aren’t academically inclined. It wasn’t until after completing teachers college with great results that Chris realised these stereotypes and how they are affecting children.

Elizabeth Gilbert - Author of Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth is faced with a situation where her greatest creative achievement in life may be behind her. She made some great points about creativity - why, when you talk about following a creative path, do people want to know why you are taking such a risk? Why does no one ever talk about the psychological risks associated with non-creative paths, like accounting or law? There are inherent emotional risks with being considered ‘creative’, but there is also the risk of NOT doing something that you love.

All in all, the TEDx event was inspiring and a credit to the organisers - can't wait for next year!

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