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A Toad at TEDx Portland

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending Portland’s fourth TEDx event at the Keller Auditorium. Known as “ideas worth spreading,” TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The x represents a TED event that is licensed through TED but organized through local channels alone. Hooray for the over 50 volunteers and community partners that sponsor and help put this event together!

As the Metal Toad designer, I am proud to collaborate with my team at the crossroads of Technology, Entertainment and Design every day. Our firm creates apps & websites for the entertainment industry, and I can’t wait to hear the stories and insights from others in this innovative and creative space.

To sit in the Keller Auditorium at 8:55 am, the audience is brimming with excitement. It’s palpable, and energizing. (Perhaps the complimentary Stumptown helped, too). David Rae, chief curator and executive producer, takes the stage and describes the upcoming words as “An open source of world class education.” As an advocate for open source technology, that is music to my ears.

With a theme of “Perfect” Aaron Draplin kicks off the show. His talk is part humor, part education, and rawly honest. His presentation on “Perfect” versus “Not Perfect” had the crowd laughing and “awwwing” all at the same time.

From there, it was a race through thought-provoking, aspirational, and inspirational stories. Nong Poonsukwattana, who shared her story of chasing perfection and the realization that “like it or not, she had to be a leader.” She’s now the proud owner of Nong’s Khao Man Gai food cart, found at 1003 SW Alder in Portland.

D’Wayne Edwards talked about his “perfect inversions” and his opportunity to reshape the obstacles he faced to become opportunities for the next generation. Cody QJ Goldberg, who shared a deeply personal story of his daughter and the human need for play and connection. He urged “Don’t ever tell anyone to expect anything except a miracle.” Lisa Sedlar, who encouraged the audience not to “let perfect paralyze you from what you need to do.” Zach King, who outlined “ 1) Anyone can create code, 2) Code is art, and 3) Art demand openness.”

We saw live examples of wireless electricity, available in as little as two years. The Oregon Ballet performed, with one performer coming out of retirement just for TEDx. There were so many great moments it is difficult to capture them all. Of them, two speakers were the most impactful for me.

First, Frank Moore. Where as many of the other speakers fit into one or two of the “Technology, Entertainment and Design” category, Moore stood out against them all. A 91-year-old WWII veteran, he walked out onto the stage dressed head to toe in his Army uniform. He stood in the glow of the spotlight and the crowd all rose to their feet to give him the first standing ovation of the day.

As he shared his story of growing up, fighting in the war, and finding the love of his life, a hush fell over the audience. Captivated by each word, Frank shared that in 91 years he had seen both horrific tragedy and triumphant love. He urged us all that “no matter how old you get, keep on dreaming. There is no impossible dream, if you work hard at it.”

When his wife Jeanne, his “Perfect” joined him onstage, there was not a dry eye in the house. Married in 1943, today they dream of celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary together in a few years.

The second most impactful speech was Zalika Gardner, Director of Learning for KairosPDX. She discussed what most designers consider active listening, which “requires that we quiet our own experiences to hold space for another’s.” Zalika outlined three obstacles that stop someone from actively listening to another: Assumption, arrogance, and fear.

What if we replaced these obstacles with curiosity, humility, and courage? Would this not send the message to others that they, do indeed, matter? What great things could we accomplish if we knew, We Matter? Her closing to us was, “Will you consider listening differently?”

As the day drew to a close, I felt honored to be a designer in a city filled with innovation, passion, and drive. Did you go to TEDx? Tweet me @corinnagb with your favorite quotes.

Date posted: April 16, 2014


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