5 Highlights from TEDxVancouver 2014

If you missed this year's inspirational event, here are five of our favourite takeaways  

Credit: Jonathan Evans

Host Riaz Meghji, 13 speakers, over 60 performers, more than 100 volunteers and 2,500 attendees filled the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for TEDxVancouver 2014

It’s been over two years since TEDxVancouver’s last conference in 2012, and its inspiring, jam-packed day of “ideas worth spreading.”  

If you’re an ideas-junkie, like me, you don’t want to miss an opportunity like this when it comes to town. And fortunately, if you weren’t able to attend, all of the videos from this year’s speakers will be available on TEDxVancouver’s website in the coming weeks. 

This past October 18, more than 2,500 fellow ideas-junkies filled the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to be part of something extraordinary, guided on the galvanizing journey by returning host, TV personality, and the founder of Every Conversation Counts, Riaz Meghji.

This year’s theme was TILT. The TEDxVancouver 2014 program reads:

“We travel along predictable paths towards predictable outcomes. Occasionally, our reality is shifted and the lens through which we understand the world is questioned. These are the moments that move you forward through life. These are life’s #TILT moments and they exist to make us better.”

Tilt begins in tradition and results in triumph, but what exactly is it? “Tilt is the universal force that shakes perspective. At times it appears from the unknown, at others voluntarily from within, always because of something outside our intellectual or emotional comfort zone.”

Are you ready to TILT? Click over for 5 highlights from the mega-dose of world-bettering ideas served up at TEDxVancouver 2014, in chronological order.

Credit: Dawn Stenzel

Victor Chan: Mindfulness Boosts Social and Emotional Intelligence

“Mindfulness is fancy way of talking about being focused and paying attention,” said Victor Chan, physicist, author and founding director of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, in his interview-style talk with Meghji.

The Vancouver resident grew up in Hong Kong and crossed paths with the Dalai Lama in the early 1970s, shortly after he and two female travel companions were kidnapped – and then escaped – in Kabul. Since their initial meeting, Chan and the Dalai Lama have become close, co-authored two books together and co-founded the Center, with a mission “to educate the hearts of children by informing, inspiring and engaging the communities around them.”

“Science shows you’re likely to be kinder,” says Chan, of practicing mindfulness, and that it not only benefits you right away but can be beneficial to the people around you.

Social and emotional intelligence is important for cognitive balance, says Chan, to nurture a sense of well-being and to develop the ability to relate to other people. With the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, Chan hosted the Dalai Lama during the Heart-Mind Summit on October 21 – just a few days after TEDxVancouver – showcasing “the leading work on social and emotional learning taking place across the province and [inspiring] all British Columbians to ‘be the village’ that educates the hearts of all children and youth in our lives.”   

Chan’s message: developing mindfulness benefits you and the world around you. 

Credit: Dawn Stenzel

Lesley Kim: Awaken Your Inner Resilience

Exactly three months after a wayward bottle rocket firework exploded in her left eye in Gastown as she walked to a Halloween party last October, Lesley Kim organized a gala, aptly named Spectacle, that raised over $130,000 for Seva Canada, a Vancouver-based charitable organization that provides “eye care to those in developing countries in need of sight restoration and blindness prevention.”  

The 2,500-person TEDxVancouver audience sprang to their feet in applause after Kim gave her closing remarks: “If there’s one thing I’d like for people to take away from my story, it would be to awaken the resilience that lies within each and every one of us. To understand that it’s human to experience hardship but, like nature, our bodies are designed to heal – so why not our minds? Why not [perform] maintenance on our spirits and minds?”

Kim’s message: “Discover how strong you are, now, how valuable and how loved.”

Videos from the conference will be rolled out in the coming weeks, so you can see each and every talk for yourself. Kim’s is the first to be released. Watch her eloquent, beautiful, inspirational talk, Seeing the Good, below.

Credit: Jonathan Evans

Charles Montgomery: Happy City

“A happy city is a social city,” says Charles Montgomery, and a social city is a kind city, he says, with research showing that social interaction increases altruistic thoughts and actions.

Montgomery is a guy who knows a thing or two about the physical and emotional elements of urban architecture. He’s the author of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design and an urban experimentalist. Montgomery says that social connection is the intersection of happiness and urban design.

Social trust matters more than money, says Montgomery, and a trusting city equals a happier city; however, people living in the suburbs or in towers in the city centre often report feeling the least connected, both overcrowded and lonely at same time.

How do we build happier cities? “We need to weave more of nature into cities,” he says, even just tiny amounts, as well as create business fronts that invite social interaction. He gave the example of the complex housing Home Depot and Save-On-Foods on South Cambie in Vancouver. Instead of building the usual stark exteriors, the bustling block was framed by small business – a coffee shop, a boutique – and landscaped terraces with ample greenery, enticing little hubs of human connection.

Montgomery’s message: get outside, get social and get happy!

Credit: Jonathan Evans

Treana Peake: Random Acts of Kindness

Treana Peake is the creative director and founder of the Obakki fashion label and its philanthropic namesake, the Obakki Foundation.

Her captivating talk beautifully wove together three separate stories of random acts of kindness and demonstrated how one small gesture can set a powerful, positive ripple into motion.

For the first instance, she recently became part of at a Starbucks drive-through. The cashier let her know that the person ahead of her had paid for her coffee and she happily did the same for the person behind her. The visibly moved employee told her that the uninterrupted chain of giving had being going on for the past seven consecutive hours! Imagine the positive ripple effect of all those people going their separate ways, emitting big-hearted vibes in their wake.

The second instance was instigated by Peake herself back in 2009, when she created the Obakki Foundation, which has since provided over 600 water wells and 12 schools to the people of South Sudan and Cameroon, both places very close to her heart. One of the most special parts of her work, she says, is travelling to a village to see how it’s been transformed by clean water – health improves dramatically, children can go to school when the burden of travelling long distances to find clean water is removed – and telling the community that complete strangers on the opposite side of the globe have donated the money that made it possible.   

“It can start in one neighbourhood and span across the entire globe,” says Peake. That was the case for her, as she shared in the third instance. As the child of a single mother struggling to make ends meet, her family was on the receiving end of an incredible random act of kindness: for a number of years, an anonymous envelope full of cash was slipped under their door each December, providing them with the means for food and shelter. This early experience taught her what giving really meant and fueled her drive to create incredible change in the world. 

Peake’s message: Everyone has the power to create incredible change in the world. It can start with just a single act of kindness.

Credit: Jonathan Evans

Jay DeMerit: Dream Big

Jay DeMerit, the charismatic former Whitecaps FC captain (and former BCLiving cover boy, along with his wife, Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor) has had a remarkable soccer career, overcoming incredible odds to achieve his goals.

As a college athlete, he didn’t make the cut for Major League Soccer and instead of giving up, he packed his bags along with the little money he had and moved to the U.K. to pursue his dream of joining the professional leagues. This was a long shot, he told us, because he had zero professional experience and was significantly older than the usual age of new recruits.

But a year after arriving in the U.K. – and struggling to make ends meet, living in a friend’s attic, sleeping on a mattress on the floor – he caught the eye of a high profile coach from Watford FC. His defining moment came when he was invited to participate in an important game, thinking he’d be watching from the bench. When he arrived in the locker room on game day, he saw his name on the starting lineup and “freaked out.” He locked himself in a bathroom stall and reminded himself that this was the moment he’d been preparing for, and it was time to prove himself right.

This personal pep talk, focusing our mental game, is something we should all do, he said, when we’re faced with a defining moment.

His performance during that first game landed him a contract with Watford, and four years later he was captain of the team – the first American captain in its history. Later he was selected to play for the USA in the 2010 FIFA World Cup before joining the Whitecaps in 2011.

DeMerit’s message: Focus on the positive and prepare for the best. Know yourself in big moments, play to your strengths, and implement your success plan.