Last week, I had the privilege/honor/treat of attending TED (specifically TEDActive, the younger sibling of the main TED conference), held a couple hundred miles further north in the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia. TEDActive is filled with do-ers, information seekers, organizers, thinkers – passion-driven people who have, one way or another, found their way to this gathering, ostensibly around Technology, Entertainment and Design, but much more around ideas and community.
This trip was a journey in every sense of the word. Starting with the solo venture away from home and family, to the air travel followed by a trek into new, gorgeous, mountainous territory with a companion who started off a stranger and ended a friend, to the FIVE DAYS spent in solo exploration both internal and external. The most common way to start a conversation at TEDActive, I learned, is to ask, “So what made you come to TEDActive?” Personally, I tend to make decisions about my learning opportunities in a very instinctive, gut-driven way – jump on the opportunities I feel will open doors, provide something of value, even if I’m not 100% sure what practical form those outcomes will take – so answering this question was an unexpected challenge for me. But the answer I came up with, the one I realized is true, is that this was my way of immersing myself and my work (and by extension, The Purple Crayon overall) in big ideas, my movement toward stepping out and stepping back into my work, as we try to help people do each week at LunchPad or at Inc. Interactive, to get perspective through a new lens and in conversation with new people, and then to come back to the day-to-day with renewed energy, ideas and direction.
Over the course of the five days I spent immersed in TED, I absorbed, understood, conversed, created (here’s me singing a song I wrote for the occasion on stage with a new friend … oh, and, Jill Sobule!). I spent my days without agenda but not without productiveness, and came home with new vision both without and within. In fact, that would be a good theme for the week, and I encourage you to try it when you have a chance…Look without to travel within. And sing some songs while you’re at it.
Soon two others joined us. Again I resisted the impulse to turn my attention to my laptop and instead tuned into a conversation that initially felt totally irrelevant but ultimately led me into a tour of an artists’ workspace and fed me with an education about an art form about which I previously knew nothing. As it turns out this new awareness has birthed ideas not only about the project that initially needed my attention, but also about a deeper level perspective that I can carry on with me into everything I do.
No matter where you work, or what you do, there comes a time when a bubble starts to form around you and the work you do. To burst that bubble, to make your work bigger, more impactful both for you and those around you, open yourself up to the world. Pick up the paper instead of reading the articles chosen for you on Faceook. Tune into the radio instead of listening to your pre-selected podcasts. Go for a walk without your headphones on and take in the world around you. Work someplace new, and talk to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Let that bubble dissipate and see what forms around you next.
There are a lot of ways to go forth in the world. You can lead with your head, go with the steps and actions that seem logical, rational, to make the most sense. You can follow your nose, go the way the wind blows, and let chance determine your direction.
But when I think of the people who inspire me most in this world, whose presence warms me, whose direction invites me, whose achievements propel me forward and give me strength, they are the individuals who lead with their hearts. Who open themselves to the world, joyfully thrusting their deepest wishes and gifts out for others to enjoy and learn from without reservation, and without conditions.
This is a high ambition. Sharing yourself is deceptively difficult to do, and I imagine even for my role models, there are days and times when it feels impossible. But success is in the striving, and the benefits of going forth heart-forward are both personal and universal. So I, for one, am going to keep trying. Will you join me?