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Big Ideas at Inaugural TEDxAustin

Sarah Cooke's picture

Yesterday was the inaugural TEDxAustin. It was a daylong event at the famed Austin City Limits Studio at KLRU including speakers, artistic performances and a carefully selected audience – with mission to connect a network of thought-leaders in Austin and PLAY BIG.

If you are not familiar with TED, it is a small nonprofit (with a big web presence) devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” particularly in Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  At you can see all of the best talks for free. They are about 20 minutes in length and great to play as mid-day mind-accelerating pick-me-up.
TEDx has grown out of the success of TED and a recognition that hearing great ideas collectively builds a community.  All this is done in the spirit that ideas have the power to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. Read the TEDxAustin Manifesto.
My favorite TEDxAustin talk was given by Steven Tomlinson, co-founder of the Acton School of Business, seminary teacher, and performer. Like many people, Steven considered abandoning his career to follow his personal passions but struggled to see how they could fit together, or provide him with a living. Here’s what he learned:
WHAT: You don’t need a career, you need a calling. You find your calling where your deep passion meets the world's deep need.
HOW: Lead with what you love – put it out there and other who are more advanced in these careers/activities will see the potential and pull you forward. Actively keep all your key passions in play by committing (fully dedicated) 2 hrs per week to developing each until you discover the intersection.  
COPING: When you have big dreams, it can be hard to keep the audacious goals from becoming overwhelming. Reflect daily to keep focus on the small wins that will get you there. The Artist’s Way (book) suggests 3 written pages per morning (called Morning Papers) which Steven found difficult to abandon after starting. When he stopped, his frustration manifested in sarcasm and negativity. Restarting brought back clarity and positive appreciation for the journey and daily progress toward the greater goal. (While I love a bit of playful sarcasm, negativity does not help the mission.  ...I did my first Morning Paper today!)
Here are some ideas I enjoyed from other TEDxAustin talks:

- Glever Tully (Tinkerer):  Let your kids do things that are dangerous – that’s how they learn safety and avoid tragically injuring themselves later. (Glever will come to Austin in March to begin talks about opening an local Tinkering School!)

- Chris Shipley (Technology & Product Analyst): Instead of evaluating business opportunities on how big the market can be, look at the organization’s adaptability, ability to collaborate, and strength. Being collectively competitive will allow businesses to create new value in their ecosystem over and over again.

- Mark Rolston (Chief Creative Officer): Our 2nd life competing with our 1st life.   We are not far from the body becoming the node, the peripheral, the interface itself. …what will the world look like when your medical devices begin to update your social networks?

- Carrie Contey (Prenatal + Perinatal Pscyhologist): Pausing to reflect grounds self in present, regulates, integrates, and allows for inspiration. The pause isn’t wasted time – it allows what will come next to form. Play Big -> Do Less; Be More.

- Daniel Pink (Former Speechwriter; Business Author) : There's a mismatch between what science knows and business does.  Performance incentives improve 20th Century tasks but do harm to completion of 21st Century tasks. For best results, focus on intrinsic motivations: autonomy, mastery, and purpose

- John Phillip Santos (Filmaker, Journalist, Author) : Genetics reveals our profound ‘mixedness’. The further back you go, the more mixed it gets: we are from everywhere.  Also, advances in technology are taking genetics from a read-only to a read-write model.

These are just a few of the interesting conversations from TEDxAustin. If you didn’t have the opporutnity to attend and missed the live feed provided by UT McCombs School of Business, we hope to see the videos posted soon. Check out for more information.