NWYT Recap & Review: Takeaways From TEDxSanDiego 2014


Note: We will add videos of the talks as soon as they are on YouTube.

On November 8, 2014, the NWYT Team joined 1,300 attendees to learn, laugh, question, think, and experience talks from local thought leaders at our first TEDxSanDiego event. The conference’s theme this year was Chain Reaction – exploring the ways in which a person, idea or technology is able to affect the lives of many, thus changing the fabric of our society.


Being TED fans ourselves, we thoroughly enjoyed the event. But something to note if you are an inquisitive person and know a thing or two about psychology, sociology, self-help, culture and the like, is that not everything will be profound. However, it’s still inspiring to see others share our thoughts and spread the message of making change in our lives, the community, and the world. Without further ado, here is our candid recap and review of the conference.


Innovation Alley

Our first stop was Innovation Alley in which they blocked off one street for vendors. Most of the vendors were technology startups from apps to at-home devices. It was good to see what was brewing in our city and it was a great place to network.

After having lunch nearby, we proceeded to the talks. It was nice that there weren’t breakout sessions so we didn’t have to choose which talks we wanted to attend. Likewise, each session was about an hour-long with hour-long breaks in between, which was extremely helpful in digesting the plethora of content. (It was also helpful for going to the bathroom and getting snacks without missing anything.)



Mayor Kevin Faulconer: Welcome Message
An adequate way to start TEDx—using the Mayor, bashing politics when it comes to innovation. He talked about how innovation can make people afraid, and we wish he honed in on that more. Beyond that, it was merely a prelude and hardly a grounded topic on innovation.


Opera Exposed! Performance
A good message on how it takes tenacity and a persevering spirit to get things moving—a powerful story of how an art that is supposedly dying was able to revive itself. While we heard about the closing of the opera in San Diego, we hadn’t a clue that it was being reborn. We don’t know what’s more fascinating: their message or how their story was not heard. The talk truly showcased the power a community has to make change and take action against local government.


Xiao Xiao: Invisible Cities of the Creative Mind
One of our favorite talks of the day. There was so much shoved in the 12 minutes that we can’t recall all of it. However, what did stand out was brilliant. She discussed several theories of how the mind recalls memory, followed by her own metaphor: invisible cities that help us grasp ideas and skills.

The main idea that tied in with the theme is fixing our thoughts. When we are learning a new concept (or working with an old one), we need to walk through our invisible city and really get into the gears to see what’s wrong with our system. Too often we cop out and just try to hammer away to fix a problem without really dissecting what the issue is. We need to dig deep and think about how we learn and fix our mindsets (if needed) if we want to be more effective. She goes on to affirm that creativity happens when we merge two different things together, showcasing that we can apply our talents and skills to other areas or even combine them like in her case of music and interactive software.


Janet Crawford: The Surprising Neuroscience of Gender Inequity
We looked forward to this talk as we have a strong gender presence on our site. She introduced the idea of how most of us in the United States are all unconsciously gender-biased, so we need to be more mindful of our environments and our biased assumptions. Although she approached it from a more macro level, we wish she exploited on this and took the angle of constantly questioning norms and wondering if what we accept as true is truly accurate or not. The second half of her speech was in the same vein of Emma Watson’s moving He For She speech in that both genders share the blame for gender inequity and thus we need men to also help minimize it.


Greg Horowitt: Architecting the Invisible: Creating a Culture of Innovation
This man had a lot of solid ideas, but nothing new, per se.  For example, he believes that we shouldn’t think outside the box, but rather realize that the box does not exist. Granted, the demographic for this TEDx was rather wide (having even high school students attend this conference) so we’re sure his words seeped into many—just not so much us. That said, we appreciate his effort in creating a script directly tied in with the TEDx theme, as many speakers merely attempted to tie a separate script haphazardly into the theme.

Some interesting things he stated were:

  • Why is there a gap between what we should do and doing it?
  • Imagination is worth more than knowledge.
  • We should take risks because of hope; when we take risks, we create future memories. Ex: When we buy a lottery ticket, we create a future memory of the life we would lead if we won.
  • Opportunity seeking is different from risk seeking.



Renga Performance
We thoroughly enjoyed this piece and the idea behind Renga: having an artist write a line of poetry, and then having another write the next line, and so forth. During the break, at one of the TEDx booths, we were able to use a Renga in the form of drawing. However, there was something amiss. We had no clue how this piece emulated Renga at all. Was there a group of composers that wrote the music in a Renga style? It definitely was not emulated in the performance, as it was hardly contrapuntal or antiphonal. We missed the point if there was one.



Nuvi Mehta: The Healing Power of Music
Like Horowitt, Mehta had many good points on how music is vital in our society. However, both of us having strong backgrounds in music, we were rather aware of his main points: music pulls you out of yourself and speaks to your soul. But, musicians do not take up most of the demographic in this conference, so we do hope that his words fell on many of the hearts of the audience.


Bradley Voytek: Failing Into Passion
After many talks using facts for reasoning, it was refreshing to hear Voytek share his story. His personal struggle made his thesis even more potent: “let’s help the screwups with potential in this world.” We liked how his anecdote affirmed that it doesn’t matter where you come from—it matters where you’re going. We wished he expounded upon an interesting concept he brought up about Obsessive Passion vs Harmonious Compassion. He touched on Obsessive Passion being an identity you build up out of your obsession with said thing, and it not necessarily being rooted internally. He identified his interest for astrophysics as his obsessive compassion and after later pursuing it and failing, identified his knack for neuroscience as his harmonious passion. That all said, his main idea, while not profound, was truly touching.


Rabbi Laurie Coskey: The Holy Chutzpah of Foot Washing
When you talk about religion and politics, you’re bound to have an audience hesitant to accept your story. However, unlike stereotypical speeches on religion and politics, Rabbi Coskey brought a story on bringing people of different backgrounds together to fight injustice, which was greatly moving. Her message on chain reactions centered around the idea of audacity and servitude. We need to be bold in our beliefs, yet act in a loving communal manner—working with even those of different backgrounds—if we want wrongs to be mended.


William Ury: The Power of Listening
This was probably our most favorite talk of the day and got a long-standing ovation. In our social, individual-driven society, we do a lot of talking and not a lot of listening. As we have written many a blog about this missing key to our friendships and community, it was empowering to hear someone preach about how we take listening for granted. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. It’s an art. In order to listen, we need to listen to ourselves and empty our minds of noise and distraction. From intimate relationships to war, our interactions would be much better off if we genuinely listened, meaning we listen for what’s being said as well as what’s not being said to:

  • Help us understand the other side.
    • You can’t change someone’s mind if you don’t know where their mind is.
  • Help us connect.
    • Listening builds trust and shows you care.
  • Help us get to “yes.”
    • Listening lowers people’s defense and opens them up to compromise.



Jennifer Nacif: The Secret to Motivating Your Child
We felt this could be applied to everyone, not only kids as it was more about communication skills and how to cater to the other party’s motivations or archetype. She was rather entertaining with props and different characters, and that’s what sold the show. However, it did make us wonder how it connected with the theme of innovation and chain reaction. We also wished she focused more on the how—how do you implement individualized “motivations” in the midst of busy parenting? We also somewhat disagreed that this is merely motivation and not manipulation. After all, appealing to the other person’s archetype to get them to essentially communicate the way you want them to can be manipulative. It’s what detectives do in interrogations.


Brian Keating: Going to the Ends of the Earth to Discover the Beginning of Time
We felt rather unresolved at the end of his speech. Keating spoke about the Big Bang, the Multiverse, and how the universe came to be. He talked about Galileo and how he pushed human thought beyond thinking that we’re the center of the universe. But at the end, it didn’t go anywhere. He admitted (which he should have) that he has much more to experiment with and his findings could be false readings. So, in the end… we learned that “we think we know where the universe began, but we’re still trying to understand it all.”


Gabi Ury: What’s Wrong With Me? Absolutely Nothing.
This is one of those touching stories you’d see on Oprah or Ellen – a girl born with a physical condition that is supposed to limit her grows up fearless and achieves her dream of getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Abdominal Plank. As we are strong advocates for individuals with disabilities, we were touched not just by her attitude and story of perseverance, but even more by the support she received from friends and family because that is a huge part of the equation for those with disabilities. It’s truly the support (and some serendipitous moments) that makes these stories succeed.


James Altucher: Choose Yourself
Supposedly Altucher had another speech that he rehearsed before the event. We’re curious to what he said there because what he said as the anchoring speech was… entertaining, but we question if it was TEDx worthy. This talk tried to make a lot of points that danced around the concept of achieving a balanced well-being by devoting time to your physical health, emotional health, creative gratitude (spirituality), and ideas. Thus, we weren’t quite sure what to take away from it. But it was definitely the talk that got the most laughs from his comedic one-liners.


San Diego School of Ballet Performance
A rather refreshing way to end.  We enjoyed the two pieces that were played for this ballet. The picture that the dancers were trying to paint was colorfully clear. Twas a wonderful (in the most literal version of its definition) way to end off this year’s TEDxSD.


All in all, our TEDxSanDiego experience was rather insightful and inspiring.  Some talks were grand, others were fair. We were able to connect with a few strangers and felt affirmed that the thoughts we’ve been writing and speaking about are shared among others. We await to see what next year’s TEDxSD has in store for us. Good show!


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