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How Rocket Science Can Help Elders and 12 Other Ideas Worth Spreading from TEDxWinnipeg2016

The black backdrop. The bold crimson letters that stand for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The life-changing realizations and epiphanies that abound after a mere 15 minute session. Yes, there’s something magical about TEDTalks.

If you haven’t experienced the magic of TED, clear your schedule for the day. This is more important. Here’s a link to the 20 most popular talks of all time.Disclaimer: When I googled this, I was astonished by how many of these talks I hadn’t actually watched, which of course resulted in a minor TED binge, delaying the posting of this blog by several hours. #SorrynotSorry

Naturally, as soon as I heard that there was going to be a TedX Talk in Winnipeg, I wanted in! Because Winnipeg is an awesome and engaging city, they received 3x the applications as they had venue capacity for! After an elaborate selection process (read more on how they chose here), I was relieved - and excited - to have a spot! A quick glance at the day’s program sparked my interest: space research, bugs, synesthesia, and a whole slew of other topics. I was intrigued and excited, but I must admit, I was a bit skeptical as to whether I would take any practical lessons from the day. Of course, the first speaker - and virtually every speaker after that - quickly proved me wrong.

Here are 13 ideas worth spreading from TEDxWinnipeg 2016.

1. Nicole Buckley: Rocket science can help elders.

Dr. Nicole Buckley was the first speaker to take the stage at TEDxWinnipeg. Dr. Buckley is the Chief Scientist for the International Space Station and Life Sciences for the Canadian Space Agency. Dr. Buckley discussed the accelerated aging that astronauts face in space - particularly the loss of bone density - as well as the accelerated rehabilitation that they see upon returning to earth.

Dr. Buckley seamlessly transitioned into a story about her mother in Saskatoon who wouldn’t leave her house for her weekly blood tests in winter because of the cold weather. For her mother, the hospital was as far away as the space station.

With this in mind, she then shared parallels between bringing healthcare to the elderly in a similar fashion to how astronauts are taken care of.

“As we meet our challenges in space, maybe they can apply to our aging population,” she aptly stated.

2. Earl Gardiner: What a bridge in Honduras has to do with sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is something that many young professionals struggle with, myself included! While I was very interested to hear this talk, however, it was Earl's brilliant analogy that blew me away!

3. Madison Thomas: Even if the start and finish line are the same, privilege can determine the number of obstacles you face along the way.

Leading into the morning break, brilliant hosts Caity Curtis and Stephen Sim decided to write a little story of their own to share with the audience. To gain a little inspiration for the story, they asked two people in the audience what they would do a TEDxTalk on: Mark said student leadership, Ann said non-profits. They then asked the audience for a few buzzwords, of which came: synergy, networking and peanut butter? With this, the hosts alternated word by word to create the following masterpiece:

“How to profit being a Leadership Student"

11 years ago, I became a student. Now you probably think that being a student is not profitable. You would be incorrect. One time I opened my briefcase. Now, what do briefcases have in common with banks? Synergy.

Inside of my briefcase was my diploma. My diploma was a peanut butter-themed diploma. Food is very popular. Now sometimes when you enter the workforce, you need to understand this rule. Never ever admit defeat. Always admit success. Networking can and should be done every time you enter any public space. Not to brag, but I have networked pretty hard.

4. Janet Schmidt: “We must be grounded in our greatness to be able to accept critique.”

You know when you take a selfie and then you ask, “Is this what I really look like?” The answer is yes. Janet used this example to explain how our behaviour also looks different from “the other side of the eyeball.”

  1. On one side of a strip of paper, write down all of the things that people have appreciated about you, and the things that you are good at.

  2. Turn it over: A. On one half, write down the things that you do that are good, but can be bad. Ex. Maybe you’re very hard-working, but as a result sometimes you’re irritable and impatient. B. On the other half, write down the things that you’re not so good at: Eg. I have no drawing skills. Whatsoever!

If you flip one side 180 degrees, it apparently makes a mobius strip! This shows that the good, the bad, all of it is a part of who you are. Acknowledging this spectrum will help you better accept critique!

5. Laszlo Pinter: Knowing is the first step to taking action

PEG was formed to go behind the numbers. There are agencies that track poverty education, income, water quality and other important indicators, but PEG understands that there are stories behind these numbers, or as he called it, "Data behind the dials." By collecting this information and talking with others, PEG ensures that the cost of progress isn't hurting something else, that people are aware of this information and that this information is used to ensure navigation tools are both relevant and constant.

Check out their website for more information. 

6. Alex Drysdale : Crickets are the Gateway Bug

I’ve been a vegetarian for the last 10 years. I don’t long for hamburgers, or have cheat days, I may have even gotten into a heated debate on why I don’t drink Clamato juice (other than the fact that it tastes weird - save the clams! :D)

So you know an argument is legitimate when someone not only convinces me that crickets should be an exception but even persuades me to try them! 

Here's a quick snapshot from his website on why we should be adding crickets into our diets.

He mentioned that the ick factor can be an issue - but that lobsters used to a sign of poverty, and that the first guy who decided to drink cow’s milk probably faced a similar stigma.

Fun Fact: Want to see how many bugs are already in your diet? Check out the FDA’s acceptable amount of insects on his site here.

7. Israel Idonije: When you know the rules of the game, you know exactly what plays you need to execute to win.

Do you know what I love just as much as a good mantra? Hype. Just ask anyone who’s ever prepared for a Winnipeg Jets game with me - it involves a lot of facepaint and an endless loop of this song. Israel used ‘sports talk’ to give an incredibly motivating talk on how to win in life. I was typing as fast as I could to get down the following pearls of wisdom:

In whatever it is you want to do, you can win. First, you have to understand what you bring to the game. What are your abilities, your strengths?

To win at football, you have to win the playoffs, you have to win the season, you have to win games, you have to win one play at a time. Build the plan step by step focused on those micro wins.

8. Matt Cohen: There’s an amazing story under your nose, you just might have to look up to see it.

Matt Cohen led the audience through a fascinating tour of the fading wall ads of Winnipeg’s Exchange District. What I found most interesting was of the examples he shared from the Exchange, including Princess St, McDermot Ave and Notre Dame Ave, I didn’t recognize any of them! While walking home at the end of the day - on a route I've taken many times - I was amazed at how many cool ads I saw. This was a great reminder to take time to look around and enjoy where you are, instead of having your head buried deep in your phone!

9. Dwight Macauley: “Keep calm and carry on” should be the official motto of anyone involved in Protocol.

Dwight Macauley has been the Chief of Protocol for the Government of Manitoba since 1988.

Today in Winnipeg, it is becoming standard protocol to begin all official meetings and events with an acknowledgement of Treaty One Territory. Next time you’re at an event, consider what protocol is in effect - chances are, it’s more than you realize!

Throughout the day, there were a few Ted Talks shown on the screen. This one did not have a major life lesson or epiphany (other than re-affirming that my new life goal is to be cool enough to do a TedTalk), but is SO COOL!!! The artist discovers Da Vinci’s face. No big deal. It’s quite short and well-worth checking out!

10. Alexandra Hasenpflug: Inability vs. incredible talent

Alexandra has chromesthesia, a form of synesthesia that the TEDx program aptly explained as “ mind has hard-wired sound and colour together.”

In Kindergarten, Alexandra said to her teacher: "The lady’s voice is so blue, it’s hurting my eyeballs.” Her teacher’s reaction clued her in that this wasn’t ‘normal.’ It wasn’t until many years later, however, that she looked at this phenomenon as an ability instead of “pushing it back in a corner and letting collect dust.”

Hearing - and seeing - a glimpse into Alexandra’s world was inspiring. She played a few songs, including Vivaldi, Muse and Mumford & Sons, and explained the colours that they brought up.

Fun fact: She says she can never listen to Bach and Mozart, because the colours and shapes they produce never resolve. As she stated, "If having synesthesia is a superpower, harpsichord is my archnemesis - cape and all...It's like taking a javelin to the face."

Listening to Alexandra speak about these songs was like entering into another world. But there was a strong takeaway that fit directly back into this world: what are my unique gifts and views? Are there things that I consider as inabilities, just because they’re not the norm?

As Alexandra beautifully stated...

11. Daniel Blair: Virtual reality isn’t just for techies.

Other than a brief addiction to SSX Tricky (a snowboarding Playstation game) in high school, I’ve never been much for video games. So again, I wasn’t too sure what I would learn from a talk on virtual reality.

As Daniel stated, “Virtual reality is evolving, technology is changing. We’re at the ‘flip phone’ era of virtual reality.”

There is huge potential to utilize virtual reality in virtually every sector! By placing a customer inside of a story, you can show them a product, a message or an experience in a whole new way. He showed us the inside of a pig farm, which is usually inaccessible to a consumer. We’re still realizing what we can do with virtual reality, but it’s an exciting time!

12. Stephen Dubienski: If we can control the heart, we can send positive messages to the brain.

Stephen’s talk was entitled, “Using Biofeedback for the Psychological Effects of Concussion.” As he stated, athletes are active people with active minds and bodies, who want to be proactive in their recoveries. Unfortunately, the silent or invisible nature of concussion-related injuries can have profound psychological impacts. Using biofeedback, however, can allow them to see how their physiology is impacted!

The heart and the brain are in constant communication. Essentially, the heart contains a second brain. And if we can control the heart, we can send positive messages to the brain. Using a stress test, training and focus groups, Stephen has been able to use biofeedback intervention to begin to counter the silent stereotype of concussions.

13. Cheryl Ferguson: Never tell someone they can’t… because what if they can!

Cheryl Ferguson is a band teacher at Fort Richmond Collegiate and an enthusiastic public speaker. She recounted a story of bricks in her bandroom, which started off as “very plain, if they had a character, it'd have to be called institutional at best,” and today are a celebration of students who stayed in the band program through to graduation.

Cheryl gave the audience practical tips on how to nurture the individual. (Hint: make them feel valuable, use a person’s name, and give specific compliments are good places to start!) She told us how having a vision, such as her son’s goal, allows them to know where to set up their ‘ladder.’ Nurturing the individual gives them the strength to climb up one rung at a time. It was a lot to take in in one day - just recounting it now has my mind reeling again with ideas. In other TEDx news, #TedXWpg2016 was trending number 1 in Canada - we like to think our live tweets played a small role in that. :) And #Peanutbuttersynergy, which was a joke hashtag that emerged out of the morning story, was trending number 7 in Canada!

All in all, it was a fabulous day of mind-blowingness, and we’re so thankful to all of the sponsors and volunteers that helped make the day such a success, as well as all of the speakers for bringing such polished and enlightening presentations!

This fall, TedXWinnipeg will be hosting a regular speaker series, so make sure to follow them on social media to stay in the loop!


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