On Thursday, I was one of the lucky participants at TEDx Manitoba. There was so much inspiration packed into one day, I’m going to need to watch the videos once they come out to catch some of the pieces I missed when my brain was busy trying to process what was shared minutes earlier.

mandalaPart of my processing happened in my mandala journal. I have always been a doodler, but my doodling has become more focused and more colourful since I started taking my mandala practice more seriously (and taking it public). Most of the time, I simply doodle in the shape of a circle, and throw in whichever words jump out of what the speaker says, or out of my own responses. I totally love this process and highly recommend it. Bring markers with you EVERYWHERE! You never know when you might need to doodle. The other three mandalas I made can be seen here.

I’m sure that there will be pieces of wisdom popping into my head weeks from now that I hadn’t thought of before, but for now I thought I’d put together a few things that struck me at the event.

1. Stories carry transformational wisdom.  The presentations that impacted me the most were the ones that had stories at the heart of them. There was the story of the solar house built long before it was trendy, the fruit-lover who created a fruit-picking co-operative to keep the excess fruit from rotting in her community (and beyond), the  young man determined to help his peers stay out of gangs in their neighbourhood, and so many more. Stories help us imagine the world differently.

2. Life is messy, but the messes are worth sharing. The presentation that impacted me most was the one made by Wilma Derksen, perhaps because I am a deep believer in turning our pain stories into gifts. Wilma’s daughter Candace was murdered 27 years ago, and just last year the murderer finally stood trial. Wilma shared a deeply personal, messy, honest, painful, and hopeful story of the many emotional journeys she has had to pass through – from rage to forgiveness, from hatred to love. During the trial, she realized that she could not hold both love and justice in her heart in equal measure and had to choose love. Wilma’s presentation is a reminder to me that the messy bits of life are worth sharing, even if we can’t wrap them up in neat little bows and make them look pretty.

3. Art transforms bleak spaces and opens people’s hearts. Grant Barkman talked about using graphic facilitation as a tool to build consensus in group process, and Kale Bonham talked about using art banners to transform a bleak, crime-riddled neighbourhood. Both showed the power of art and design to shift energy and open up new stories. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it also gives more power to those thousand words.

4. Being a story-changer is as important as being a storyteller. Brad Tyler-West spoke about being bold enough to change the stories that no longer serve us and stepping into new stories. Other presenters didn’t overtly say the same thing, but demonstrated it in what they shared. Getty Stewart talked about how she had decided to change her story and made sharing the dominant factor in the way she interacted with her community. Matt Henderson shared how he’d changed the learning experience for his students by letting them co-create what went on in the classroom. Almost every presenter shared some story-changing moment in their lives when they went from complacent bystander to engaged change-maker.

7. What they taught you in Kindergarten still holds true – sharing makes the world a better place. One of the predominant threads running throughout the day was the theme of “sharing your gifts”. For Gem Newman, that meant sharing a passion for science; for Getty, it meant picking fruit that neighbours were letting rot in the back yard and sharing it with a seniors’ home; for TJ Dawe, it meant sharing ideas online. The whole concept of TED really is built on sharing… “ideas worth spreading.” There’s something powerful about being in a room full of people willing to gift others with the wisdom and ideas they’ve gained in their lifetimes.

8. We need to learn from nature and make nature our friend. David Zinger talked about the wisdom we can learn from bees, and how a study of bees might help us re-imagine our corporate structures. Robert L. Peters talked about harnessing the sun’s rays in more effective ways to heat our homes. Both expressed a desire to be present in the natural world and to let it teach and inspire us.

9. The grey is where the wisdom is. Forget dualism, and look for the space between black and white. See failure as a friend instead of a foe. Our dominant culture wants to define the world in terms of clean boxes and definitions. Those are not serving us anymore – we need shades of grey. The grey helps us find out who we truly are.

10. Walkable neighbourhoods are better for everyone. Hazel Borys shared profound truths about how much benefit there is in developing walkable neighbourhoods, and yet how much our current zoning bi-laws prohibit this. One slide that sticks in my mind is the one that shows how much more revenue a well designed walkable neighbourhood brings into the city coffers compared to a big box store. Not only that, but it saves the family a significant amount of money not having to drive to the perimeter for their groceries and family activities. She has proof for something I believed in my heart to be true.

11. The wisdom of the group is greater than the wisdom of the individuals. Again, this is an over-riding theme that TED demonstrates so beautifully. As TJ Dawe said, collective wisdom may be harder to mine, but the riches that we’ll uncover once we’ve done the hard work are worth every bit of the effort. Just like the cardboard city that emerged in my Creative Discovery class last week, we come up with better ideas when we work together than when we work alone.

12. Our children are our future. Linda Cureton said leaders need super powers (an idea that doesn’t really resonate with my belief in everyday leadership, but her ideas had some merit) and our future superhero leaders are currently riding tricycles around the neigbhourhood. Robert J. Sawyer hypothesized that, given the rapid advances in science and health research, the first immortal has probably already been born (again, it felt like a stretch for me, but was interesting none-the-less). Matt Henderson believes in giving youth more autonomy in the classroom so that they will emerge as stronger leaders and thinkers. A common thread was the importance of paying attention to our children.

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