My Heroes

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

The above quote is from none other than Winston Churchill, perhaps the most quotable person in history next to Jesus or Kanye West (although obviously for different reasons). It’s a comment that I still think of routinely, as I elect to build my life into a complex series of projects and tasks, intertwined with each other so deeply that I sometimes risk losing it all or having some kind of crazy mental break. Or both. But I’m not writing about that — I’m here to write about what keeps me going.

I feel deeply fortunate to be working with many of the most motivated and inspirational human beings I have ever come across. I’m sure many leaders think the same thing about their teams – and they’re right – but I feel that I have something of a unique perspective because the TEDxVictoria has evolved radically over the four years it has been together. Change has been constant, and that evolution has really helped to build something magnificent.

Let me tell you how it all keeps me going:

These people.

That’s it. Sure, there are amazing opportunities that come out of working on TEDxVictoria, both professionally and personally, and the connection to the local community is extremely rewarding. But at the end of each day, when you are already exhausted from your job, your personal life, and whatever else might have gone on, and you sit down at your computer to find an email inbox that has exploded since you last looked at it, it’s those other amazing people you work with that help you get through it all.

Take Caitlin for example: Caitlin works more than I do (full time for a top tier firm), is in a band that plays a lot (steady weekend shows, as well as headlining festivals), works at or volunteers at every awesome event in Victoria (VICFest, Rock the Shores, etc), has absurdly cute dogs that she takes care of, oh, and works as TEDxVictoria’s Director of Human Resources in her spare time. And did I mention she still manages to have a life?

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t sleep. That must be it.

Or how about Adam, who, like Caitlin, works more than I do, also volunteers and works at all kinds of festivals, but then somehow manages to find time to coordinate an incredible amount of artistic endeavours throughout the city with all kinds of crazy organizations. He also does this for TEDxVictoria as our “Enabler of Art.”

Adam enables art like a boss. His work ethic is impeccable and he has the beard to match.

Holly is the best tech/stage manager on Vancouver Island, and is always in high demand. I have on many occasions witnessed just how good she is at her job, and I am humbled that she does for free for TEDxVictoria what she could easily be paid well for elsewhere. Her positivity is infectious at all times.

Our Director of Marketing and Communications is none other than Dani Pope, one of the most talented writers in Victoria. You probably read some of her articles – they were consistently the best that Monday Magazine ever put out – but you might not know that she’s also deeply involved in the community through other events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

And finally, there’s Genevieve. Our ringer in many ways, she’s the only TED Senior Fellow in Victoria and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of conversation with her, you’ll know what I mean when I say that she can make literally anyone enthusiastic about science. Like Holly, her energy is crazy infectious. She’s been to many TED events, and is a pioneer in her field where she researches cave art to try and help us better understand the cognitive and spirituality of our ancestors. Kind of a big deal.

High Functioning Dreamer/Doers

Every member of our team inspires me, and each time we get together I am imbued with the determination to follow through on our goals. Holly described our team as “Dreamer/Doers” — people who dream things up and then just do them.

Have you ever worked anywhere where you actually look forward to every meeting? Where you want nothing more than to spend more time with your colleagues chatting about the work that you do? If you have, then you know how magical it is when you have that. It’s not the easiest thing to find.

I think perhaps the best thing to do is make it. When you have it, it’s easy to keep on going, even when you’re tired and want nothing more than half a night’s sleep.

TEDxVictoria 2014 Leadership Team
TEDxVictoria 2014 Leadership Team

Tar Wars

Attack of the food poisoning clones

During an exciting bout with food poisoning that left me 5-10 pounds lighter I reconnected with Star Wars.

Like many fans that grew up with the original trilogy, I wasn’t a huge fan of George Lucas’ second trilogy. Sure, the FX were impressive and the lightsaber battles were more awesome than ever, but the heart of the original series didn’t seem to be there.

My inner child just wasn’t feeling it.

When the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and subsequent animated series were launched, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t think it had anything of value, and I was still bitter about Episodes I and II (Episode III was pretty decent, but not enough to wash the bad taste of I and II out of my brain).

Remembering a blog post from a friend of mine who wrote that she never gave Star Wars: The Clone Wars a chance until she was stuck at home sick, I decided to give Clone Wars a try.

The first season sucked. But as the 22-minute episodes went on I became more and more interested in the ever-expanding mythology of the Clone Wars and what it meant for the rest of the Star Wars series since it is considered to be canonical.

After a while, the show gets good. Really good. I am still surprised at how good it is, and I am almost finished the fourth season.

Finally I am able to understand Anakin Skywalker’s journey on a more personal level than Hayden Christianson was ever able to convey with his stiff acting in Episodes II and III. Watching Anakin slide ever closer to the dark side because he simply feels too strongly for his friends and fellow soldiers really helps to further paint the picture of the man who would become Darth Vader.

The show is actually awesome. And for some strange reason, it has made me think a lot about TEDxVictoria’s biggest success…

The Tar Sands

I have been thinking a lot lately about Garth Lenz’s 2011 TEDxVictoria talk. Maybe it is because it was the first (and only) talk from TEDxVictoria to make the TED main page. Maybe it is because Star Wars made me think of Tar Wars for some bizarre alliterative reason. Maybe it is because I have been speaking with potential TEDxVictoria 2014 speakers of late, and our biggest success invariably comes up. Or maybe it is because I have been watching Years of Living Dangerously lately with my partner, and the subject of climate change is constantly on my mind.

It was probably because of all of the above. Either way, it stuck in my mind. TEDxVictoria’s biggest success is about a battle that Canadians and the other inhabitants of the Earth are currently losing: the war against fossil fuels.

Have you watched Garth’s talk? If you haven’t, and you have 18 minutes, check it out:

I am not surprised at people who want to work at Alberta’s Tar Sands. Work is work, and after an economical depression like the one the world just experienced, of course people will take the jobs they can to get ahead in life. Many of my fellow classmates, family members, and even friends have made the journey across the Rocky Mountains and further up north to take high-paying jobs. They have homes, vehicles, and families, and they’re still young — regardless of the consequences, I can’t argue with the fact that they are better off than I am right now.

I think that what bothers me the most is that many countries – and Canada in particular – are burying their heads in the tar sand blatantly ignoring the signs. It frightens me that climate change isn’t dictating who we vote for yet, when we will absolutely be feeling the ever growing negative affects of global warming, drought, wildfires, etc, during our lifetimes.

I am optimistic, however. Last week President Obama did something that really blew my mind when he bypassed Congress to force power plants in the US to lower their carbon emissions by 30% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. It isn’t enough by a long shot, and there will be fierce opposition from those most negatively affected (and those with a lot to gain politically), but if the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is listening and doing something about it, I am hopeful that we humans can get these issues sorted sooner rather than later.

Oh, and hopefully when JJ Abrams’ take on Star Wars comes out, it doesn’t suck. Cross your fingers!

Stream of Community

I’m not usually one to endorse products or projects. This isn’t because I am unwilling to support projects; it is merely because I have mixed feelings about how much information I want to put out on the Internet.

I’m a private person (writes the blogger). I am always willing to share my thoughts and views in person, but when it comes to talking about things online, I have never been wholly comfortable promoting myself or others.

That changed with TEDxVictoria back in 2011.

I finally had something to talk about that I felt like sharing with the world at large, and TEDxVictoria is a project that is, well, public.

TEDxVictoria, and my connection to TED and TEDx, have changed my life. It has also led to me connecting more deeply with my local community. And in that community, some friends of TEDxVictoria have a project with a lot of potential…


StreamOfConsciousness

Livestream with a purpose

An idea I had been thinking about for TEDxVictoria for a long time is hopefully coming to fruition this year:

We are looking to livestream TEDxVictoria 2014 this November, but perhaps more importantly we are hoping to also livestream our speakers for an online Q&A following their TEDx Talks on stage.

The idea is to provide our online audience the opportunity to participate in the dialogue with our speakers during our session breaks, after watching their talks and performances in the theatre. It’s the online interaction that is important here — the hope is that more people will join in the important discussions that TEDx Talks initiate.

That is the potential of Stream of Consciousness working with TEDxVictoria. If they meet their crowdfunding goal, we will have a platform for facilitating online engagement with TEDxVictoria 2014’s speakers.

That’s pretty cool.

Since TEDxVictoria has sold out the last three years, livestreaming can help our event reach a wider audience — an audience that could now participate from home, work, or abroad. I think that’s a pretty big deal, don’t you?

Check out www.fundthestream.com for more info.

 

DAMN YOU JOSH STINTON

A while back I polled my TED/TEDx friends and asked them to send me their favourite talks from their events. I have an insatiable curiosity when it comes to new ideas and other TEDx events – especially ones where I know the organizers – and coming back from TEDActive 2014 I was hoping to get a shortlist of videos to watch from around the world.

The list did not disappoint. My only regrets are that  I didn’t save the list (which has now been buried somewhere on my probably-too-active Facebook wall) and watching the TEDx talk by a strangely Australian-sounding American by the name of Josh “Lucky” Stinton.

It’s only 10 minutes and 23 seconds long, so I’ll wait for you to watch it before coming back. Make sure to watch all of it.

What a jerk! My girlfriend has seen this talk, which means that:

a) I can no longer be original or awesome by potentially proposing to her from the main stage of a TEDx event.

b) I have to think of something even better.

DAMMIT.

Way to set unrealistic expectations, Josh! Now I’ll have to take some of Lucas’ advise and think of something truly romantic.

In all seriousness…

Well played. I definitely did not see that coming.

I spent the first 7 or 8 minutes thinking “this talk is alright, but why did Lucas send it my way?” before being floored by the amount of guts it would have taken to end the talk that way.

Well done Lucky Stinton. Well done. You had my respect when we first met, but now you have my admiration, because not only did you live up to the words you were speaking on stage, but you had the strength of character to do something courageous.

I wish you and your partner the best of lives together. And I will always still secretly hate you a little bit for raising the bar for the rest of us ;)

Top talks of 2013 (Part 1)

As I return to reality following TEDActive 2014, I keep thinking about the TED and TEDx talks I’ve seen over the last year, and which ones stuck with me the most.

It feels like an appropriate time to reflect.

Below I’ve included my favourite TEDx talks (that I have seen) from 2013. Some of them I saw after the year was over, and others I saw as soon as they were released or during a simulcast, but what they all have in common is that they connected with me on some level.

I wrote a bit about Amanda Palmer in my TEDActive 2014 recap, where I mentioned that the first time I really started to appreciate her as an artist and a human being was when I first viewed this talk last year. I am one of those people who has always had trouble asking for anything, especially for any kind of help.

Amanda also reminds me very much of my TEDxVictoria co-founder and partner-in-crime CL. Their larger-than-life personalities really seem similar…

I wonder if CL can play the ukulele?

This talk blew open my world the way that Sir Ken Robinson’s did when I was first introduced to TED. Here was someone perfectly articulating the issues that charitable organizations and nonprofit organizations deal with every day, and explaining just why that is the wrong way to approach it. Every person I know who works in that sector — which also happens to be most people I know, since Victoria is filled to the brim with cool people who volunteer for things — we all watched this talk. Here was a man who really understood. I am so happy to see that this talk is making waves now, since it really is an idea worth spreading.

This is not a TED video. It’s just insanely awesome, and if I had the budget, they would open TEDxVictoria. Who doesn’t like classical music, and who doesn’t love Thunderstruck? I mean really.

TEDxCanberra organizer Stephen just sent me this, and it is awesome. I love spoken word poetry. We actually had the Victoria Spoken Word Team during our first year of TEDxVictoria, and an international youth poet at our second year. Words have power, and in hearing them in different ways you expose yourself to other interpretations of language. Just as we could all use more art and more beauty in our lives, we could all use more poetry as well.

Design can help fight poverty. I don’t even know what else to add, except to say that this talk was incredibly inspiring. This is a great example of people changing the ways through innovation on a small scale that can have large-scale impact.

Okay, so this is one of ours. Kathryn Calder’s talk/performance was one of the standouts from TEDxVictoria 2013 because of how deeply it connected with me. Kathryn’s story is just so compelling by itself, and the incredible music she has created because of it is truly inspirational.

Having her on stage at TEDxVictoria 2013, the third musican in a row that I merely asked to be involved – and the third musician in a row to say “yes” immediately – this was a career highlight for me. I’m looking forward to seeing her film, A Matter of Time, when it is completed sometime this year.

But wait! There’s more…

I polled my fellow TEDx organizers earlier this week to find out which talks were their favourites from their own respective events. They are so good! I’m looking forward to watching them, since I now have an enormous backlog of TEDx talks to go through.

I’ll be adding to this list soon.

Review Roundup for 2013

Review: 12 Years a Slave

The last time I felt this awful watching a film was The Passion of the Christ back in 2004.

There will be a lot of discussion over whether or not 12 Years a Slave is the best film of 2012, and it’s well-deserved. Steve McQueen’s (no, not that Steve McQueen) adaptation of Solomon Northup’s acclaimed book is the most relentlessly emotionally intense film in years. The cinematography, script, acting, score — all of it is top-notch, award-quality work. I highly expect it to win at least a half dozen Oscars, probably for Best Picture, Best Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction of a man surviving horror at all costs, and Best Supporting Actor for Michael Fassbender’s career-defining work at the very least. While the film is worthy of nominations for its score, direction, and the cinematography, there is just no way it will beat out Gravity for those.

12 Years a Slave should be viewed by every child in grade school growing up. It is an essential insight into the reason why slavery is wrong, containing the horror that 2012’s Lincoln missed but spent the entire movie trying to abolish.

4.75/5 – harrowing and brutal, but a part of our shared history

 

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

When you first watched the trailer’s for Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort, you were likely sucked in by the fantastic indie rock music soundtrack and the promise of a personal journey one man makes to really find himself.

The film almost lives up to that promise.

That The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has a fantastic soundtrack should come as no …surprise. It’s filled with fantastic tracks by Arcade Fire, Of Monsters and Men, Junip, and José González. The cinematography is also stunning. The acting is even pretty great (at least, for Ben Stiller).

What the movie really lacks is depth. When the credits roll and you see that the film is based on a short story, that’s when you realize what doesn’t entirely work about the film — Stiller’s Mitty does go through a profound transformation through the film, and it’s just …abrupt. The entire film takes place over the course of just two weeks, making the transformation of his character less plausible than it needs, and his switch from a man who daydreams about having a life to a man who is too busy living to daydream takes virtually no time at all.

Anyone who has traveled has gone through that transformation at least in part, and when you get back home you’ve changed. But it takes some time — it’s not something that usually happens in just one or two weeks of vacation or sabbatical time. It takes time.

So what’s missing? The details are missing. Yes, going to Iceland and Greenland and witnessing a volcanic eruption and jumping out of a helicopter would be big, poignant moments in anyone’s life. But it’s the small moments when you stop to smell the roses, when you have the time to be introspective and have an epiphany, when you’ve hiked to the top of a mountain over two days just to watch the sunrise over a certain valley… that’s what’s missing. The moments that build character and change you aren’t there.

Ben Stiller is pretty solid as Mitty, but not quite at his best. There is even a moment or two that will make you think more of Zoolander than the film you’re watching. If a deeper actor with more range had the role of Mitty, it could have carried the film further.

Kristen Wiig is great in her limited role. Shirley MacLaine and Kathryn Hahn, as Witty’s mother and sister, are both fun but not particularly memorable. And Patton Oswalt, spending much of the time as a disembodied voice, is pretty fantastic in his limited role as well. Sean Penn gets to steal the crap out of the scenes he’s in, but his screen time is far too limited. In fact, if Penn was the lead, the film might have been a lot better.

The greatest failure of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is that it could have been so much more. As it is, I really enjoyed it. But it could have been a contender for Best Picture, and instead is just an above average feel good movie.

3.75/5 – good but could have been great

 

Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

It’s really hard to review this film because more than any other of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien’s works, this film has had a lot of liberties taken with its story. Your feelings about whether or not these changes are good or justified will weigh heavily on your feelings about the movie.

At this point, 5 films into Jackson’s interpretation of Middle Earth, I’m becoming a lot more critical of the films. Part of the issue is that we’re watching a 3-part Hobbit trilogy after The Lord of the Rings trilogy — The Hobbit is not a long book, and it’s a children’s bedtime story. The Lord of the Rings is a mature epic. Putting the epic before the children’s story is just not the right way to go, and because we already know how it ends, the urgency and immediacy of the story in The Hobbit is suffering because of it. It’s like knowing the ending before you see it.

That aside, The Desolation of Smaug is better than An Unexpected Journey, but worse than any of the previous Lord of the Rings films. The new characters and over-the-top long action sequences are top notch but, at times, kind of boring.

But you know what? Smaug saves this film. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug is the reason to see the film. Smaug is absolutely magnificent, gloriously realized, and wonderfully performed and animated. Worth the price of admission by itself.

Hopefully when There and Back Again comes out in December 2014 the trilogy comes together in a way that justifies the incredible amount of added scenes, subplots and characters. But even if it doesn’t, there is something great about getting to journey to Middle Earth each Christmas.

3.5/5 – could go up or down depending on the third film.

 

Review: Frozen

Disney hasn’t put out a really good film in years. Of course, that’s one of the reasons they have Pixar — but they can’t shoulder the burden of being brilliant and releasing animated films every year onto their one small(ish) studio, so they have to get off their asses to make their own films sometimes. And each time they do, what usually comes to mind is “this is not as good as [insert Pixar film name here]”

Frozen is the best Disney film since Beauty and the Beast. I hesitate to say that it is “as good as” since Beauty and the Beast isn’t just an Oscar-nominated animated film (for Best Picture no less), but was also filled with truly iconic and memorable songs. Aside from the apparently-popular “Let it Go”, Frozen‘s soundtrack just isn’t that strong. But it makes up for it by having the best protagonists in the last 20 or so years.

Both the main leads are (gasp!) women! And they aren’t just there to fall-in-love-with/talk-about/pine-over men! Finally! They’re also competent, interesting, and dynamic characters. Heck, they even break some of the traditional Disney tropes: the movie does not end with a wedding! It’s not just about the love between a couple!

Sure, they still kill off the parents early on (because every good story is about Orphans, otherwise they would have people to love/support them), and the princesses are still that tall/thin/model body type (with of course, all the non-royalty being physically less attractive), but other than that they’ve made a strong step forwards in terms of storytelling. Hopefully this is the start of a trend, and along with films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, can prove that films with female leads can be successful.

4/5 – strong female characters = win.

 

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I was not excited to see The Hunger Games when it came out. I didn’t read the book. The film itself was simply above average. But it did have an interesting premise, and Jennifer Lawrence was pretty decent in it. It was an enjoyable slightly-above-average film.

That did not prepare me for Catching Fire, which surpasses The Hunger Games in every conceivable way, and is the first film since The Empire Strikes Back to truly outshine its predecessor. The acting is much, much better. The stakes are higher. The emotional journey is more intense. The characters grow by leaps and bounds from the previous film. The cinematography… the score… simply everything is better. All the new characters are interesting and exciting, each getting their own scenes to steal, even Jena Malone, who I generally hate in films.

Catching Fire deserves the praise it gets, and for the first time I am actually excited about where the franchise is going — and thankful that the director, Francis Lawrence, is signed on to direct the last two films as well. Here’s hoping it manages to keep up the fantastic work.

4.5/5 – a fantastic film.

 

Review: Gravity

If you missed Gravity in cinemas, don’t watch it on video — wait for it to play at an IMAX or for it to come back to some kind of 3D screening. The visual element of watching the film truly is that important, because more than any film I’ve seen in the last decade, Gravity is an experience.

Alfonso Curaon’s opus is the most cinematically revolutionary and daring film to come out in the last decade. He has re-written the rules in terms of what can be done visually, and created one  of the most exciting, stressful, visceral thrillers in the process.

Gravity is Sandra Bullock’s film. I think there is a 99% chance she will win her second (and much more deserved) Best Actress Oscar for this film. She’s supported by the always charming George Clooney and the calming disembodied voice of Ed Harris.

But the visuals are the real character of this film. It’s hard to even find the words to describe how stunning of an achievement in cinematography this film is. If Gravity doesn’t win every single technical award at the Oscars this year along with Best Director and Best Actress, then consipracies are real and these geniuses have been robbed, because we’ll be looking back at this film 50 years from now with the same reverence as films like Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

4.75/5 – losing points only for the fact that you have to see it on the biggest 3D screen possible to truly experience it.

 

Not quite worth full reviews:

Elysium – extremely disappointing post-District 9. Crafted superbly. Acted poorly. Not a great plot. Insane action. Sharlto Copley can do anything. 2.75/5
Despicable Me 2 – Solid sequel. Has equal parts moments of brilliance/moments that are utterly forgetful. 3/5
Fast & Furious 6 – I’m not sure how it is that this series is getting better from one film to the next, but if they keep making films like Fast 5 and now Fast 6, I’ll keep watching them. Awesomely entertaining in the most mindless way possible — and one of few action films to actually pass the Bechdel Test. Looking forward to Fast 7, especially with the antagonist introduced at the end of the film. Hopefully it can be salvaged after Paul Walker’s death. 4/5
Kick-Ass 2 – Aside from one scene where Chloe Moretz dominates her schoolmates with her awesomeness, this movie was a bad/boring/forgettable sequel. 2.5/5
Lone Survivor – Solid action/adventure film from Peter Berg, who directs solid-but-not-great action/adventure films. Great cast. Based on a true story. 3.5/5
Olympus Has Fallen – Better than the above film, if only because Antoine Fuqua is much better at filming action than Roland Emmerich. Not good enough for a sequel, but hey! It’s getting one anyways. 2.5/5
Saving Mr. Banks – Disney cliches. Tom Hank’s being Tom Hanks can’t even save this movie. If it weren’t for Emma Thompson the film wouldn’t have been watchable at all. I can’t help but feel that all the actors were obligated to be in this film. It’s just so… Disney propaganda. I’d rather just watch Mary Poppins again. 2.5/5
The Lone Ranger – Just… bad. I wanted to like this but it was just mindless and forgettable. 2/5
Escape Plan – if you watched this, it was because it has Arnie and Stallone in it. They couldn’t carry the film, it’s just bad. But it’s fun to watch. 2.75/5
The Wolverine – Hugh Jackman finally nailed it and perfectly performed James “Logan” Howlett on screen. Great movie that has a poor third act. The Director’s Cut is far superior. 4/5
Thor: The Dark World – a fun continuation of the character, and better than the first. Still — you’ll never see an award-caliber performance from this series. Entertaining. Chris Hemsworth is still a pretty, beefy man. Natalie Portman is still a hot and strangely petite woman. And Tom Hiddleston is still the best actor to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, equaled only by Robert Downey Jr. 3/5
We’re the Millers – Funnier than it should have been. Less memorable than it should have been as well. 2.5/5
White House Down – Great lead actors (Tatum/Foxx). Good chemistry. Too cheesy. Over-the-top pro-USA film. 2/5

 

Films on my “to watch” list still:

American Hustle – The cast is fantastic, the director fantastic, it’s nominated for lots of stuff.
Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks pretty much always delivers, and I’ve heard great things.
Dallas Buyers Club – Gotta see what the fuss is about Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto here.
Ender’s Game – gotta see if the adaptation of one of the best sci-fi novels of all time is any good.
Her – Keep hearing that this film is sheer brilliance. Excited to see it.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – Idris Elba is the man.
Prisoners – Jackman, Gyllenhaal, and director Denis Villeneuve. Stoked to see it.
Rush – Ron Howard is one of the most talented living filmmakers. Of course, I’m still annoyed he’s making films not called “The Dark Tower”…
The Wolf of Wall Street – I’ll get around to this. Scorcese never fails to impress.

TEDxVictoria 3

I write this 48 hours after TEDxVictoria 2013: Emergence took place at the McPherson Playhouse. I am tired. Very, very tired — exhausted even.

When I woke up this morning at 7AM — the first time I slept 7 hours straight in I-don’t-know-how-long — I opened my eyes with purpose, took a moment, and remembered that the event I’d spent the last 11 months working towards had already happened. I no longer had a reason to get out of bed.

I have slain my dragon. My quest is complete.

I’m not depressed or anything; It’s just that each TEDxVictoria has taken its toll on me, and this year as the Creative Director it took a much grander toll than either of the previous events. I put in more hours (thousands instead of hundreds), had more meetings, took fewer breaks, had more fun, and just got more involved than I ever did before.

I took on a leadership role in TEDxVictoria 2013 like I hadn’t in 2012 or 2011. This time, instead of having a trio of leaders making the executive decisions on how to run the event, it was just me at the top. And it was tiring. If I learned one single, most-valuable, most intrinsically important fact working on TEDxVictoria, it is this:

You can’t do it all.

Now, I’m not saying I tried to do everything (I didn’t), nor that I did everything (I certainly didn’t). But I pushed myself to do more than I ever had before, and in a way, I was living these past 11 months in the area that Adam Kreek described as being between your comfort zone and your absolute limit.

I needed to ask for more help sooner, but I have a tendency to push myself and push myself and push myself. At this point in my life I can say that I am not yet comfortable with failure (despite being well acquainted with it because hey, me and failure are old friends), and the ambitions I had for what I wanted to accomplish with TEDxVictoria 2013 at times actually frightened me. I feel like this year’s event, much more so than past years, was a reflection of my vision and what I wanted to accomplish, so I was much more personally invested in how everything went.

I was high strung from the moment we started releasing information to the public and tickets went on sale.

But then during the speaker rehearsal and coaching process, after I watched the first version of Adam Kreek’s TEDxVictoria 2013 talk “I Seek Failure”, I became comfortable with my doubts and the possibility that the event might fail. After all, it would only make me stronger, wouldn’t it? I’d be like Batman or something. And Batman is awesome.

Luckily, TEDxVictoria wasn’t just a success, it was an achievement beyond even my high expectations, and I owe it all to the amazing team of brilliant human beings I was working with.

Event day

I didn’t sleep particularly well the evening before the event. After meeting all of our speakers for dinner at Relish Food and Coffee, I went home to fret over last-minute details. I had been aiming to have it so that everything that I was personally doing to make the event happen would be complete before event day so that I could relax and enjoy the show.

Of course that didn’t happen.

If you’re an event organizer you’ll already know this, but if you’re in charge of a large scale event there is no such thing as relaxing. You just can’t not be involved. You’re helping out anywhere you can see a need, and you’re right in there with the other volunteers making sure that everything goes off without a hitch.

This is where having an incredible team comes in. They killed it. I don’t know how the public saw the event, but from where I was sitting (about 3 rows back in the middle of the theatre) everything went perfectly. I hope that in 2014 we can afford to actually pay our production staff with money and not just hugs, because these people are more than willing to volunteer their incredible production skills to making magic on stage — and their professionalism and skill is what makes everything flow so smoothly.

Depending on who you ask, different talks will be their absolute favourites. As the lead event organizer I can say that it is very hard for me to pick out which talks I enjoyed the most. That said, some of my favourite moments of the day were:

  • Jim Townley asking the audience if they drank coffee, if they’ve made friends over coffee, or if they know anyone who drinks coffee. It set the right tone for the day right from the get-go, and he delivered it perfectly.
  • Alan Cassel’s self-deprecating sense of humour. Alan never ceases to be both brilliant and hilarious, and his bucket tub was no exception.
  • Adam Kreek calling the other enormous men on his boat “snugglebears”
  • Rebecca Marino’s humbleness and honesty. I don’t know anyone else who has retired at 22, but I’m kind of jealous.
  • Holy crap, Cameron Fraser can move. I can’t remember a physical artistic performance moving me before quite like his did, and I can’t even put my finger on why. Was it the music? I don’t know.
  • Tiffany Poirier is the teacher every single one of us wishes we had. Wow. And kids ask some big questions!
  • Bob McDonald smashing his own face with the earth. It was hilarious during rehearsal, and equally as funny a second time.
  • Mary-Wynne Ashford getting 800 people to sing together. It was a powerful moment.
  • That moment when Ian MacKenzie took off his Guy Fawkes mask and you heard some audiences members whistle.
  • Watching Kathryn Calder’s performance from the side of the stage was so emotional it was actually tough to get through. I can only imagine how it sounded for the audience.

There were many more moments for me. These are just the ones that stand out to me right this second.

What now?

We do it again.

But we don’t start yet. We have a checklist of things to finish to truly wrap up TEDxVictoria 2013 before we can begin putting together the pieces for 2014. Some of our amazing team may want to move on, while others may want to do more (or less). We also have many bills to pay and people to thank for their efforts — it took 84 volunteers, 20 sponsors, 15 speakers, 3 performances, and 11 months to make this event.

I still feel that the best is yet to come.

Thanks to everyone below for their amazing contributions that made this event happen.

Volunteer list:

Adam Price, Adam Quiney, Alison Root, Amy Willson, Andrea Hayes, Ari Hershberg, Brandon Gains, Breanna Carey, Brett Reid, Caitlin Tally, Carol-Lynne Michaels, Casey Bennett, Catherine Bridge, Charlotte Wood, Charmaine Niebergall, Chris Marks, Christian Lesemann, Christina Barnes, Christine Williams, Christopher Bowers, Colleen McCormick, Connor McCleary, Danielle Pope, Darragh Grove-White, Darren Laberee, David Malysheff, Davin Greenwell, Denise Brown, Emily Shebib, Eric Buchanan, Eric Watchorn, Genevieve Von Petzinger, Gina Bethell, Grady Lawlor, Gregory Johnson, Heather Daynard, Holly Vivian, Janine Wolfe, Jason Dyck, Jenny Chan, John Mardlin, Jordan Gordon, Juliana Niebergall, Katherine Filteau, Katie Ganassin, Keri Coles, Kim Nagle, Kim Perkins, Kirsten Øvstaas, Kyle Gilmar, Lane Schneider, Laura Brougham, Laurel Lindsay, Liam Johnson, Lisa Preston, Marg Rose, Maria Schmidt, Matthew C Davidson, Mayor Dean Fortin, Mick Miller, Mike Roma, Molly Heaney-Corns, Nathan Bengey, Nicole Olszewski, Norman Lee, Reine Jensen, Ross Copeland, Sara Wu, Saraugh Wright, Shawn Newby, Shay Boechler, Sheril Mathews, Sherri Andrews, Spencer Bialek, Stephen Thomas, Steven Saunders, Susy Rudkin, Terri Heal, Vanessa Pattison, and Yasmin Yassin.

Our speakers and performers:

Adam Kreek, Alan Cassels, Angela Moran, Bob McDonald, Cameron Fraser, Dave Morris, Ian Mackenzie, Jim Townley, Jose Barrios, Kathryn Calder, Lee-Anne Davies, Marnie Setka-Moonie and the St. Mary’s Childrens Choir, Mary-Wynne Ashford, Mike Vardy, Missie Peters, Rebecca Marino, Sarah Hunt, Tiffany Poirier, Tom Rippon, and Nathan Docksteader (aka Natron).

Title Sponsor

Royal Roads University

Gold Sponsors

Investors Group, Slegg Lumber, Rifflandia Music Festival, and The Zone @ 91.3FM.

In-kind sponsors

Gabriel Ross, Harbour Air Seaplanes, Langham Court Theatre, The Oswego Victoria, Pizzeria Prima Strada, Social Innovators Network, Social Media Camp, Tectoria, The Lavin Speakers Bureau, Tom Lee Music, Total Delivery Systems, VICFest, Victoria Event Center, Wannawafel, Yelp Vancouver, and each of the 50 people who purchased a contributor ticket to the event.

Stage Design Sponsors

André & Associates – Interpretation and Design Ltd., Ross Taylor at Gabriel Ross, Joey MacDonald at InterArts Centre, Kyle Gilmar at Cue42 Productions, Langham Court Theatre, Rande Cook, and Slegg Lumber.

Storyteller, TEDxVictoria Creative Director, Freelance Multimedia Specialist

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