Last Saturday, November 26th, I had the honour to attend the first TEDxSFU at the Surrey campus along with other 99 super awesome participants. I have been quite excited to attend it since I first attended TEDxVancouver with Michael, a good friend of mine who happened to be the TEDxSFU licensee as well, in 2009. I must say the event on Saturday ran very smoothly. The speakers were all so passionate in their field and are brilliant story tellers. I have learnt so much that it was hard to write/tweet while listening to them at the same time. There were so many quotes and tweets going on during the event and I favourited them to save as an archive for me to read whenever I need that motivational boost. 


The first presentation I watched was by Quyn Le, who was blind ever since she was a toddler and went through an unimaginable escape journey from Vietnam to Vancouver. She spoke very gently but her words resonated well throughout the afternoon and even until now. Though she was once an immigrant, she didn’t let herself to be the victim of her life. She said we have to make our own path and destiny. She has done so by living authentically and be grateful for every single thing. She can’t see the eyes, which are known for the windows to the soul, but she understands the mind which is the gate to every heart and soul. It is truly amazing what she has done with her capabilities. Every day she pushes the boundary and tries to make a difference in the world. I was humbled by her humility and reflected on the things I have taken for granted. At the end of her presentation, she said “there is no path, leave trails for others to follow” and that certainly is in parallel with my dandelion theory so I shall adapt that and keep leaving trails for others.

The morning then continued with Adora Svitak, a presenter at TED Conference. We watched her enthusiasm and maturity as a child through the video streamed in the big screen. She challenged adults to be like kids who dream about perfection, utopia almost. To make something to bea reality, you have to dream it first. It’s true. Children know no limitation. My nephew drew trees out of cotton candies, colouring it with all his crayons. Everything is possible for them, but not for us. We have lost our sense of imagination and creativity that can push innovation. Instead, we grew tired and unmotivated. We listened to our own lies, but we don’t listen to others. To show you care, you listen. This reminds me of Catherine Blyth‘s theory that we have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly she said.

Up next was Duane Elverum. To be quite honest, I didn’t write much about him nor Martin Laba. However, I like the first question Duane asked, “When was your most engaged and memorable experience?” I thought hard on this question and still couldn’t find an answer. It’s really hard to think of one, really. I shall get back to this question in the near future. As for Martin, he came up after Trisha, and the only few advices I got from his were: be rigorous in your research, communicate with honesty, and the essence of communication is telling a story.

Okay, so before Martin, there was Trisha Baptie. When she first went down to the stage, I really did not know what to expect. I did not know who this woman was and have never heard of her. When she started telling her background story, of how she used to be a prostitute, it captivated me. She had friends who ended up in Pickton’s pig farm and she was hurt many times while she was on the “job”. After 20 years, she said enough is enough and got into rehabilitation program. She invited the whole audience to imagine what life would be like if prostitution was illegal. She told us a story told by her friend’s grandma’s grandma, about women bathing in the river when suddenly a stream of babies just flowing down. They took all the babies out of the river as fast as they could and dry them up. One woman then stood up and walked up the river. Her friend called out and said “where are you going? Come back and help us get these babies out of the river.” That woman said “No. I’m going up to the mouth of the river and find out where these babies coming from so I can stop them.” This story was a great wakeup call for me. There are so many agencies giving aids abundantly to the homeless, drug users, hungry, poor, etc. But there are very few of them actually went up the river to solve the actual issue even before it happens. Amazing.

Nick Black shared some tips about trusts and here are the 6 drivers of trust according to him: stability (family, background), innovation (what are you doing today), relationships and practical value (have to deliver value), vision and competence. I agree with all of these six drivers of trust and will be looking forward to introduce myself in such manner to establish some sort of credentials and trust. 

After lunch, the show went on with Ajay Puri. He open sourced his dad, how cool is that. Ha! He planned and executed an event with 10,000+ attendees by asking each community what they want to do, instead of telling them what to do. I think there’s a great lesson to be learn there. So many times, we are so abusive of our powers that we assign people to do what we think they are supposed to do, instead of really listen to what they want to do. He used what happened in his garden as a piece of thought “we can’t control seeds, but we can nurture them” and “think beyond 5-10 year goals; think what impacts would these tiny seeds would have in 500 years.” I definitely love his humour and metaphor! 

He was followed by Colleen Hardwick and then Richard Loat. Richard talked about creating an experience and emotion because a cause is just a cause until you put an emotion to it. I’m really amazed at what he has done of how he found a way to marry his passion. He has traveled across Canada with such a great cause and a huge passion in what he does. He reminded us to find that child-like optimism in us once again and to never take no as answer. 

Sam Thiara, as expected, got a loud cheer when he came in to the room. He talked about how extraordinary is a matter of perspective and if it matters to us, then it must be extraordinary. It relates back to what Richard Loat just talked about. Be persistent and you can accomplish it. I find it quite difficult actually to be persistent because there are so many new things are introduced in such a rapidly growing world today, but I know I have to reflect upon myself and figure out what I really care about and
be persistent about it. It’s not enough to make a good first impression, but what really matters is if we can make a lasting foot print and we can do so by sharing our vision, understanding out choices and limitations, and once again, persistence. We, too, need to find the door stopper or wooden wedges in our life that can open doors for us. While we do so though, we have to stay curious, be appreciative, reflect often, have diffferent perspectives, and gain experience. He ended his presentation with his famous quote, “Your life is an autobiography, make yours worth reading.

The two most anticipated presenters for me for this event were Jim Chu and John Furlong. I have read so much about them, yet never heard them speak about anything other than their job before. Unfortunately, Jim Chu sticked to what he understood best and talked about Vancouver riot 2011. He did make it very relevant to the young generation by emphasizing the importance of social media during the riot and post-riot and how the police is handling it. It was interesting to hear about the riot from the police perspective, but I was hoping to hearing more about his leadership style and how he got to where he is now. John Furlong, on the other hand, was so humble and genuine that if I didn’t know from before, wouldn’t have believed he was the CEO of Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. He encouraged each one of us to have a vision to wake us up excitedly in the morning and drive us to be the person we want to be. Like Sam Thiara, he told us to live out our life as if our whole story will be read at our funeral. He gave some tips on how to live a meaningful life, which includes being humble and being a good person. He strongly encouraged us, the leaders of tomorrow, to always lead with dignity and demonstrate to people that you deserve to be followed. He was very humble and authentic. He didn’t seem bureaucratic or distant at all. He spoke to us like a grandfather almost, telling the stories of his exciting life and giving us tips on how to survive on this world of chaos.

Dr. Julio Montaner, the director of BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS is definitely one of the most celebrated and popular Canadian today. To hear him speak and to be just few metres away from him was such an honour. He presentes us with the HIV data and proudly showed the decreasing rate of HIV in the past few years. A whole lot can change with just a single test. Speaking about test, they actually did a live demo of the HIV test on stage. It was a quick process. Check out their website to learn more about how HIV is different now.

Takaiya Blaney is young enough to be John’s grand daughter and I wouldn’t really be surprised if they were actually family. She was really bright and thoughtful at the age of 10. She even sang a song for us that still resonated in my mind until today. She wrote and beautifully sang “stop waiting for tomorrow. Stop living yesterday, because there won’t be tomorrow if we don’t change today.” She was right. We drink more gas than we drink water today, and we need to change that by using our voice to speak up and make a difference. If a 10-years old kid is making a difference, why can’t we?

My boss, Ryan Holmes, spoke last at the event. He spoke about the revolution in technology. It took phones 91 years, TV 21 years, cellphones 17 years to reach 10 million users. In contrast, i tonly took social media 4 years and Google+ only sixteen days! Holy! Social media is definitely an interesting new terrain that everybody is still exploring on, including myself. There are so many different things, both for personal and professional use, that we can do with it and it is really up to us what we want to do with it.

All 7.5 hours of presentation after presentation, certainly did not feel too long. It almost felt like it’s not enough! I wanted more awesomeness and more positive energy, but I left the room feeling empowered. I look forward to next year’s TEDxSFU and other TEDx around GRVD. We need more of this! Props to the organizers of TEDxSFU and for all the attendees for making the day so well worth my time and money (it was only $25!). Thank you to all the speakers for sharing your experiences and things you picked up along the way. You were all such an inspiration. 




One thought on “#TEDxSFU

  1. Pingback: I’ll be speaking at @TEDxKidsBC! | Blogged Thoughts of Stephawie

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