Courage & Resilience: TEDxSF opening comments

Per request, here are the opening remarks from the 4/27/2010 TEDxSF event, Courage and Resilience, held at the Cal Academy of Sciences. Thank you to all speakers, guests, volunteers and attendees. I will put up links to videos as soon as they are ready.

It’s 5:30, the sun is hinting at the sky, you’re in deep early morning problem solving, until the free ranging mind is overtaken by the beck and call of living and working: A dog barks to be let out, your feet hit the floor, the coffee’s put on, the laundry changed up, and it builds from there.

That day you may find great love, fight with your sister, get the news that your white blood cell count is too low. Your phone or router or printer or laptop may power down inexplicably. There may be a speeding ticket; a child in the emergency room; a sudden death of a great aunt. An inexplicably overdrawn bank account from having eaten at the local pizza shack and getting your debit card caught in an international scam. A summons. You may be fired, or there may be a moment of brilliance, or a leak in the kitchen ceiling… a plane crash, an earthquake….a volcano. Oh, and your taxes are due. And your wife has left you. And your investments have dried up, and there are rabid white people protesting health care in the street outside your window.

What determines whether this thing called living makes some people walk away, give up, drop out, settle, get bitter, turn to drugs, get overpowered by any number of systems? Why are some almost organically short-circuited by trauma, or deadened? Whereas others lay new wires, build new circuits, dig deeper, transform, lead change as a result of what happens to them?

Why are some people zealously able to focus on their mission in the face of all kinds of subtle and overt repressive efforts- whether as minor as social disapproval or as major as imprisonment, harassment or physical threat?

How are these ideas related to tenacity, and the long arc of a lifetime of achievement? Whether it someone known, like wonderful TED prize winner EO Wilson who, after a lifetime of scientific leadership, has just published his first novel… or unknown, like the Sansomes, a beautiful couple in their 80s who run a sustainable Christmas Tree Farm together in the Sierras, and rise each day to plant baby sequoias to restore the forests? How do they do it?

Is the difference in character, genetics, beliefs, experiences? A combination of those? Something else?

All of these questions were in our mind when we set the theme for this TEDx.

Neither Courage nor resilience by themselves seemed to be adequate. It was the two in combination: Resilience, that effortless almost physical property of systemic bounce back, and its more conscious relative, courage- the act of taking heart and stepping again, even when you’d just rather not.

We could have taken these topics at any number of levels: resilient communities, in an ecosystem- how can we create resilient and courageous cultures? But ultimately, in TED fashion, we chose to show case individuals, as that somehow roll up into the greater whole of our human systems.

As these wonderful speakers share their stories, we invite you not to sit back and be entertained, not to think is this speaker good or bad, not to judge, but to interact… to dance with the speakers ideas, to listen deeply. Maybe actively considering your own cosmology and belief systems, how you interpret things, what meaning do you attach to them, and what impact that is having on how you are able to show up.

Tonight it is our hope that you will step out of your daily routine in true TED fashion, taking a big renewing breath, and opening your mind to roam into the oceans, into the genetic code, into Love & Aging, into the heart of the Entrepreneur, into the land of Terror and Peacekeeping, into the territory of fighting and coming back with dignity and purpose, into the magic of music and spoken word. It’s our intention that you will leave with more ideas about what it means to be courageous, to be resilient; with new stories to share; and with new friends and connections that will produce an impact in each others lives, and in our world.

TO SEE SPEAKERS and video archives:

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