Event Review: My 9 Takeaways from TEDx Brisbane 2013

Before I even had time to find somewhere to live since moving back to Australia after 6 months abroad in the United Kingdom I found myself at TEDx Brisbane to learn, be inspired and reconnect with the city that I was moving back to. Considering the videos will all be uploaded in due course rather than talk about every speaker I thought I’d share my 9 takeaways from TEDx Brisbane 2013.

1. Familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. After spending the best part of six months on the other side of the world with hundreds of people I’d just met sometimes it’s nice to come home and be surrounded by people you know. Within the first 10 minutes of arriving at the State Library I’d bumped into someone from my HR circle of contacts, my mate and cofounder of Soften The Fck Up & one of my oldest friends who I’ve known for over 10 years. As much as I love meeting new people and new experiences it’s always great to catch up and hang out with the people who been with you from the start.

2. Great things can come from a time of pain. Professor Justin Cooper-White from The University of Queensland told a heart breaking story of how his own family’s experience of losing loved ones led him to research regenerative medicine and finally answer the question, can you mend a broken heart? Justin’s talk made me think about the fact that sometimes it takes a personal experience of pain to have the inspiration and drive to take on and tackle a big problem.

3. Be a teacher. One of my all time favourite people (a blog post dedicated to him coming soon) recently gave the occasional address at the university he attended and told the graduating students to be a teacher at some stage in the 20s. Whether that is in the formal setting of a school or just in your everyday life, he encourage us to look for ways to share the knowledge that you’re lucky enough to know & have been taught. This is something that really hit home for me at TEDx. Even though I was there to learn and be inspired there is also a great opportunity to teach and inspire others. In attendance was a passionate and engaged set of students from a multitude of disciplines. I used this as an opportunity to pass on some of the advice that I’d received about navigating your way out of university and into the ‘real world’.

4. You don’t have to be boring to make a big difference. Two of the stand out speakers of the day were young men who decided to take on big industry and very traditional products in a bold and innovative way with the aim of doing so for social good. This is something that I’ve had experience in myself with my own social change campaign, so it was truly inspiring to see other’s who are also taking this approach. I’ll discuss the two talks in more detail below.

5. Who gives a crap?  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Simon Griffiths first mentioned that he wanted to create a social change campaign based on toilet paper. I’m sure someone would have told him it’s a shit idea… But all jokes aside it was actually a combination of crowd funding and potty humour that got the campaign off the ground. The team needed $50k up front in order to purchase the necessary inventory to get the campaign started. Stumping up the cash themselves would have been incredibly risky so Simon decided to start a crowd funding campaign where he would sit on a toilet which was being livestreamed out to the world and would do so until the money had been raised & products ordered.

Not only did they raise the necessary money they also gained widespread media attention that is crucial for a campaign on a limited budget. One of my biggest takeaways from the talk was this incredibly tweetable quote that all change makers should remember, “Don’t run a guilt driven campaign where you alienate the people who can’t support you financially by giving them a way to contribute emotionally, physically, digitally and verbally.”

6. The greatest thinkers should still be challenged. One of the speakers spoke about Andrew Carnegie and his mantra for life which was learn, then make money then give it away. Whilst certainly a noble way to live your life I’d challenge the leaders of tomorrow to do all three at once. I’m always learning and trying to hone my skills, whilst earning some money for my skills and looking at ways to be able to give back what I’ve got to help others.

7. How do you start a water company? Continuing on from point four about bold and innovative campaigns the other speaker that fits into this category was Daniel Flynn who cofounded Thankyou Water. The campaign is a timely reminder that just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. And to answer the question, how do you start a water company? You google it obviously!

8. Acknowledge sameness. Anita Heiss impressed me on several different levels. She used her way with words to deliver her talk with an infectious rhyming pattern and rap beat that had the audience hooked. But what was even more impressive than the way she delivered her talk was what she actually spoke about. I’ll let you watch the video when it’s posted online but in summary she told the audience to acknowledge sameness. Connect over what’s the same as someone else as opposed to always identifying what’s different.

9. Will Gen Y ever retire? Some people will read this and probably freak out but I actually think this is an exciting opportunity for organisations and for individuals. Dr Stefan Hajowicz from the CSIRO spoke about the megatrends that will impact us moving forward, things like the experience economy I’ve blogged about before, but it’s the death of the retirement age that really stood out for me. The retirement age doesn’t phase me one bit due to the same reasons I put forward in takeaway 6, my life is going to be one of balance and I don’t believe that putting everything off to some golden age of retirement is the way a life should be lived. I’m not the only one who thinks this though, Stefan Sagmeister also has the same philosophy and has applied it not only to his life but to the life of his employees where he encourages them to take time off every five years (see below). This is something that I’ll certainly try to apply to my life where possible. A life of learning, travel, work, side projects, teaching and valuing experiences over possessions.

Work/life Span.


TEDx Brisbane
was certainly the best way to be welcomed back to Brisbane and left me excited about the work I have ahead of me and knowing that Brisbane is in safe hands with so many talented and passionate people calling this city home.

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