TEDxRVA: Redefining Inspiration and Creativity

Inspiration and creativity can come from many sources – an elementary art teacher, a cross-country runner, a 16-year-old student, a gold medal Olympian, or even a mom. Simply by listening to others’ ideas, passions, struggles and triumphs, we too can experience the real moments of strangers, reflect on them and become inspired by their example.

Richmond hosted its inaugural TEDxRVA event last Friday where 500 members of the Richmond community came together to listen and react to a curated host of talks and fascinating stories from a  line-up of innovative creatives, storytellers, entrepreneurs, athletes and community leaders. In this open forum setting, the audience and speakers engaged in a showcase of ideas that stirred actions. With each of the speakers’ unique experiences, the audience was encouraged to step into their shoes and reflect on how their ideas might translate into our own realities. It was a sensory overload – excitement, humor, sorrow and success. The audience laughed, cried, was brought to chills and was challenged to think about redefining themselves as innovators and doers.

For example, James Walker, founder of Dead Bicycles, discovered an often unnoticed object on the streets of Richmond and used it to cause social interaction and local awareness. When no one else did, Walker saw that Richmond streets are littered with bicycles locked to street signs and poles. These bikes left by their former owners frequently had their wheels stolen, leaving the naked metal frames to lie useless. In an effort to call attention to these unnoticed bicycles, he scoured the city shrouding left-behind bikes to show appreciation and love for them. Soon, others noticed the memorials and began leaving flowers and letters of gratitude. One bicycle and shroud was even cremated. Walker noticed a mundane item that many walk past every day without a second thought and created a new awareness for and appreciation of bicycles in the city of Richmond.

Oddly enough, following the TEDxRVA event, I was walking a street in Richmond and noticed a lonely bike frame locked to a pole. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have noticed it had I not heard Walker’s talk. It caused me to question what else goes unnoticed in my everyday life that I could bring attention to and use to inspire others.

Many words of wisdom and advice on creating and inspiring others were shared at TEDxRVA. These are some of my favorite experiences and tips.

  1. To be creative is to be alive. Brian Andreas, artist and writer behind StoryPeople, says that if you are more concerned about working hard to be creative, you’ll end up less creative. Live your life and more creativity will come naturally. Build it from within your bones and encourage others to do the same, because the more you engage, the more creative you’ll become.
  2.  If you imagine it, then do it. Just say yes to any idea you have. Elementary art teacher Julie Crowder felt inspired to show love and gratitude for the city of Richmond in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. She asked her students, neighbors and friends to write on a construction paper heart what they love about Richmond and stick it in their yard. It spread like wild fire through the city.
  3.  Get out of your comfort zone – vulnerability inhibits creativity. Zoe Romano, runner and philanthropist, says it’s easy to be vulnerable, but difficult to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. With disciplined determination, she set the goal of running across the country and achieved it.
  4.  Avoid complacency and predicting the future. Sheryl Connely, global trends manager and futurist for Ford Motor Company, says that by default you’ll be forced to become much more nimble and much more prepared to naturally allow creative to happen.
  5.  Suspend judgment and within the chaos, you’ll find genius. Ivy Ross, artist and CMO of Art.com, says allow yourself to play. Many people think the opposite of play is work, but really it’s depression. Understanding the patterns of possibility makes you fearless to express what you really feel.

After attending TEDxRVA and learning from such a diverse group of people, I am newly inspired, moved and encouraged to redefine myself as an innovator and a doer. Taking from these lessons, I plan to pay closer attention to things that I usually pass by and consider ways that I can bring awareness to an issue that is important to me. I also plan to say yes to more ideas that come to mind and opportunities that arise. And, I hope to inspire others by sharing my own experiences and ideas without hesitation or fear of being judged.

If you’re interested in finding a TEDx program near you, visit www.ted.com/tedx.

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