So I think you are all aware of my love affair with TED.

TED is my comfort food: my gummy bears, my frozen bananas with sprinkles.

TED is my professor: my education, my mentor, my fountain of knowledge.

TED is my friend: my jogging partner, my advice, my road trip buddy.

TED is my lover: my inspiration, my great big hug, my challenger.

If TED was a house, I would live in it. If TED was a tomato, I would chop it up, make caprese salad, and stuff myself with it.

So you must understand when the second annual TED was announced, my elation knew no bounds.

I submitted my application within seconds of getting the email, and now I am here, joined by more than 1200 fellow students, professors, and other members of my community, waiting for the mind-molding to begin.

Here’s how TEDx works (and if you don’t go watch a video at TED.com immediately after watching this, you are hereby banned from my blog):

  • USC, inspired buy the TED revolution, wanted to create their own TED event, drawing upon the immense talent of individuals on campus and in the USC community.
  • So they asked the most compelling individuals, challenging them to give the “talk of their lives” in 18 minutes or less.

If you had 18 minutes or less, what would you say?

The real beauty of TEDx: you and me and he and she can put on a TEDx event anytime. TED is a democracy and everyone can play.

It allows schools, companies, even groups of friends to provide a platform for unique ideas and inspiration. What began in this Southern California university has now spread across cities, states, and countries. There are now TEDx events everywhere from Memphis to Stockholm to Rio de Janeiro.

So it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to TEDxUSC:

To warm up your brain, let’s play a game. I’ll give you this roman numeral


Add one line to make the number value 12…

And you get:


Now take this roman numeral, and add one line to make the numeral value  6…



Still scratching your head?

Here’s the answer:


A little bit of expertise gets in the way of a clever solution, now doesn’t it?

With that, I would like to introduce the great speakers I got to listen to at TEDxUSC.

These speakers hailed from many different fields: from robotics to social work, linguistics to neurology, adventure seeking to astronomy, and even one individual who had no field to speak of.

Even more compelling than their fields of interest or their individual projects was the fact that these speakers, as do just about all of the TED speakers

{ D E F Y     F E A R}

They take the ideas and thoughts that we fear the most and they turn them into productivity, creativity. Most importantly, they use that power, that power one gets from telling fear to





to harness an energy that can create change on a massive scale throughout the world.

To begin, we will take the most obvious fear:

{D E A T H}

T H E   H U M A N    B I R D

If you didn’t watch this video, Jeb is a base jumper. But in this video, we see something a little different than typical base jumping. Using a squirrel suit, Jeb scrapes over the cliff faces of massive empires of mountains, brushing hairs with death at every moment.

He is flying.

Like a bird.

Jeb says he goes into it expecting death.

But it feels so damn good.

Maybe we’re not all built to jump out of airplanes. But Jeb’s words of wisdom are golden, especially coming from someone who, after watching his video, you can only assume to be completely out of his mind.

“The lead up to it is usually the most intimidating part. And standing on the edge of the helicopter, that’s when the real fear sets in.

Once you leave and you START TO FLY, all you’re thinking about is


When Jeb jumps off a building, or out of an airplane, or in one case through the center of the Eiffel Tower after doing a double-reverse flip

He doesn’t think it’s going to work

He knows it’s going to work.

Jeb says he has the same kind of fear as everybody else. He is no stronger, no stupider, no braver. The only difference between Jeb Corliss and you (assuming you’re not mildly insane) or me is that he has learned how to control his fears.

You can either let fear control you, or you can learn to control it.

Jeb’s newest endeavor?

Jumping out of an aircraft and landing on the ground without deploying a parachute.

But don’t worry Mrs. Corliss, he’s got NASA engineers working on it, so it’ll be all good.

{R E J E C T I O N}

5 0 J O B S. 5 0 S T A T E S. 5 0 W E E K S.

After being rejected more than 5000 times, Daniel Seddiqui no longer fears rejection.

His biggest fear?

Filing taxes in all 50 states.

With only one more semester left at USC and still no internship prospects for my last and most important (work experience-wise) summer of college, hearing Daniel talk about graduating from USC with an Economics degree and having no money, no jobs, and no prospects of a job was slightly disheartening. If Daniel couldn’t get a job with an Econ degree, then I definitely won’t get a job with an International Relations degree!

So, in the face of seemingly zero opportunities, Daniel asked,

Where are all the opportunities in this great country?

And he set out to get

50 JOBS in

50 STATES in


And he did.

He chose very stereotypical jobs in each and every state. For example:

Colorado    |     Hydrologist

South Dakota   |     Radio Announcer

Nevada     |     Officiated Weddings

Oregon    |    Logger

Kansas    |    Meatpacker

New Orleans    |    Bartender

Kentucky    |     Horse Farm

Vermont    |     Tapped Maple Syrup

Florida    |    Egyptian Stilt Walker

West Virgina    |     Coal Miner

Pennsylvania    |    Furniture-maker for the Amish

California    |     Worked in a Winery

Maine    |     Lobster Fisherman

Hawaii    |     Surfing Instructor

Living in a different city each week, sometimes with cowboys or the Amish or Cheeseheads, sometimes in pueblos or resorts or trailer parks, Daniel had to learn how to adapt to different situations, cultures, and even languages.

All in his own country.

His biggest lessons?

Be Persistent.

Take Risks.

Have Endurance.

Network (like there’s no tomorrow)

The more people he met, the more opportunities he created.

He created.

The job search isn’t about letting people give you a job. It’s about getting a job.

I was complaining the other day about how I have so much to offer, but have not been given the chances to succeed. Sorry me, but that’s BS. Plain and simple.

We create our own success. If we want something, we better go and get it.

Daniel had more jobs than most USC graduates will ever have. Given, they were mostly menial labor jobs, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t acquire skills and experiences that will help him succeed in the future.

His voyage wreaked of uncertainty. But he used that to his advantage.

“It’s all up to you,” says Daniel. “You choose your own destiny. It’s all about self-drive and self-motivation. When I ran cross-country at USC, the coach gave me all the advice and instruction that I needed. But when that gun when off

it was all up to me.”

{ C H A N G E }


Space is far away.

I mean really far away.

And I rarely think about it.

But for Nick Patrick, space feels like home.

He just recently returned from the International Space Station, where he was installing the final piece of the station, a bay window for the spacecraft which provides a panoramic view of….

The Earth, The Moon, The Stars.

And you thought your beachfront oceanview timeshare in Cabo was a sweet deal.

Nick spoke of the value of the scientific motives behind space exploration. But more than that, he says, the value of going into outer space is about

Learning how to live there.

It’s about changing your perspectives, and everything you know and are comfortable with, to live in a different environment.

Space, for Nick, is about the unique perspective that comes from both the view and the challenges.

Nick tells us about the behavior he had to change in order to adapt to life in space:

You have to learn how to hold on. Gravity has taken a leave of absence.

You have to learn how not to hold on. Float gracefully, and you won’t get lost in space.

You have to re-learn how to eat. Your spoon of Space Yogurt must carefully make the journey from the packet to your mouth.

Real estate is limited, so you make do. Nick has discovered the perfect piece of wasted real estate to sleep on: the ceiling.

Things drop up. If you drop a pen, it won’t be down on the floor, where you look for it.

Think globally. Literally.

Nick has experienced change in norms and lifestyle to an extent that many of us can only imagine.

But he says, that change is relative; and space is the perfect place to think about change.

Innovation is a force which changes the world.

It should also be a force for not letting the world change.”

{ T H E   U N K N O W N }

T H E    R E A L   A V A T A R

Paul Frommer is a professor at USC.

He created Na’vi, the language spoken in Avatar.

He jumps on stage, disappointingly flesh-colored and tail-less. But his tongue clicks and foreign sounds convinced me of his Avatar status.

You can learn some Na’vi too:

Kaltxií _____ Hello

(Make a t-sound without breathing out and quickly add a vowel)

Oel ngati kameie ______ I see you

(prounounced well nati kamaye)

Ngaru lu fpom srak? ______ How are you?

(srak implies question)

Nga za’u fitseng pxim srak? ­­______ Do you come here often?

Ngeyä ____ lor lu nitxan ­­_______ Your __ is/are very beautiful

Menarí ______ Eyes

Meseyrí ______ Lips

Key ______ Face

Kxetse ______ Tail

Lrrtok ______ Smile

Nga yawne lu oer _______ I love you.

(prounounced Nya yawnee lu where)

Eywa ngahu _______ Eywa be with you.

{ D I F F E R E N T }

T H I N K S    L I K E   A    C O W

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the live version of Temple Grandin, but we did get to watch her TED Talk, and so can you:

Temple Grandin has been instrumental in making slaughtering methods more humane in the United States.


Because she thinks like an animal.

“My mind works like Google Images,” she says.

She is severely autistic. But she loves the fact that she’s different, and she’s not afraid to show it.

In fact, she says:

The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.

Watch the trailer for the new HBO Temple Grandin movie starring Claire Danes:

{ L O S S }


Johanna Blakely, the Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center gets on stage, looking cute as a button.

She tells a story of Mario Prada, who is shopping at a vintage store in Paris, and finds a jacket that he absolutely loves. He begins to examine it very closely. His friend suggests that he buy it. Prada responds, “I’m not just going to buy it. I’m going to

replicate it.”

Despite what you might think (and what I assumed), Prada’s plan is perfectly legal.

The fashion industry has no copyright protection and no patent protection. Trademark protection is the only way to preserve you property via your logo, which results in the Louis Vuitton logo plastered all over every product.

Blakely explains that apparel design is considered too utilitarian to qualify for copyright protection?

Can you imagine if Armani had patented the shirt collar?

We usually assume that without ownership, there is no incentive to innovate. But actually,

Industries that operate without copyright laws have significantly higher sales revenue than industries that operate with copyright laws.

What else can’t be copyrighted?

–      Hairdos

–      Magic Tricks

–      Tattoo Artists

–      Open source technology

–      Recipes

–      Firework displays

–      Cars

–      Perfume fragrances

–      Databases

The lack of ownership in the fashion industry, and other industries, has actually created a more OPEN CREATIVE PROCESS.

After all, who owns a look? Who owns a trend?

Without ownership, designers have to up their game, search for individuality, and keep creating new looks that are more innovative and unique than their competition.

Fun fact: Jazz musician Charlie Parker once said that the reason he created bebop was because he thought it would be too difficult for white musicians to copy.

He wanted to be unique. So he upped the ante.

So, Johanna asks, what is the kind of ownership model in this age that’s going to lead to the most innovation?

Is loss of ownership really that much of a loss in the long term?

Read more about Johanna’s project at www.readytoshare.org.

{ L O N E L I N E S S }

A    R O B O T ‘ S    P L A Y D A T E

To introduce Maya, Bandit the robot wheels on stage, donning his red and gold USC sweatshirt, ready to take charge.

Bandit is a social robot and a result of the work of Maja and her colleagues at the USC Interaction Lab.

Maja and Bandit believe that social robots can be used to vastly improve human health and the quality of life.

Today in the United States, people suffer from:

800,000 strokes / year

16 million cases of Alzheimer’s Disease

1 in 100 children diagnosed with Autism

Perhaps Bandit can’t give you a huge when you’re feeling down, but there are a lot of things he can do without any physical contact.

Monitoring: robots are capable of early detection of conditions, and can dramatically reduce the risk of injury

Coaching: they can help stroke patients, for example, regain and retain function

Motivation: they push you to stick to your therapy, motivate you to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Companionship: can be effective for combating isolation and depression

Bandit and his robot friends have already been applied to real-life situations.

They have helped stroke patients with their therapy, resulting in patients performing longer when exercising.

They have provided monitoring for the elderly as well as companionship.

They have coached autistic children to help detect social cues and help the child relate in a peer-to-peer like fashion.

Not convinced?

I watched Bandit direct Maja to do certain physical exercises and monitored her performance.

And don’t worry, Bandit even tells jokes.

Read more about the Interaction Lab’s work:


{ C H A O S }

P L A Y S    W I T H  M A R B L E S

If you have ever seen an OK Go music video, then you know that they are incredibly fun and creative.

For their newest single, “This Too Shall Pass,” they approached Adam Sadowski at Synn Labs.

They wanted him to build a machine.

But not just any machine.

The machine.

This machine had to do a number of things, Adam’s so-called “10 Commandments” of the machine:

1)    No “magic.” This had to clearly be real.

2)   Band integration

3)   Machine action should follow the feeling of the song

4)   Must make use of the space (a giant warehouse)

5)   Had to be MESSY

6)   The machine must start the music

7)   It must be synched to the rhythm and hit specific beats of the song

8)   Must end precisely on time

9)   Should play part of the song.

And the kicker…

10)                  Had to be done in ONE SHOT!

So, the machine featured in the video has:

–      Has 89 machine interactions

–      Took 85 takes

–      Only 3 successful runs

–      Destroyed 2 pianos and 10 tvs

–      Required over 100 trips to Home Depot

–      Claimed the high heel shoe of a creator

Talk about fear of chaos. You’ll see.

And so, on behalf of Adam Sadowski, I give you the machine:

I wish I had time to show you all of the speakers; better yet, I wish I could give you the pleasure of seeing all these talks in real life!

But these are some GREAT HIGHLIGHTS! Of course I couldn’t forget about Skip Rizzo, who designed new virtual technologies to help psychiatrists and social workers, or Peter Erskine’s fabulous drumming from the USC Drum Lab, or Leslie Saxon’s internal defibrillator, the iPad of defibrillators, or any of the other great speakers.

But I thought I’d share how others, as Jeb put it,

Control their fears.

I hope you’ve been inspired by these ideas worth sharing.

Visit TED.com to watch more TED Talks. Please!

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dane Ensley, Johanna Blakley. Johanna Blakley said: A nice summary of the talks at #TEDxUSC (apparently I looked "cute as a button") http://j.mp/9BclSA […]

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