TEDx 2011

TEDx Penn was an independently organized TED event held at the Annenberg Center for the Performing arts last Friday (Oct 7, 2011). In case you didn’t know, TED is a nonprofit organization that supports people with innovative and interesting ideas who want to make a change in the world. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Gordon Brown.

TEDx is a program that is of similar goals to TED, except it is run locally so the speakers are within a similar area to each other, and the event is run independently. TED videos are also shown, and there is a general spirit of the desire to share ideas and spark creative thinking.

This year, the theme was “imagining reality.” This theme was chosen because of its interesting paradoxical nature: There is a lot of great work out there, but little people know about it. What can us attendees do to make our imagination a reality?

The lineup of speakers consisted of officials from Penn who were all interesting speakers with captivating ideas to present. Topics ranged from internet technology to cancer research and angiogenesis. The first session was led by Adam Grant, a teacher at the Wharton School. His presentation was wittily titled “HappiMess,” and was about why trying to be happy actually makes us unhappy. He gave four reasons for this irony:

  1. People are bad at predicting what makes them happy. It is much more about changing actions than changing circumstances.
  2. Flow is a concept of being so enwrapped in a moment that we don’t even realize we’re happy. This is unattainable if we pay too much attention towards happiness-seeking.
  3. We become self-focused when we look for happiness.
  4. When you try to be happy, it raises your expectations and makes it tougher to attain.

So what is the solution? To avoid a “HappiMess,” we must change actions, not circumstances. We must shift from evaluating to experiencing flow. We must pursue happiness in social experiences, not individual achievements. We must aim for frequent joy, not the intensity of the joy. We must keep our peripheral vision open.

Lastly, we must attend Tedx next year—that wasn’t part of his presentation but is true, nonetheless. Thanks to the TEDx Penn Committee for sponsoring such a successful event!

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