University of Michigan TEDx conference offers life lessons from experienced speakers
Thriving despite naysayers, embracing one's own timeline for success and exploring how moments and individuals are the building blocks of the movements that shape history— those are just a few of the lessons that the 20 speakers at the day-long TedXUofM conference imparted Friday.
This is the fourth year U-M has put on the event.
Speakers ranged from professors to local artists to business owners to U-M students. Each had their own tidbit of wisdom to pass on to the eager crowd.
Ananeti Usoro, a medical student who attended the event, said the speakers were helping students, who are still learning who they are, expand their horizons.
"In my generation a lot of people miss out on life lessons, especially being young" she said. "At a university like this, people are thriving and need to hear that."
In the morning session, Kathryn Clark, a U-M professor who worked for NASA and lived at the International Space Station, spoke to the crowd about the importance of continuing to learn and research.
"What we really lose when we stop reaching for the stars, when we stop trying to accomplish things that are really beyond our current ability, is the idea that we can," she said. "And that's the greatest tragedy of all."
U-M Business professor Robert Quinn encouraged people to see things from new perspectives and commit to "a higher purpose," rather than simply looking for personal success.
"When we embrace a higher purpose, meaning increases in our lives," he said. "Your perspective will be radically changed for a long time."
U-M professor and author Sharon Pomerantz told the story of her first job working as a reporter out of college. She said she was unfulfilled in her work and had a boss that dismissed her as untalented.
"The world is full of unhappy, miserable people who are going to tell you that you will never succeed and you have no talent," she said, "they are all wrong. Only you can determine your future."
For U-M senior Katie Brown, who attended the event with her roommates, Pomerantz' message hit home.
"She's talking about not having a direct life path and how do you go about that," she said. "That's what every college student, or at least me as a senior, is going through right now. She was there once too, and look, she's successful now."
Local author and U-M instructor John Bacon emphasized the ability of a single moment and a single person to change the course of history. "Individuals and moments matter," he said. "The future is truly yours, grab it."
Dan Morse, co-creator and owner of the Beet Box food cart, which operates in Mark's Carts, drew on the struggles he had while launching his food cart to illustrate that entrepreneurism should't be driven by hero worship, which he said creates a "false, crippling standard of perfection."
"While the rest of the world may see us for our public personas, we ourselves can harbor an untold story of doubt," he said.
Oliver Uberti, a former National Geographic designer and U-M alum, told the crowd that everyone's timeline for success is unique. He created a chart of famous artists and creators and found that most composed their masterpieces in their 30s and 40s.
"[Do you] occasionally ask yourself 'Am I past my prime?'" he asked the audience. "We each have a unique timeline in which we plot a unique set of life experiences. So when it comes time to tap into yours, do things the way you, and you alone, do them."
U-M senior Meline Topouzian said she found the messages powerful because the speakers tied their own stories to overarching life lessons.
"People are using their life experiences, making a very personal relay of information to us," she said. "It's great to hear."
Brown added that the conference offered U-M students a new perspective on their professors.
"Everybody is U-M affiliated. It's cool to see them in a different light from teaching... to see these other life experiences," she said.
It's also cool, Topouzian offered, to take a day off from the stressful semester.
"It's nice not to be in class, where grades matter," she said.
The TEDxUofM event takes place until 5 p.m. You can watch a live stream here. Videos of the talks will be uploaded online afterward.