TEDx Vienna “Unlimited”: How far can you go?

It’s particularly difficult to blog about TED events as it’s almost impossible to capture the diversity and awesomeness of 17 talks in one blogpost. So, I’d like to talk about three personal take-aways from yesterday’s inspiring TEDx Vienna “Unlimited” which aimed at exploring the limits of life, science, society and inventions and attracted a record crowd of 800 attendees in Vienna’s Volkstheater.

Firstly, Ian Usher who put his whole life up for sale on eBay in 2008, then started a new life with a bucket list of 100 lifetime goals that he achieved within 100 weeks and recently bought a Carribbean island and sold his movie rights to Walt Disney talked about living an unlimited lifestyle which he defines as a life without compromise. In order to step out of his comfort zone, he had to realize that what excites you, will make you happy.

As the first step is always the hardest one, it had to be “the best question in the world” that made him overcome his limits: “What is your life’s mission statement?” Similar to a company’s mission statement, he asked himself “What is your life about?” and “What are you supposed to be doing?”. Together with the bonus question “What excites you?” (“What is your passion?” and “What is there, deep in your heart?”) this question is definitely one that we should ask ourselves regularly, especially when we’re feeling stuck in our daily routines, monotonous jobs and other contraints.

Indeed, whenever I get to know truly inspiring people at TED talks, storytelling events or in private conversations, I always get the impression that these people are following their passion and that having found a purpose in their lives makes them happy, thereby also serving as role models for others who still have to overcome their limits or expectations from their peers and society.

Secondly, Martha Merrow gave one of those really interesting talks about something that we take for granted: our biological or circadian (meaning “about a day” in Latin) clock which regulates the timing of our behaviour. In this regard, our genes, our age and the light make up our chronotype which can be fundamentally different than your neighbours’ chronotypes, thereby causing so-called “social jetlag” because of different ages, daily rhythms, etc.

Actually, because of the different light, we are even different people morning and evening – something most people probably have never though about (except if they’re confronted with this fact in a relationship or other situation). So, I really appreciated Martha’s advice to get to know yourself and to have different chronotypes in mind when interacting with other people.

Thirdly, Michael Stevens probably gave the most inspiring and entertaining talk, centered around the question “Why do we ask questions?”. The  creator and host of the famous Vsauce Youtube channel wants to bring people in with a great question such as “What if everyone jumped at once?“, “What color is a mirror?“, “Is your red the same as my red?” or “Why are things creepy?“, to make them curios and then to tell them a lot about an issue.

But why do people care about these questions, especially if they are generally considering learning as boring? According to Michael, people simply love a good explanation and anything can be interesting to anyone if you just look closely enough and take the time to explore how it affects someone. So, his trick to education would be to teach in a way that people find out too late that they’re learning.

While this might not always be easy to achieve, his talk once again taught me two things about the future of education: First, that discussions about the future of our education system should probably focus less on institutions but more on new ways of teaching and empowering young people to stay curious, explore the world and follow their interests and passion. And second, that there are unlimited exciting ways to learn something out there in the web, whether it’s online courses, youtube channels, Wikipedia or anything else that enables our generation to overcome any educational barriers.

Last but not least, let me just mention some of the other speakers and topics, as it would be unfair not to talk about them given their great ideas and insights: Mark Kramer who overcame the limits of cancer, Barack Obama’s half-sister Auma Obama who wants to redefine sustainable development and empower young people to take ownership of their lives or Mark Post who recently created the first hamburger with artificial beef.

And of course 90-year old inventor of the birth control pill Carl Djerassi who gave an interesting and entertaining talk about “Sex as always vs. Reproduction under the microscope”, Johannes Bergerhausen who shared his fascination for unicode as an access to the world or the two 16-year old scientists Elif Bilgin and Neil Ibata who left most of the audience speechless. And finally, the Vegetable Orchestra that made music with instruments made from fresh vegetables.

Simply awesome and inspiring! Thanks to the guys from zurPolitik.com for making it possible for me to attend this great event!

Posted on November 3, 2013 in Miscellaneous

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out Vienncouver.com and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

Responses (4)

  1. Ian Usher
    November 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm · Reply

    Hi Andreas. Great post. I’m very honoured to get a mention. Thanks for the review – it was my first big talk, and I am very excited to have received some very positive comments. I am always very flatterered when people take some sort of inspiration from what I chose to do.
    There were so many great talks. I particularly enjoyed Auma Obama and Johannesburg Bergerhausen.
    Thanks again.
    Ian Usher


  2. Mark A.M. Kramer
    November 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm · Reply

    The TEDx Vienna experience is still fresh on my mind. It was wonderful to meet so many wonderful people and to spend the day learning and laughing together. A day I will always remember. Danke Andreas for your kind words and this great overview.

    Maximum respect!


  3. CEEA
    November 5, 2013 at 7:27 pm · Reply

    Netter Artikel. Schön geschrieben.
    Ah, und du warst somit der zweite, der die Karte gewonnen hat. 🙂

  4. klicken
    January 14, 2014 at 4:48 am · Reply

    I love it when folks get together and share ideas. Great site, continue the good work!

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