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A Perfect Day At TEDxPortland

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Last weekend, Mrs. RB40 went to TEDxPortland and she is kind enough to share her experience with us. Have you been to an inspirational event like this? Check out some of the talks online and let her know what you think.

A space filled with 3,000 people can cause major paralysis to a super introvert such as myself.  But I really wanted to attend a TED event and finally got to do so at this past weekend’s 4th ever TEDxPortland. I missed the first three years due to other obligations, so when someone I knew who happened to be a speaker coach for the event said that tickets were about to go on sale, I jumped on it. If you think TED is a person, let me explain. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas.  The event began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design came together.  The “real” TED event happens annually and no, I can’t drop $8,000 on the admission fee (kind of goes against our ‘frugal living’ ideal).  A TEDx event is definitely the next best thing (especially since tickets were only $100) with local (mostly) speakers who I don’t interact with on a daily basis.

A day at TEDx

Did you know that there are approximately 8 TEDx events happening daily around the world?  This is how important TED’s mission — ideas worth spreading — is.  To think the number of innovative conversations taking place is phenomenal. As someone who helped organize large events in a past life, I know how much work and enthusiasm goes into the planning and execution, so I was thrilled to experience the other side as an attendee.

I knew the Keller Auditorium was going to be packed, so I picked up my name badge a day early.  I’m a bit paranoid like that.  With general admission seating, I wanted a decent view.  I live close enough to the Keller to walk on that sunny day, but even then, the place was already half full when I arrived.  Clutching my gorgeous coffee table book and water bottle swag, I took in the amazing honeycomb set design by Henry V and was completely transfixed by the video loop created by Uncage the Soul Productions.  I eavesdropped on comments like “How’s your internet?” (’cause you know everyone was Tweeting or whatever people do these days) and “This is awesome, really exciting” (from someone in my row, though the person she came with was busy attaining the next level of some Candy Crush-type game).  The buzz in the air was completely palpable.

Earlier, I tried to do a little research by listening to some recorded talks from past events.  The trouble with recorded videos is that I get too distracted with trying to multitask.  A TEDx event is required to include 4 recorded talks from “mother TED”.  I had actually viewed these videos online before, but after sharing reactions and the experience with thousands of other people, it was apparent that I missed the core messages when half watching on my laptop.  At a live event, you can’t help but to be present, and being present is so worth it.


This year’s theme was ‘Perfect,” which was, well, perfect.   What is the definition of ‘perfect?’  It depends on who you ask.  Two years ago, I gave a Toastmasters competition speech entitled ‘Perfect’ (I didn’t win, so I guess the speech was more imperfect than I thought).  Each of the speakers injected their ideas as to what perfect meant to them while they detailed their journeys that brought them to our TEDx  stage.  You can view their livestreamed talks at TEDxPortland2014.

I took a bunch of notes by habit.  Even in the midst of all this technology, I still like to put pen to paper. This was before I realized that all the talks were being posted! I needed to keep my hands busy and I still haven’t gotten accustomed to using my thumbs on my phone. (Yes, I’m that old).

I was inspired by ALL of the talks, even though I had to Google everyone on the speakers list. Performances by Al James and The Oregon Ballet Theatre provided artistic breaks from the flow of words. We broke often for follow up discussions and snacks generously provided by the event partners like Stumptown.  Lunch was included in the ticket price (I got out of the auditorium a little late, so I didn’t get a box lunch, but ended up with kale salad.  It was all right, considering that I prefer something with a little more sustenance than leaves).   I took some tidbits from each talk which particularly resonated with me, and bear in mind, I may be paraphrasing.  For the aspiring entrepreneurs who follow Retire by 40 closely, I bolded the  four you might want to view first.  But don’t skip the others.  The lessons they impart are worth hearing.

  • Aaron Draplin: You can invent your clients, you can invent your life. I love what I get to do.
  • D’wayne Edwards:  How are you going to leave your mark?  Someone gave you this gift, why wouldn’t you leave it better for the next person?.
  • Lisa Sedler:  ‘Perfect’ is the enemy to ‘good enough.’
  • Frank Moore:  I have had a near perfect life.  As long as you have love — and you may not have much else — you have practically everything.
  • James Keller wants us to become a better connoisseur of technology in our own lives.
  • Zach King:  You only need a few tools to connect with the world, so create well!
  • Zalika Gardner:  When was the last time you really listened? When was the last time you really felt you were listened to? Can we try listening better?
  • Nong Poonsookwattana:  You give what you receive.
  • Andy Revkin:  Bend. Stretch. Reach. Teach. Reveal. Reflect. Rejoice. Repeat. (A riff from his blog).
  • Jackson Gariety:  What’s the point of teaching our youth tools that they can only use at their jobs?
  • Eric Giler: Wi-tricity (Mrs. RB40 notes: Wireless electricity.  It exists.  This is cool).
  • Isiah Holt:  What do I want to accomplish today?  How long will it take?  What will I do to get there?
  • Governor John Kitzhaber:  (He had to cancel at the last minute, but he does have a state to run).
  • Ben Haggerty (better known as Macklemore): If you are an artist (or any human being), do not let the idea of being perfect stop you from creating…go out and make stuff.  Just create because you love to do it.

The event closed with happy hour accompanied to the experimental country/folk sounds of (Portland-based) Blitzen Trapper.  I’ve already processed the near-perfect event in my mind (introvert-style) and am already looking forward to next year’s event.  I am more motivated to get the things I want done without compromising who I am, and I’m no longer obsessing over perfection (which may come as a relief to Mr. RB40).  Perhaps you’d like to join me.

Joe> Thank you Mrs. RB40 for sharing her TEDx experience with us. I really appreciate this because I have been really busy with tax and selling the rentals. At least April 15th is over with. Perhaps next year, I can attend. Actually, I never had much problem with perfection. I learned many moons ago to not obsess over perfection. I’m not good enough to be perfect and life is too short.

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{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Vicki April 16, 2014, 1:57 am

    Thanks for sharing your Ted day! I really needed a lift (lots of aging parents responsibilities), and you provided it. Please be a regular contributor. You have a most engaging viewpoint.

  • JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit April 16, 2014, 5:32 am

    I love watching the Ted speeches and wish I could watch/listen to more of them. I’d love to go to one of the TedX events and it seems a lot more doable with a $100 price tag, but a full on Ted event at $8k goes against my frugal nature as well. The speeches are always so inspiring. Hans Rosling has some great ones on statistics about poverty, health…if you haven’t seen those before.

    • retirebyforty April 18, 2014, 9:21 am

      $8,000 is way too much money. Watching on the computer is good too, but Mrs. RB40 is right. I’m way too distracted to get 100% of the talk. Live is almost always better.

  • Justin @ Root of Good April 16, 2014, 5:50 am

    That’s pretty cool, Mrs. RB40. Thanks for sharing. I’m hoping to get to more interesting lectures like this throughout the rest of my early retirement. I’ve seen a few pretty cool ones (Chinese cooking demonstration with real pros from China, music or history related, and Lebanese cooking/food/history demo, for example).

    Did Macklemore lay down any beats?

    Was the in person experience worth the $100 and hassle of showing up at a designated time? Sounds like viewing the videos at home was difficult given life’s distractions.

    • Mrs. RB40 April 16, 2014, 6:34 am

      Macklemore and the event host, David Rae, had a conversation around the concept of a ‘perfect’ performance. This was neat because we got to hear a person v. a ‘performer.’ Yes, the $100 was worth it. It wasn’t so much of a hassle, though I spoke with some folks who got up at 5 am just to wait for the doors to open. When I first heard about the videos some years ago, I thought I could view at least one a day, but then I found that I’d start checking email, or I’d jump up to catch something that RB40 or the cat knocked over, or. or. or….Definitely worth the in-person experience because it prompts you to be truly present.

    • retirebyforty April 18, 2014, 9:22 am

      Cooking demo doesn’t interest me for some reason. I just like to go at the end to eat. 🙂

  • Sharon April 17, 2014, 9:35 am

    After a long career in corporate America with the ability to retire early (coupled with adequate savings), I’m prepared to suggest that perfection to me means happiness and control over my life. And further, that happiness means having someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to in the future. If you have all three, then you have a natural perfection.

    • retirebyforty April 18, 2014, 9:28 am

      I like that definition. It’s attainable.

  • Buck Inspire April 17, 2014, 10:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing Mrs. RB40. Sounds like a wonderful experience. Do they have Ted talks in LA? I don’t think I have a perfectionist problem because I don’t obsess about perfection before launching. My issue is crying over spilled milk if I missed a question or two and could have gotten a perfect score or what something unexpected spoiled what could have been a perfect situation. On second thought, maybe I do have a perfection problem… I’m finally getting over it. Like RB40 said, life is too short. Now if I can only get Mrs. Buck to contribute to the blog… Thanks again!

    • retirebyforty April 18, 2014, 9:28 am

      I’m sure there are many TEDx in the LA area. It’s good that you are getting over it. No need to cry over spilled milk. 🙂

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