A few weeks ago, I attended TEDxZurich and I want to share with you a few of my learnings from the event. Hopefully, I see you there next year!
1. The World is Smaller Than I Thought
After pouring my first morning coffee at TEDxZurich, I went into the main room. It was packed with chairs and still fairly empty. Maybe it was because it was only 7:45am and the event was not to start for another 45 minutes. I decided to head to one of the standing tables and get to know some people.
The first person I met was a women who is on the board of directors at World Vision. Originally from Argentina, she lived and worked in so many countries around the world, I stopped counting after 10. She just recently joined World Vision and talked about the challenges of women in director positions.
After sharing a few interesting thoughts, somebody else joined us at the table and looked at me with surprise.
One of my coaching clients was standing next to me. However, the funniest part was that she is actually the neighbor of the women from World Vision.
How small the world has become.
2. Personal Branding Works Like a Charm
During the breaks in the morning, I encountered a few other people. One of them, I have talked to on Skype already and he called himself “a huge fan”. Nobody has ever told me he is a huge fan while I was working in a corporate job.
How I see this statement is basically that I have been able to create something that people love and not just like, something people want to be part of. I consider this as one of my biggest professional achievements by today.
Another thing I realized is that when I met people throughout the day and they looked at my name tag, they said something along the lines of “I have heard about you before” or “I think I know you from somewhere”.
This is simply amazing since it basically means that the world spreads. I built my business on a solid personal brand and it works like a charm.
This is why I do the same for my coaching & mentoring clients.
3. The Future is Not Lost (If We Take Action)
We all hear about the bad stuff all day long in the news, radio, TV and basically everywhere we go. It’s hard to avoid it.
What I have seen at TEDx and the people I have met gave me confidence that we all have a bright future ahead of us if we are smart and do something about it.
The world certainly needs more leaders and I believe one thing that TED does extremely well is to awaken the leader within people and inspire them to take action and start leading.
Someone at the event told me he is leaving at lunch, since the speakers talk too much about theory and not enough about solutions.
I think he missed the point. Presenting solutions is one aspect but as we all know, it’s much easier and faster to change the world together than alone.
I think the point of the presentations was not to present solutions but to tell stories. Stories that inspire change and action.
If every TED talk can only inspire a small group of the TED community to take action, positive change can happen exponentially. If for every new TED talk, only 10 people make a difference in their own world, we are well on track to create a prosperous future.
4. Likeminded & Passionate People Attract Each Other
I have been to plenty of networking events, conferences, meetups and any type of event imaginable. I have met some great and inspiring people here and there but nothing comes close to TEDxZurich by now. Maybe the World Domination Summit will beat this experience, who knows.
One of the first things that I realized was different about TEDxZurich were the name tags.
Usually, you see the name and company of somebody on there. At TEDxZurich, we had our first name big and bold at the top, then the last name a little smaller below that. The company was hardly recognizable.
Something that stood out at the bottom of the name tag were three words. In the application form, we had to write three words that describe us best, not an easy thing to do.
I chose “Relationships / Mentor / Passion”, though, it was not an easy choice.
Somebody who sat in front of me had “International / Recruitment / Consultant”. When I saw that, I was suddenly very happy with my choice.
Because we had these three keywords on the name tag, the conversations started differently. Somebody had “Globetrotter” on there and we started to chat about traveling, one of our biggest passions. Somebody else had “Art” on the tag and I told him he does not look like an artist to me, so he told me his story.
This is an amazing way to connect with likeminded people. Instead of talking about the boring stuff, you get to talk about what excites you.
All in all, I have never met so many passionate people at one single event who had the common goal of making a difference in the world.
It was simply worth attending just to get that feeling.
5. How Visionaries & Leaders Communicate
Some of the presentations I liked more and others were less interesting to me. I analyzed the ones who stood out to me. The ones I got truly inspired from were the presentations from Ankita Makwana, Gerd Gigerenzer and Michael Moor.
I thought for quite some time why they stood out to me so much, since for example the topic from Michael was not something I usually think about much.
The common ground they all shared was their communication and passion. They communicated by starting with Why.
They told us stories, stories about themselves and stories about us. They told us stories about the past and stories about the future. They draw us into their world and inspired us to see the world through their eyes.
Ankita, Gerd and Michael started many sentences with “I believe” and therefore expressed their Why.
Furthermore, I can hardly remember any other talk or even topic than those of these three.
This is because they awoke emotions within us and our level of memory is directly related to the level of our emotions at that time. For example, almost all of us can remember exactly where we were when 9/11 happened but do you remember where you were today exactly one year ago?
6. How to NOT Answer “What Do You Do?”
When I talked to the women from World Vision, after some time an obvious question came up. She asked “So, what do you do?”.
The thing is, I don’t get that question a lot, since most people who email or call me know what I do because they read my blog posts and visited my website or LinkedIn profile.
My mind went fishing for information about what I should say now and I said something along the lines of “Ehm… Well… I… You know…” Eventually what came out was “I help people find a job in Switzerland”.
It was the only rational thing that I could come up with that made sense to me in this second. At the same time, it felt completely wrong saying that since that is far from what I actually do.
I walked into the trap that I help people avoid every day. One of my Polish clients recently referred to this phenomena as “The Shoemaker’s Problem”
I had some time to reflect on what I just said during some more minutes in that break. I was constantly asking myself what I really do and how to put that into rational language.
Then it came to my mind that my readers and clients actually tell me exactly what I do every day and that I should probably listen to them.
I constantly get comments like “You inspired me to think different” or “You inspired me to shift my mindset” or “I completely changed my thinking and approach”.
Then I thought about what results that I see my clients achieve. Amongst many is one that stood out to me.
My clients create something (a career as employee, freelancer or a business) in the way they define it and around their passion and lifestyle.
Until lunch break, this has assembled into something more tangible and what came out was “I help people to create a career on their own terms”.
This time, it felt completely right. This is what I actually do and it took me quite some time to realize it.
Once again, it has proven itself that talking to people is the best solution in almost any case. I had to talk to people who actually had no idea what I am doing to challenge me to redefine my message.
7. Be the Architect of Your Own World
One of the most inspiring talks for me was the one from Ankita Makwana. She told us the story how she grew up in Switzerland and moved on to become a Bollywood star in her home country, India.
She told us about her struggles, hopes and dreams and how she left her comfort zone to pursue her dreams.
The term “Be the Architect of Your Own World” stuck with me until now because this is what we all have to become to truly live life to the fullest and achieve what seems impossible. Too many people let society and the media dictate their lives.
The bad news is it becomes harder to break out of this mindset the more brainwashed you get. I was lucky to only be brainwashed for a few short years in corporate while never forgetting my dreams.
The good news is, you have a choice. You can design your own world and doing so has become easier than ever before. Breaking out of the old thinking patters is the challenging part.
Once you can imagine becoming the architect of your own world, you create the foundation for your breakthrough.
Don’t waste your days living somebody else’s life. Once you tasted the freedom, you will never go back, I guarantee you.