Guest post by Trina Kleist, a University of Nevada student from the Reynolds School of Journalism.
Wisdom comes hard-won, but speakers generously shared life lessons at a series of talks
presented Feb. 29 at the TEDx University of Nevada 2020 event in Reno. Here are some
common threads that shone through:
Let your troubles fuel courage. Speakers at the TED Talk had overcome, or live with, mental
illness, chronic and debilitating disease, poverty, racial discrimination, gender bias, body image
prejudice, post-partum depression, financial setbacks and suicidal thoughts. Yet, each found
ways to survive and thrive, sometimes even as they continue the battle. Perhaps the greatest
value of TED Talks — the acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design — consists
in showcasing the nobility of the human spirit. Speakers stood alone on a large stage before
1,400 people and spilled intimate and potentially embarrassing details about their lives. They did
so in the hope of inspiring others; for some, this very public coming-out party may hasten their
healing. “Look for the gift” your troubles pack, multiple-sclerosis patient Robin Brockelsby said.
Listen. If you must talk, ask sincere questions that take the conversation deeper. Then, listen
some more. Listen to your children. Listen to your co-workers. Listen to those in need. Unplug
yourself from your phone and connect to others with compassion and authenticity. Now here
comes the really hard part: As you listen, keep your own needs in check. (Of course, that implies
being aware of them.) Those needs often include variations of telling your own story, having the
answer, wanting to save and being in charge. But, “stay curious longer,” admonished coaching
coach Michael Bungay Stanier. “Tame the advice monster!”
Life is a team sport. Whether you’re working in the corporate world, swimming in academia or
raising children, teams work best when each member has three qualities: humility, hunger and
smarts. Teamwork consultant Patrick Lencioni encouraged listeners to think of others, work
hard at everything (without being a work-aholic, which is something else) and understand keenly
what makes people tick. When people hold all three qualities in balance, teams can achieve great
success. Remember that your team likely includes parents who are trying to bring up the next
generation of humans; run your team accordingly.
Invest in relationships with young people. We fundamentally want to be seen, heard and
appreciated. When young people receive healthy attention, their lives can flourish. Reno lawyer
Marilyn York recalled the influence of her father, whose nurturing built a framework for her self confidence.
Speakers also told tales of tragedy that unfolds when children lack that investment
by caring elders. Especially, the day’s speakers held up children who are neglected, homeless,
fatherless, in foster care, sold for sex and struggling with mental illness. So, include even one
young person on your life team. Jen Robinson, co-chairperson of Nevada’s Commercial Sexual
Exploitation of Children Coalition, asked, “Who is your one?”
Have a spiritual practice, and share it with your young people. Several speakers credited their
faith for creating a rich foundation in their lives. Retired Reno assistant police chief Ondra Berry
recalled how his grandmother planted in him the seeds of learning and public service in the
course of church attendance. As a young person and despite his poverty, he came to feel deeply
that “I am called to do something bigger,” Berry said. With core life values of “faith, family and
focus,” Berry encouraged others to tap into a wellspring of energy to rise above obstacles and
reach new goals.
Lofty ideals can easily fade from mind. But for a few hours on 2.29.2020, the day’s 20 speakers offered
messages that elevated the sense of shared humanity in the auditorium at the Reno-Sparks
Convention Center. When 20-year-old singer-songwriter Mackenzie Nicole discussed her
anxiety, obsessive-compulsiveness and flirtation with self-destruction, she momentarily forgot
the lines of her presentation; it was her first time on the TEDx stage. After waiting awkwardly in
silence, the audience erupted in cheers and applause. Nicole returned the favor by pouring out
her heart through her music.