Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘From limitation to inspiration

“Be the change you wish to see”: Back to TEDxBeirut?

 Count on Lebanese to review past event, like the TEDxBeirut that was held in late September.  This time around, it is worthwhile a serious recollection of this non-profit project that came through with flying color. It was a great event that required 6 months preparation and the exhausting last month, which prevented two dozens in the board from getting a couple of sleep daily. 

A few members in the organizing board had quit secure and well-paying jobs, a few risked being fired by spending work-hours doing something else other than their paying work, a few stacked up phone bills of around a $1,000, and a few shifted the entire focus of their consultancy towards a non profitable project.

I have posted four articles on TEDxBeirut, and on Jan. 23, YOUSSEF Chaker published his version of the event under “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Youssef wrote (with slight editing): “I told my co-founders and our interim board members to fuck off (a big deal for an entrepreneur who poured everything into his startup for the past year). The stories of individuals, sacrificing so much for this non-profit project, span the entire group of VOLUNTEERS that come from varied backgrounds (including different countries) who worked around the clock, for days on end, to bring to Lebanon an event of a different caliber.

TEDxBeirut wasn’t about the speakers and the big names featured on the program. The theme for TEDxBeirut 2011 was “From Limitation to Inspiration.” What people outside of the TEDxBeirut organizing team didn’t realize is that it was a theme for the journey the team went through.

TEDx events (x = independently organized TED event) are special no matter where they are held in the world, but in a country like Lebanon, organizing such an event comes with its own set of difficulties. Unless you are a well-known group or company backed by some good contacts, getting past the paperwork alone is an overreaching goal.

When Patsy thought out loud about organizing a TEDx event in Beirut, she was merely expressing a wish (maybe some event company would make it happen). Little did she know that she was going to be the one spearheading the effort to see her dream go from idea to reality. And this is why I say it was an event of a different caliber.

It wasn’t the major players and usual suspects who were behind the event,  but it was, according to many attendee testimonials, one of the best organized and professional events that people in Beirut have ever experienced.

TEDxBeirut Team Members Hard at Work
TEDxBeirut Team Members Hard at Work, Patsy, William, Marc…
 

Now why am I talking about an event that’s more than 3 months old? I promise you it will all come together at the end of this post. Bare with me as I take you through parts of the journey that will explain to you why if we ever talk about Lebanon, I might say something along the lines of “I live in a different Lebanon than you do!”

What I experienced during the days leading up to TEDxBeirut was only a fraction of what some people went through before I had joined. But I got the opportunity on many occasions to sit back and take a distant view of the behavior of the team members. It’s important to mention the HUGE differences on all levels among the people involved.

This organizing group was a typical Lebanese blend (makhlouta) like mixed nuts  in interests, skills, personalities, backgrounds, education, all of it was different. But the situation was atypical: There was a common goal. The entire team was working on a single goal, with no personal interest at all. We were all volunteers.

None of us was gaining anything from participating in this effort on a personal level. I saw people work their ass off, to put together a one day event in Lebanon, knowing that with the Lebanese mentality all they were going to get in return were complaints and criticism because the Lebanese are never pleased.

It didn’t matter, we were doing something that we cared about, that we wanted to see happen, and if others wanted to be part of it that would be great. Keep in mind, when Patsy started organizing the event, she meant it to be for about a hundred or so people. The expectation was bumped up to 300, and again to 800, to eventually get an 800 seated audience and about 200 other people sitting on the stairs in the theater or watching the stream in a different room (not to mention those who tuned in for the live stream on the web)!

Exposure, recognition, TV spots or seats in the parliament were never the objective, this time around.

I urge you to take a moment and let that last paragraph sink in. It might not impress you at first, you might think it’s weak, your reaction might be meh, so what, what a big deal… But take a moment to put it in perspective. We are talking about a “do it yourself” mentality coupled with a “do it FOR yourself, fuck everyone else” attitude…

I am an entrepreneur, I don’t mean to keep mentioning it just for the sake of rubbing it in, there’s a mindset at the root of it. It is important to understand that so much goes into planning an event of this caliber. It takes certain personality traits, but also education and culture to foster such a mentality, which is not the case for most people in the world (especially Lebanese people).

And not only is it not part of our upbringing, it’s also discouraged in favor of ‘secure’ jobs:  We are reminded most of the time that individuals not seeking stable secure jobs are different, geniuses, basically not us. With TEDxBeirut, the group of individuals who participated broke that mold. They showed that ideas belong to everyone, and the execution is as possible for the common person as it is for the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

TEDxBeirut created a platform and an opportunity for other members of the community to follow suit. Donner Sang Compter (Give Blood/Without Counting, a play on words) is an initiative, by student founder Yorgui Teyrouz, to promote blood donations in Lebanon in an organized and continuous manner and raise awareness about the importance of contributing. Yorgui During his Speech at TEDxBeirut

Yorgui Teyrouz talk at TEDxBeirut 

This same network of people were very important to Joanna Choukeir who wanted to get an ambitious project rolling called “Imagination Studio”.  Joanna said:

“The impact that TEDxBeirut had on this idea was inspirational! Straight after the talk, a queue of “imaginers” wanted to help bring the idea to life. At home my inbox was already loaded with sign-ups, and the twitter and Facebook accounts with mentions and messages.”

The Lebanese community is a very capable group of people who unfortunately have been dormant and passive for many years. But all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling and action starts happening: “Together, we moved from one idea – Imagination Studio – to 22 brilliant ideas that can be put in action right now, right here, with the support of voluntary teams!”

Imagination Studio happened, and an open call for volunteers took place for people to contribute in their own way and using their own expertise to solving a problem.  Joanna compiled a list of people interested in contributing along with the actionable ideas that need to be implemented. The effort is still in its beginnings.

I am sure many of the skeptics out there who are used to bringing down others who are pushing for change will say that nothing will come out of Imagination Studio. There might be plenty of obstacles and many discouraging days, but what TEDxBeirut has demonstrated is that the only obstacle between us and change is ourselves and our own doubt. Everything else can and will be overcome.

Imagination Studio FunImagination Studio Fun

The TEDx movement is hard to explain, and hard to explain in terms of impact, or for the business people out there in terms of ROI. But it does have the IT factor that you do experience once you take part. No wonder there’s a book being written about it by an author who’s traveled to a dozen or so countries in 2011 and attended about 30 TEDx events and will attend double that number in 2012.

At the moment, the efforts might be on a small-scale. But we have a blueprint for social change that can be the example and inspiration for others. One pretty well-kept secret, which I’m sharing with you right now, is TEDxSKE.

TEDxSKE is a weekly gathering where a bunch of us (not just TEDxBeirut team members) get together to watch TED and TED like talks (TEDxSKE is run by Patsy who is licensed by TED which is a requirement to run TEDx events, but any group can get together and do the same without using the TED name although the license is not hard to get).

TEDxSKE was the precursor to TEDxBeirut and has grown since then. The activity changes from one week to the other, usually around a certain theme. It is not limited to TED talks alone, it could be any idea worth sharing. Of course, the evening doesn’t stop at the video/talk level.

The highlight of these gatherings is usually the discussions or activities (games) that we participate in between talks. And the result varies from one person to the other. I can not claim to know the effect that TEDxSKE has on each and every one of us, not even on myself. As this is an ongoing thing, a process of growth for all of us.

I can tell you that I see the change in the others and they see it in themselves as well. Some of us are trying to find out who we are, why we are on this planet and what we are supposed to be doing. Others are looking to affect change. And a few are, for the first time ever, getting exposed to alternate points of view.

TEDxSKEers are discovering aspects of their own personalities that they did not know about themselves, broadening their horizon and challenging their beliefs. And trust me, this is not poetry or empty talk. This is paraphrased directly from the participants themselves. TEDxSKE is a collective of passionate and motivated people who are a support system for each other. Many of whom are or will be important pillars in the social entrepreneurship change in Lebanon in the coming years.

SKEers Participating in an Activity
TEDxSKEers Participating in an Activity at Patsy apartment in Awkar

It might be a tad bit early to talk about results and accomplishments, but it is not too late, nor too early to talk about inspiration or even a different kind of movement in a country that has not adopted the Tunisian or Egyptian model of the Arab Spring. So when you drive or walk around Beirut, and you think about the potholes, the traffic and the corruption that Lebanon represents to you, remember that there is another Lebanon. A Lebanon you are more than welcomed to be part of, where DSC and Imagination Studio are not just ideas and where Thursdays (replaced by Tuesdays) are for the spoken poetry and arts club… Such a thing exists, stay tuned for more details.

It’s another kind of Lebanon which promotes action over wishful thinking, local change over change of country of residency. Just remember, be the change you want to see in the world.

What Inspires You?
Examples of “What Inspires You in TEDxBeirut”?

Sketches of a few speakers at TEDxBeirut by David Habchy

Note:  I have published 4 posts on TEDxBeirut. You may start with session One. https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/session-one-of-tedxbeirut-inspiration-regardless-of-lack-of-limitations/

The English version of the Lebanese “Daily Star” commented on TEDxBeirut conference held on Sept.24 at Berytech institute (Mkales): “It’s a surprising and impressive feat to get 19 speakers, four performers, a 27-member organization team, numerous volunteers (about 55 in all) and over 600 attendees into a lecture hall at 9 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning, but TEDx Beirut achieved it.”

Daniel Habib & Tony Oudaim

Yorgui Teyrouz

Farid Younes

TEDx Staff

Michael Kouly

Katia Saleh

Ali M. Jaber

Mahmoud Natout

Farid Younes

Reine Abbas

Najat Rizk

Mazen Hajjar

Ziad Abichaker

Ziad Abichaker

Hassan Aziz

Arne Dietrich

Bassam Jalgha

Gilbert Doumit

Hala Fadel

Halim Madi

Joanna Choukeir

Andrew Bossone

Session 2 of TEDxBeirut: “From limitation to Inspiration”

My previous post on Session One was “Inspiration regardless of lack of limitations”.  I decided to be a tad generous today.

Note: You may read detailed info on 8 speakers on this post https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/mostly-a-hoax-from-limitation-to-inspiration-slogan-of-tedxbeirut/

Session 2

Sessions 2 and 3 were more inspiring. Still, the speakers didn’t exhibit great limitations to inspire us even more.

After the coffe-break at 11:40, a TEDx speaker was displayed on the vast screen.  Mat Cutt? was haranguing audience to adopting small sustainable changes for 30 days, such as trying to write enough every day to finally producing a novel of 50,000 words in 30 day.  The novel is a start, but you may claim to be an author…You might bike to work for a month and experience the changes in your work habit, or taking a single picture every day…

Ali Jaber, MBC’s director, took the stage at 12:20 (read details in the previous link).  Ali said that the Arab States have 1,100 TV stations with operating cost of over $ billion and generating $5.5 billion in ads…Ali was behind the project of acceding to 100 MBites for the students of the Arab American University in Dubai.  The university is linked to 148 US universities via internet and the students (70% enjoying grants) can follow varieties of courses on-line.

Ali Jaber is the only speaker, so far, who answered my request for feedback to the link I have emailed him.  This failure in responses prompted me to prepare an article titled “Culture of contempt: Misplacement in comprehending personal failure?”

Mazen Hajjar, a beer brewer, talked at 12:38.  He said that civilization used barley 9,000 years ago to make beer, while using barley for baking bread is just 3,000 years old.   In Europe, people drank beer because water was demonstrated not to be safe for drinking and caused illness.  Mazen explained 3 guideline to better tasting beer:

First,beer must be bottled in dark color glasses: light ruins the flavor and taste

Second, pour beer in a glass for full inhalation of aroma,

Third, keep beer warm for a better taste; better, drink it warm…I tasted Mazen’s beer at lunch break and liked it.
Clara Sfeir improvised a dance performance at (12:48).  Liliane Chlela produced and played the music for the dance.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeili talked at 1:00 pm. (Read link for further details on Joanna).  She talked about her idea “Imagination Studio”, a workshop planned for 30 youth who answered her innovative interview methods on October 1st.  The youth are from different Lebanese background, location, religion, culture…

The next day, Joanna received the all of 40 volunteer experts and professionals to aid in making the workshop a success. The workshop is to allow the youth of coming up with a practical project to implement as a collective group. Details on the outcome of the workshop is to transpire within 3 weeks.

Reine Abbas spoke at 1:11 pm. The story is Reine and her husband were driving and were caught in between two mass demonstrations, blocking the road, and putting fire on tires.  This terrifying event catalyzed Reine into designing a video game Douma.  Now, you may shoot at politicians and sectarian leader, using a vast array of fire arms. Within a couple of days, 12,000 tried the video game.

Reine had to resolve this dangerous societal trend: First, how to react to violence; second, how to keep kids off the streets; and having a good understanding of Lebanon’s “leaders”

Bassam Jalgha talked at 1:20.  He was wondering why we have no car manufacturing facilities…He learned to play on the OUD, an Arabic traditional musical instrument when he was 12, but he could not tune it.  Now, he invented an equipment for tuning his Oud. It took Bassam two years to develop that instrument for lack of appropriate hi-tech spare parts.  He went on to tune the oud and play a piece.

Gilber Doumit talked at 1:30.  He tried to explain politically engaged activist entrepreneurship… Sort of researching, packaging, and negotiating social and governmental programs..  Do I have a purpose in life? Can I influence on system level? How to negotiate responsibly, by adapting to government requirement, and pragmatically influencing political programs?

We adjourned for lunch break.  The menu didn’t change much: Croissant in varieties of forms and shapes, bouchees of meat, cheese, juices, Nescafe, beer, but no vegetables or fruits. I know several vegan and vegetarian people who were dying of hunger. Time to be flexible and adaptive to fast culinary requirement and exigencies…In any case, the third session, after lunch and no siesta, is usually doomed to be more on the dosing side, regardless of how inspirational a speaker is.  Sort of the speaker must learn clowning to attracting attention first…

Mostly a Hoax: “From Limitation to Inspiration” slogan of TEDxBeirut

The slogan or motto of TEDxBeirut was “From Limitation to Inspiration”.  At first, this slogan didn’t inspire me much, in the sense I felt I have read that slogan before, or that is essentially the theme of TED in the first place.  When you read that slogan what comes first in your mind? What does it mean to you?

I interpreted the motto as: “Your are an individual with huge limitations (physical, mental, financial, connections, unstable family, poor country with no institutions, a disintegrating social structure with no community cohesion and support…) and yet, you managed to struggle and be a “success story” that can be “inspirational” and benefit society and people connected to you…”

You may send me the alternative interpretations to inspire me further, but my article will be based on my interpretation of the slogan.  From the 19 speakers, I could barely isolate four who actually fit my understanding of the slogan, and will demonstrate my case shortly.

I am convinced that the slogan was meant to catalyze the basic two organizers of this huge undertaking, and to inspire the other members and support network to surmount the difficult obstacles and limitations in Lebanon for coordinating the event.  William Choukeir and Patricia Zoghaib overcame many real limitations and inspired thousands for a “big cultural and reflecting events, which connect engaged youth and set them to communicating pragmatically, can take place in Lebanon!”

My impression is that the organizers failed to take advantage of opportunities in order to define what is “limitation” and the wide range of limitations in the Lebanese society, and gather categories and define what could be “inspirational”.  If they invested the time to meeting individually all who submitted a one-minute video and had a talk with potential candidate, they would have been far more inspired and would have an excellent background to establishing meaningful criteria for the selection process.

Mind you that the first six months were kind of trial and error journey, and meeting the potential candidate would have aided in what “From Limitation to Inspiration” means to them, instead of the common biased understanding that “success means establishing an enterprise that generates profit or acceding to a CEO position her and there…”

For example, is it impossible to find handicapped or autistic people who could be considered “success stories”?  Should all speakers be very much ambulatory and looking “presentable” so that the event doesn’t give the impression of a gathering of “retarded” Lebanese?

For this article, I will selected sample speakers from each of the three sessions who do not fit the slogan, and the speakers who do fit.  It is very likely that I will re-edit this post and be as exhaustive as possible to proving my case.

Group one: Speakers who do not fit the “limitation” criterion.

Speaker Ali Jaber was born in Lebanon in 1961 (he looks much older). Ali was correspondent of New York Times, chief correspondent for the German Press Agency (DPA), founded and managed Future TV and Zen TV. In 2004, Ali  was hired as consultant to head Dubai Media Incorporated…He is currently General Director of the MBC Group TV.  He founded the Mohammad Bin Rashed  School for communication at the American Univ. in Dubai and working on a PhD degree at Cambridge Univ. on Arab satellite TV… What was the story of Ali at the TEDxBeirut?  Ali Jaber wanted to link the University via internet to other universities (ultimately, hooking with 148 university in the US). Selim Edde told Ali to shoot for 100 Mbite.  Ali made a few phone calls to higher-ups in Dubai government and got the funding and facilitation…70% of the students receive scholarships…

What kinds of limitations did Ali Jaber had to surmount? He had the connections, the money, the position…Does this case applies to the slogan? Good work Ali Jaber: Inspirational talk.

Speaker Hala Fadel is chair of MIT Entreprise Forum of the Pan-Arab region.  She has been organizing the MIT Business Competition for the last 5 years: Over 3,000 participate from 17 Arab States.  Hala manages $13 billion at Comgest…She is married with 3 children. What’s the story?

Hala was 21 and happily married. One evening, her husband (currently a deputy in the Parliament) asked her: “Hala, are you happy”.  That set Hala into deciding to continue her education and on the path of success.  What kinds of limitations Hala was confronted to?  She had the support, the money, the brain… Does Hala fit the slogan?  Great job Hala: I enjoyed your speech.

Speaker Ziad Abi Chaker is CEO of Cedar Environmental.  The enterprise specializes in building Municipal Recycling Facilities on the communal level, contrasting with central Mega recycling plants. The three-way deal is for banks to extend soft loan to build the local plant, and the municipality to paying only the services of recycling/composting in monthly installments, not exceeding $5 per household per month.  Ziad told me that the Hariri clan, having monopoly of the wast disposal for the last 20 years, offered him $5 million to get out-of-the-way… Ziad studied industrial engineering at Rutgers Univ. (New Jersey).  How limiting was Ziad situation?  He has the brain, the energy, the family support (rich and into import business…) and the connection…Does Ziad fit into the slogan?  Cudo Ziad: Great idea, great project and highly sustainable, and wonderful presentation.

Speaker Arne Dietrich teaches psychology at the American Univ. of Beirut.  He surfs the “stream of consciousness” and his favorite topics are daydreaming and the “transient hypofrontality” induced state, generated by swimming, biking, and hiking for miles on end… What’s the story?  His “objective” research on what is called “higher level of consciousness” experienced by yogi and … are in fact in the lowest level of consciousness of our primitive brain…

What were limiting Arne? Maybe the case of Arne is a moot one: the biography stated that he was diagnosed with incurable curiosity and spent time in an “educational” institution…and what of going globe-trotting for years?  If Arne was from my hometown, he would be elected “Town certified idiot“. If Arne was from my hometown, I would rank him top in “limitations” among the speakers who managed to “inspire” against all odds! Informative talk, and “inspirational to me”, though many were dozing after lunch…

Group 2: Speakers who fit both the limitation and inspiration criteria:

Katia Saleh is founder of Batoota Films and producer of “Shankaboot”, winner of the 2011 International Emmy Award… Katia produced and directed award-winning documentaries “Beirut: All Flight Cancelled” (2006), “Iraq: Womens’s Stories” (2006), “Return to Basra” (2003), “Inside Saddam’s Iraq” (2003), the documentary “Ashura: Blood and Beauty” (2005)…

What’s the story?  Katia is from Kfarshouba, Lebanon,(on the border with Israel) and the town of her mother is Nabatieh.  She worked as usher in London while pursuing her study. A British asked her where she was from. He had no idea where Palestine was and she said: “Jesus is my neighbor”.  When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, an Israeli soldier asked her mother for her ID papers and she replied: “It is up to you to show me your papers”.  This incident was very inspiring to Katia. She received many threats on YouTube.  Any limiting handicaps with Katia? What about chasing danger for shooting documentaries that are worth recounting?

Speaker Yorgui Teyrouz is currently a pharmacy student at Lebanese American Univ. He is founder of “Donner Sang Compter” (Give blood selflessly).  The on-line group on Facebook saved 12,000 lives since 2007.  What’s the story? Yorgui was very young, 19?, when he overrun and killed someone in a car accident.  He was sentenced in Roumieh prison, one of the worst overcrowded prisons in Lebanon.  How a young man surmounted the indignity and humiliation of being incarcerated, and went ahead to coming to the rescue of people in need of blood? Very inspirational.

Najat Rizk is CEO of Firehorse Films and was acclaimed the second most successful CEO in Lebanon by Harvard Univ. Firehorse tagline “Making Television Worth Watching” is a commitment to producing knowledge-base and innovative media that engages audience.  Samples of her documentaries are “The Great Trade-off” on prisoners swapping between Hezbollah and Israel; “From Herat to Baghdad” “The living martyr: Hezbollah unveiled”…

What’s the story.  Najat lived in isolated Ashrafieh section of East Beirut during the civil war; her mother is from the town of Ghosta in Kesruwan.  She decided to make a documentary on Hezbollah.  Najat was so persistent that she got an interview with media director of Hezbollah.  She ended up living an entire year in Dahieh and changing her guard-robe…and was finally adopted as one of them. And her journey started filming the ceremony of Ashoura, going to Jordan and filming a Qaeda base in Salt, meeting the Dalai Lama

Just this guts to taking vile myths by the horns and taking the plunge; it is inspiration enough to breaking taboos instituted by ignorant communities…

Speaker Joanna Choukeir Hojeili is doing her PhD at the University of the Arts London.  She is exploring “how communication design methods and interventions” can contribute to social integration. She is using four design methods. For example, “Exploration” method is an innovative cultural probes toolkit.  “Connection” refers to a new perspective in networking method. “Expression Corner” is designed as a diary room for virtual interviews.  “Imagination Clinic” is intended as co-creation workshop.

The four methods aim to inform the development of communication design interventions for social integration among youth from different social groups and communities in Lebanon. Lebanon is a society heavily segregated along religious, political, geographic, linguistic, and cultural lines. The design package is transferable across other socially segregated communities worldwide.  What’s the story?

Charbel (18 year-old) from the district of Bshare has never visited south Lebanon, and barely stepped out of his restricted district.  Sahar (19 year-old) from Tyr didn’t visit much of tiny Lebanon.  Charbel and Sahar are curious to meet other youth of different religious, cultural, and geographical locations.  Many are plain apathetic in mixing with other people.

On October 1st, the first pilot workshop “Imagination Studio” will be held, inviting 25 of those who participated in the virtual interview so that they agree on a practical program that they will implement as a group.  This pilot workshop is sort of co-creation process: Every member will combine “what he knows” in expertise.  Outside experts will participate to put in shape a feasible program for application.

Joanna got a job pretty quickly: She was first of her class.  Two years later, Joanna realized there was no prospects for fulfilling her life dreams.  Short on money, she applied relentlessly to different overseas universities for scholarship.  Finally, she set her target on University of the Arts London and took the dive, working in London on several jobs and continuing her higher education.

Group 3: Speakers who do not fit the “inspiration” criterion.  For example, they failed to “inspire me” in any shape or form. I will refrain from expanding on this group, at least, not in this post.

Let’s consider a few limitations to inspiration in this modern society.  Do you think not being able to own a computer a serious limitation? How about not getting connected to the internet? What if you cannot afford the expenses of a cellular phone? You have no transportation means, and you have got to walk 2 miles to the nearest library to getting connected to internet in order to publish, rain or shine, hot or cold, and the library has no English books and you have got to translate…

If within 4 years you managed to publish 2,400 articles on wordpress.com in 50 categories…On a scale of one to 10 (highest inspirational case study), how would you rate inspiration within the above limitations? Does the extra piece of intelligence that the person is over 60 years make a difference?  How about this person does not enjoy any family or community support, like someone exhibiting self-autonomous behavior, and is starting to be viewed as one of the idiots of the town with “mild autistic” syndrome?

I say: “What has been done and properly executed is the best at the moment.”  I suggest the next program will have the same slogan to demonstrate the versatility of this powerful slogan.

Note: The sketch or cartoon is from David Habchi who covered the TEDxBeirut conference

Any “secret ingredient to inspiring a team”?

Notesby.me did it again with an inspiring article posted on Sept 27  “How TEDxBeirut revealed the secret ingredient to inspire a team“:

“It’s Friday. The day before TEDxBeirut (a day-long conference in three sessions, involving 19 speakers). I’m driving to the venue. I’ve been barely sleeping an hour every night, for the past week. I’m exhausted, and have little energy left.

Today is the final rehearsal with all the speakers, performers, and production crew. It’s going to be a long and intense day. There’s so much that needs to be done. Too much for just one day.

As I’m driving, I think to myself: “I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the day. I’ll probably go in, and when anyone asks how I am, I’ll reply “Exhausted”!  That way, I’ll show them that I’ve been working my ass off. That’ll give me enough attention and energy to keep me going just a little bit more.”I pause, get my thoughts together, and continue (my line of thinking):

“Bad idea! We’re all exhausted. Why would I expect myself to be more exhausted than anyyone else? Why would I demand attention from everyone else? Bad idea!”

That’s when a smile forms on my face. “I’m OK” I think to myself. “Actually, I feel great! This is what we’ve all been working very hard for. It’s almost here. I’m excited!” And all of a sudden, everything changes.

I arrive at the venue. I’m all hyper and ecstatic. I go inside and start hugging and loving everyone. I can’t get the smile off my face. Everyone smiles back. I can see the light in their eyes. Little do I realize on that day, the effects of my attitude-change on everyone around me.

It’s Saturday. It’s the day of TEDxBeirut. It’s 7:00am. I’m driving to the venue. I’ve only slept for 1hr. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m beyond exhaustion. It’s as if there are no thoughts in my head. I’m blank. I’m irritated. I don’t have nor the energy, nor the patience to deal with anything that comes my way. And suddenly, I remember the day before.

I remember the attitude change. And for the first time, I realize that by smiling and by being ecstatic yesterday, I was affecting the attitude of everyone around me. I think to myself: “I gotta do this. Everyone is exhausted. If I’m exhausted too, how will we make it through the day? How will we deal with all the problems that’ll arise? How will the audience feel? I gotta be ecstatic and exploding with energy!”

Suddenly, I feel a bust of energy! A smile forms on my face. This energy, along with the smile, both stay with me the whole day. All the way throughout the event. And this has a huge effect on everything. Of course, I wasn’t aware of that during the day.

At the end of the day, while driving back home, I remember Patrick telling me: “I don’t know why, I can’t help it but smile every time I see you.” I reply automatically without thinking: “Maybe it’s because I’ve been smiling all the time?” That’s when it hit me.

I get a zillion flashbacks from that same day. I remember all the instances when Patrick tells me how I’m inspiring. The instance that Maya tells me how she can feel my energy, and how different that is from others. The instance that Chawki tells me how inspiring I am. All the instances that I’ve spoken to team members, and all of a sudden their eyes spark. All the instances that I’ve briefed a team member who has slept less that I did, and see them jump into action with excitement beyond this world.

That instance, after all those flashbacks, I finally understand what inspiring a team is all about. I’ve been trying to inspire different teams, within and outside of TEDxBeirut for years now. I’ve failed every single time. And now, on the last day of TEDxBeirut, I finally get it.

Inspiring a team isn’t just about being ecstatic, energetic, and passionate. Yes, all these are vital. Yet, a secret ingredient is missing.

To inspire, you have to be under the same, or worst conditions yourself. Please, read this line again.

During the day of TEDxBeirut, I finally managed to inspire, not just because I was full of energy. It’s because I was as tired and as un-slept as everyone else. Yet, I managed to show everyone that even though we’re all exhausted, we can still be full of energy. We can still have a constant and contagious smile. We can still be ecstatic. And when we’re all like this, the crowd can’t help but get infected with this blissful energy.

I’ve come to learn that inspiring a team might just be this simple and reproducible. To inspire a team to act in a certain way, act yourself in that certain way. And as long as you’re under the same, or worst circumstances than the rest of your team, they’ll get inspired.

Martin Luther King was as black and as mistreated as his community. Gandhi was under worst conditions than his community. And they both inspired big time.

On Friday, that day before TEDxBeirut, I had never imagined that my change of attitude will have such a deep impact. I thank everyone single one of you. You inspired me to inspire.” End of quote.

You are likely to miss the essential idea in that post and think: “Keep smiling to inspire the team” is the secret ingredient.  Smiling is the catalyst, the best catalyst to inspiring, but “How can you keep a genuine smile if the entire team does not believe that you worked harder than anyone else?”

One of the speaker on TEDxBeirut (Hala Fayad) said: “To be a successful entrepreneur you have got to slave harder than anyone in team.  Ego is not useful in any endeavor you undertake…” (I assume that Hala got down on her knees and rubbed the floor and participated in the daily chores, as any slave is asked to do. Otherwise, success was pure luck, regardless of all the energy invested in the business and opportunities that were taken advantage of…)

In general, Gandhi is an excellent example in that line of thinking.  But Martin Luther King ? Simply because he was black and obviously mistreated and put in prison several times?  Malcom X and many other Black leaders in the US worked far harder than Martin Luther King  and they were mistreated harsher, not just by the white community, but amid their own black communities.

Note:  TEDxBeirut was a huge success in many ways, particularly in this awfully limited society and State of Lebanon. The slogan of TEDxBeirut was “From limitation to inspiration”.  That motto applied perfectly to the organizers of TEDxBeirut, though not to most of the speakers. I am preparing an article titled “Mostly a hoax: “From limitation to inspiration” slogan of TEDxBeirut”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2020
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