TEDx – Behind the Schemes

My TEDx is done…

Perhaps short for ‘Tom’s Exhausting Diary’, or ‘Tom’s Extreme Dichotomy’, the latter encapsulating the hypocrisy felt giving a talk on simplicity whilst living an entirely complex life during the process.

Plus ca change.

Hopefully my outfit and, of course, the talk itself will help further explain how I feel and what I learned from the process…  this photo was taken a few buttock clenching seconds before going on stage. I look calm. I am not. That’s a pretty normal state of affairs for me. Many people have commented on how generally chilled out I appear to be…

Don’t be fooled. The last month or two have seen many sleepless nights. If I look younger than I am, my picture in the attic is heavily wrinkled.

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A wise person I met a few weeks ago told me he never really understands something properly until he’s written about it. Too true. There’s a catharsis and comprehension that comes from taking the time to reflect on significant events, hence this post.

This talk couldn’t have come at a worse time for me – I was forced to write my ‘talk proposal’ during the only holiday I’d found time for this year. Spending precious moments on Vancouver Island holed up in cafes on my laptop rather than enjoying the place and time with my traveling companion.

I accepted the opportunity to do a TEDx for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew that like writing, it would force me to consolidate my thoughts. I’ve now been blogging for years and yet still am unsure as to where I’ve got to. I knew the TEDx would force me to crystallise some of these down to 12 minutes or 1500 words… to focus. Secondly, I’m terrified of public speaking, so this was a huge personal challenge, one that had sat on my bucket list for a few years. Why we put ridiculous, uncomfortable challenges on our bucket lists is also something I deal with in the talk – but I can summarise neatly in 4.5 words here – because we’re dumb.

Then, just in case I wasn’t cramming more shiny goals in to my magpie like mouth, I offered to live in a tent in rural Somerset for a month prior to the talk, as well as doing another talk at Bristol University in preparation. Double, triple dumb.

Which all would have been fine if I was a insomniac retiree, but I’ve also knew going into this that I was about to start fundraising for my business. Something that requires singleminded focus. Quadruple dumb, squared.

A TEDx talk takes A LOT of time. It was an intense few months grappling with ideas, cutting, editing, asking wonderful friends to look at the proposal and making further changes and so on.

Couple all of this with pitches to investors in boardrooms, negotiations, intense meetings and then finish the day with a trudge across a boggy field into a tent and you’ve got a highly chaotic, not-simple life.

So… What did I learn? What have I understood?

I don’t want this to be a spoiler, but there are a few thoughts I want to capture whilst they’re still fresh, as well as some of the 13,500 words and some that didn’t make it into the final cut… In no particular order:

– Nature, the outside and real life is only a put down screen and a front door away. My previous post, I hope, captures some of that wonder (https://simpletom.co.uk/2015/11/05/wood-you/). Adventures are easy to have, even if you’re at work in your normal life. At any time you could camp out for a night, or walk a different route home. Climb a wall, tree or hill. Sounds simple, I hardly ever do them.

– The more I immersed myself in the process of watching others’ behaviour, particularly with smart phones, the madder and madder the world seemed. 90% of a train platforms and whole cities filled with people staring into and relying on their devices, without even realising they’re doing it. Leave someone 10s alone and the majority will pick up a device. The damage this is doing to our psyches must be terrible. Almost everyone recognises this, but very few people do anything about it.

– We chase unrealistic, unreachable and unhealthy goals all the time, at the expense of our own happiness. People don’t know what makes them happy. We have no idea where we’re headed or why we do many of the things we do.

– Most people care more about the rewards of their work than the content.

What next… for me, a bit less. Some focus.

Perhaps a camper van to enable me to access the countryside more regularly. More of the same, I hope without quite so many of the rough edges and hypocrisy…

Constipatience

I’ve had writers constipation.. the literary yips. So much to write and yet for a litany of reasons I haven’t put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. A lot has happened in the last few months. I’ve started a few articles, keen to work through a problem, but slunk away. I could claim it’s because I’ve not wanted extra time at my screen, but that would be a convenient excuse. I’ve just not had it in me to write. Perhaps all this post will do is to overcome the hurdle of a few months of quiet rather than provide anything new. Ease things gently into being. A start. A spring-cleaning and cobweb removal post. Or perhaps I’ll finish here and go and do something else…

No… must… get… it… out…

A beautiful post by a friend Freddy reminds why we write. “The answer is simple. For myself.”

He goes on to say, “Like so many of us I feel scared to express that which may not be accepted. Sometimes that’s useful. Occasionally its essential – evolutionary-programming for societal survival in action! But so often I reject my own knowing in order to avoid creating imagined ripples, waves, or even wrecks! Ironically, that way, treasures that could blossom are lost, lying buried and unclaimed on the ocean floor of my unacknowledged being. I want to share my treasure, whatever that is. I am deeply grateful to anyone who’s willing to witness it. I suppose this is the curse of having my sun and moon in Leo – a great need to be “seen”! But perhaps there can be a positive outcome also, beyond my own selfish needs, to transcending the fear of authentically expressing oneself?”

An astral Leonine paw high-five to that. A sprinkle of quotation to help my writing on its way.

Also, by way of an apology for the lack of content, the first two tunes from my amazing sister’s upcoming EP.

Proud Brother Am I. Her music demonstrates how beautiful the fear of expression – as Fred mentions above – can be when manifested, explored and shared. The music speaks to her truth and feels like a expression of her voice and her being. It is like putting an ear to her chest and hearing her soul sing… in both its beauty and blackness.

Her treasures are indeed blossoming, with some sumptuously penned reviews here, here and many, many more.

And so, I get a blog post out… ending “the frustrating ricocheting quality of our internal dialogue

It’s good to be back…

Girls Gone Mild – The Power of The Ordinary


The great lesson … is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that is to be
found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s back yard … Abraham Maslow

I’ve read T.S Eliot’s The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock a few hundred times. Each time I read it I find something new. Perhaps that’s because I’m so distractible that I miss so much.

You know the scene – you start reading and before you know it your eyes are scanning the sentences but you’re wondering how belly-button fluff actually gets there. God knows it’s one of life’s extravagant mysteries.

Or is it because in Eliot’s poem there’s so much to be taken in? Maybe each mood of mine uncovers a different meaning? Or is it a mixture of all of these?

It reminds me that you don’t always need something new to find the best. Sometimes something repeated can be even more beautiful. An old recipe is almost always better in my kitchen (and stomach) than the new.

We long for holidays, deserted white-sand beaches and pina-coladas; or dancing to tribal beats in deserted quarries on a cocktail of substances at the weekends; or new films, books and games. We love the new, the latest, the up-to-date, the shiniest.

But Prufrock is a reminder that I have everything I need. If one looks more closely, you can always find more. It is possible never to be bored, even with the most mundane of surroundings. Great things can come from ordinary places. A few that spring to mind:

  • Einstein came up with perhaps the most important theories of all time whilst working as a patent clerk.
  • A Vipassana course can result in the most remarkable discoveries with zero outside stimulus.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the story of a man paralyzed who is able to recount wonderful pieces of his life.
  • Kant’s daily schedule, which enabled him to have extraordinary thoughts in an ordinary life. “It is often held that Kant lived a very strict and predictable life, leading to the oft-repeated story that neighbors would set their clocks by his daily walks” – Wikipedia reference.
  • Bill Bryson writes hilariously about things that most of us would find annoying, reminding us that perspective is everything.
  • Darwin made his biggest discoveries whilst living in his house in England, rather than on his travels.
  • J.K Rowling created a whole new magical world while sitting in a back street cafe in Edinburgh.

“Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men” says Bertrand Russell, and also from the same book The Conquest of Happiness, “Think of the different things that may be noticed in the course of a country walk. One man in the geology, yet another in the agriculture, and so on. Any one of these things is interesting if it interests you, and, other things being equal, then man who is interested in any one of them is better adapted to the world than the man who is not interested.”

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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”

— T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets)