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Life Lessons from TEDxKL 2013


I was in Kuala Lumpur in August for my first ever TEDxKL event. What's TED? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading which started in 1984. You can read up about TED here. The 'x' in the TEDx means it's an independently organized TED event. In my own words, TED related events are designed to inspire people to action, to challenge preconceived ideas and to motivate people to think without boxes.

The theme of the fifth TEDxKL was Life Hacking. "Life Hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill or novelty method to increase productivity" and they had an impressive lineup of speakers. There were three 'sets' spaced across the afternoon in August, with four speakers back to back. Each speaker had an average of 15 minutes each and topics varied: smartphones for the blind, poetry, recyclable rubber, passionate photography, 3D printing, etc - all connected in that they each brought forward a Life Hack.

I should say at this point that one of the things on my bucket list is to speak at a TED or TEDx event. So I was stoked to be there! Baby steps, right?

It was held at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre and it was a free-seating event. I was travelling solo so I was mobile [read: I made sure I was as close as possible to the front of the hall through each set]. After each set, there was ample break time (45 minutes), enough to network or go for a short walk around sections of Mid Valley. I am involved in the events and conferencing game so I was well aware that breaks are opportune times to try connect in person with the speakers. Mind you, TED related speakers are held in high regard worldwide so it was a treat that they lingered around during the breaks. I got to speak and do selfies with a few of them (see below).

I learned a lot from TEDxKL. It lived up to my expectations and I am glad I made the trip to KL to experience it.

Here are seven life lessons from TEDxKL 2013.

1. The future is not set in stone. In fact, it seems that it will be set in polymers. Jonathan Buford from Makible made a case on how the increase in accessibility to 3D printing could very well disrupt the way industry works.

2. Music connects people. This is a truism I know, but Cheryl Tan and Az Samad's session had the audience mesmerized. There was clapping, wolf-whistling, "wooOOOooo's", and then there were moments of silence as the crowd just soaked in the music.

3. Solutions take time. We live in instant times. We want faster internet speeds. We like quick replies to our messages and emails. We want quick solutions. We don't just want things to be quick, the consumer in us demands things be aesthetically pleasing too. However, sustainable solutions to complex problems usually takes time. In fact, as Gopi Sekhar shared, it takes a heck of a lot of research and development.

4. There is power in the spoken word. Kosal Khiev served 14 years in prison. There he discovered spoken word poetry. He shared his story and he held us captive. No props, no fancy slides, no whiteboards. Just Kosal and his heavy words.

5. Passion knows no barrier. Zung, an award winning international photographer from Malaysia, started his session with a confession. "I don't speak very good English." In fact, he actually didn't. He did however have a story to tell, and man, did he pour his heart into it! Zung has a dropped-out-of-school story and a and-then-I-found-my passion story. His advice: to work hard, to be passionate, to take risks.

6. Shine. If you have a talent or skill, don't hide it. Find a way to share it with others. Hong Yi did via YouTube and she is now making headlines across the world with her art. And no, she's not a one-hit-wonder. She continues to create and connect with her fans through digital media (google Red Hong Yi to see what I mean). Is there anything this girl can't do?!

7. Laugh at yourself. Rizal van Geyzel, a top Malaysian comedian took the stage and started cracking out jokes; jokes about himself. He then proceeded to deliver funnies about Malaysian stereotypes. As Rizal crisscrossed between jokes about himself and Malaysia, the crowd laughed with him. I remember my dad telling me as a kid, "Don't take yourself too seriously." That message still rings true today. It is a healthy sign when a society is able to laugh at itself. It shows openness and tolerance, which comes along with maturity.

The 'Before I Die' blackboard



With TEDxKL host Kavin J


With funny man Rizal van Geyzel


Red Hong Yi

ZOE 0024 1



ZOE 0018



 Gopi Sekhar

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Cambodian Son Kosal Khiev

ZOE 0011


With Bernie from Sketch Post Studio



Jonathan Buford (seated)

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Folks from the TEDxKL team


Group photograph with the speakers and organising teams


With TEDxKL curator Daniel CerVentus



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