“We are the X. The multipliers. The catalysts. The connectors. The amplifiers. The idea people who back it up with action. We challenge the status quo. We are creators, artists, entrepreneurs, designers, geeks, poets, scientists, thinkers and doers. We come together to collaborate, to share fresh ideas and to find inspiration. We believe Michigan is a great place to live, work and play. We are optimistic about our future. We are the people who are making it happen. We believe that is an idea worth spreading.” – TEDxDetroit

tedx attendee passIf you haven’t been to a TEDx event or don’t know what it encompasses, let me be the first to inform you. TEDx is a global, local, and community conversation about our shared future. TEDx events are independently organized talks by local communities based off of an organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading” and best of all, its entirely non-profit. From the event coordinators to the speakers and exhibits, everyone involved is donating their time and knowledge to the TEDx community. TEDx is a chance for all of us to venture away from the routine tasks that consume our daily lives and sit in awe, as we marvel at the most inspiring, courageous and fascinating people from around the world.

Today, there are over 45,000 TEDx talks available online. From Jill Bolte Taylor’s inspirational A Stroke of Insight and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Your Elusive Creative Genius, to the impactful Hackschooling talk by 13-year-old Logan LaPlante; each speech is as impressive, inspirational and thought provoking as the next. And I wanted to be apart of it, again. In 2013, I got the opportunity to go to TEDx Detroit for the first time. The city had just declared bankruptcy and to the rest of the world, appeared to be falling apart at the seams- not exactly a place any outsiders would willingly visit. Detroit, a city that once represented the spine of the US, a beacon for wealth and success, had fallen a victim to corrupt leaders, economic, and cultural forces. But something happened at TEDx Detroit that year that made me hungry for more. What was it? The kind of hope, innovation, courage and brilliance that only the city of Detroit could possess. I was floored at how the people of Detroit seemed to thrive in a city that had just hit rock bottom, fighting back with tenacity, creativity and ingenuity. It was inspiring, to say the least.

After what was an utterly remarkable experience in 2013, it’s no surprise I went for a second consecutive year. Excited, eager and with a stack of business cards in tow, I arrived at the Detroit Opera House for a day of uplifting speeches, innovative ideas and entrepreneurial thought. Here are the highlights of my experience and the most notable speakers.

Jim Murphy- Pixar Animation Studios

jim murphy at tedx event

Director Jim Murphy from Pixar Animation Studios brought his humor, ukulele and short animated film “Lava” to TEDx.  Born and raised in Detroit, Murphy laughing introduced himself to the Detroit crowd by making a connection between his birth date and the day the first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line.  It was an appropriate introduction, to say the least.  He then spoke about the 25-year history that led to the short film, starting with a honeymoon to Hawaii where he originally dreamt up the story of the lonely volcano.  He used the story and characteristics behind “Lava” to inspire the audience to dive head first into their passions without hesitation.  Not before playing and singing the ukelele-quite good, admittedly- he left the crowd with a single message, “So, Detroit, spread the word. We have to take chances and reinvent ourselves. We have to learn from failures and inspire others with our ideas. But most importantly, we have to pour our heart and souls into everything we do.”

Devita Davison- @foodlabdetroit

Devita Davison tedxDevita Davison walked on stage with a presence and a conviction in her voice that was hard to ignore.  Davison’s passion for Detroit Kitchen Connect ,the city of Detroit and it’s community radiated from her.  She spoke about the food entrepreneurs of Detroit and how they are crafting a new economy.  She credits that same community of food entrepreneurs for helping her to fall in love with the city all over again.  A Detroit native, Davision had found herself back at home after living in New York for nearly 20 years, following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Upon making the move from New York to Detroit she noticed many similarities between the two cities, with one very large difference. Comparing two shockingly similar photos, she pointed out how parts of Detroit looked identical to the deserted streets of Long Island after Hurricane Sandy saying, “it too looked like it had been hit by a hurricane.”   However, the strength in the community of Detroit was profound.  She went on to note that,”the people in the city of Detroit are not raising their hands saying ‘I give up’, despite population loss, despite poor city services and despite the fact that their neighborhoods have been destined and devastated, they are winners.” Soon, Davison was helping to create Detroit Kitchen Connect, a network of co-working spaces for the city’s food entrepreneurs. And what they’ve managed to create is hugely impressive. Even Oprah thinks so.

It’s true, Detroit hit rock bottom and maybe thats a good thing because it opened up a space for bright, creative and passionate entrepreneurs to reinvent the city.  Outsiders may be fooled, but we are not. Detroit businesses are thriving.

Until next time Tedx.

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