03 Dec 2015

The fight I won with 6 words

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By Christopher Lydick on November 30, 2015

TEDxSMU 2015: a day full of inspiring ideas, captivating speakers, and powerful talks focusing on community, meat, and an aesthete’s career path – just to name a few. Each talk drew me in to its unique story; every project earned my full attention, appreciation, and awe.

It seemed that with each transition from one talk to the next, the conference was getting better and better – until it was at its end: that’s when Tania Luna stole the conference and emerged as my favorite speaker, my favorite surprisologist, and transformed the performance hall into the most wonderful war zone I’d ever experienced.

In her talk, Tania introduced herself as an 8-year-old girl who just had to be right, who grew up to be an intelligent woman with a drive to be certain and correct. She then challenged her audience not to strive for curiosity – an answer-focused lifestyle – but instead to cultivate wonder; to ask and imagine. Using four tips for would-be wonderers, Tania shared a simple yet transformative how-to and challenged us as a society to eliminate our “certainty habit” and replace it with the “Wonder Habit.”

To demonstrate the power of ‘question agility,’ each attendee was asked to write down a question – a challenge – that he or she would like to ask more often. Very unexpectedly, to close out Tania’s talk and the conference, we were asked to crumple up that question into a ball and get ready to throw it, preparing for an “epic question snowball fight.” We were told that at the end, fate would select for us a question to challenge us for the upcoming week.

The expert surprisologist shouted, “GO,” and the entire conference erupted into a room full of flying wonder and inspiration. Paper and intellect hit attendees in the chest, back, and face, and smiles filled each row. After a few minutes of friendly fire, the room calmed down, and attendees collected their nearest piece of paper ammo, anxious to see what challenge awaited them.

My snowball, my question for the week, was written on a small, rectangular piece of paper in black ink, with only six words and a question mark:

Do you want to hang out?

All of the sudden, I saw in my mind’s eye a picture of me, hanging out with classmates and reconnecting with faded friendships. In that moment, I knew what my challenge was: not to allow my habit of certainty, or my comfort zone, dictate which relationships in which I invest. No, for that week – and for the rest of my life – I would commit to reaching out. I would rebuild burnt bridges, initiate conversations, and bring the distant people I’d once known well back into my life.

You see, Tania’s talk was my favorite not because of what she said, but because of what she did: she asked me to change my habits, to reshape my lifestyle, and to wonder what surprises lay in store from unexpected rekindled friendships.


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