Tom Bedell

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Tom Bedell for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Tom Bedell

"Seed To Song"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

It is TEDxOkoboji week. It promises to be magical. I look forward to my return to participate in the TEDxOkoboji event this Friday.

Our family celebrates five generations of living in the Iowa Great Lakes. Today, Monday, I am in Naples, Florida visiting my 98-year-old father – Berkley Bedell. This feels like poetry to begin this week with my mentor, the person who ingrained in me the values of caring about one-another and taking responsibility for ourselves, our families and our actions. Last night as we shared dinner at a restaurant he and my mother used to enjoy many Sunday nights, we reminisced about our lives, the causes we have shared, the things we have accomplished and the disappointments we would welcome the opportunity to “do-over”!

Many of the challenges that face our planet have arisen during my father’s lifetime. The one that concerns him the most is climate change – the subject of my upcoming TEDx discussion. I focus on saving our world’s forests and encouraging consumer engagement in making purchasing decisions of products containing wood with consideration for where the trees grew, how they were harvested, the impact that was imposed on the forest neighborhood and the protection for the wildlife and human life that lives among the forests.

I practiced my talk with Dad. He seemed proud. Then he proceeded to expound on the problems of wealth disparity, out-of-hand consumerism, the current state of the wealthy buying politicians and the breakdown of our democracy, his concern for nuclear proliferation and annihilation and the rise in racism around the world. There are plenty of subjects for future TEDx Talks – it would be terrific if Dad could take my place and share his wisdom.

I look forward to doing my best to make him proud.

Tom Bedell for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 9th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Tom Bedell

"Seed To Song"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

I have dedicated my careers to lifestyle consumer products that connect people and their love of the outdoors (Pure Fishing) and love of creating music (Bedell & Breedlove Guitars). My passion has never been piling up profits, but rather creating cultures that promote treating others as we all would want to be treated, and enhancing the quality of experience our customers have with advanced products while preserving our planet earth’s resources through dedication to sustainability and preservation.

Being offered the opportunity to participate with a Tedx Talk provides a platform to promote my passion, to provide insight into the organic nature of our tropical forests, and share the art and science for how acoustic guitars are crafted. Plus, I get the added benefit of coaches, the discipline of improving my communication skills, and the opportunity to meet extraordinary people and learn their stories and experiences. It is a real honor to be included in this process.

Thank you so much. 

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Tiffany June Fisk

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Tiffany June Fisk for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Tiffany June Fisk

"Developing a Relationship with Pain"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

The process to prepare for this talk has been a continuous up and down roller coaster of a ride feeling inspired and frustrated, excited and nervous – much like how I felt when I found out I was accepted to give one in the first place. 

So many thoughts around this process, but two have stood out the most to me over these past few months and I’d like to share them with you. 

1. Life doesn’t slow down no matter how important of a thing you think you’ve gotta do. It would have been nice to have had ample free time dedicated to formulating, editing and perfecting my talk over these weeks, but instead my husband and I decided to sell our condo and move into a house. At the same time, I also helped a new studio open adding six new classes with different formats to my already two bodywork practices and another studio I’m teaching at. This talk has been trying to work on one very specific thing while juggling a ton of new life threads. What did I learn??? The human is more than capable of taking on waaaay more than the limits our minds have placed upon us. 

2. The amount of energy it takes to stick with a single thing til it feels right. I knew the idea. I had thoughts around how I wanted to say it and then realized I had to keep shifting, changing, editing and revising the structure, sentences and vocabulary over and over and OVER again. Many days passed when I just couldn’t fathom a different way to say what I wanted, but somehow, eventually, because I didn’t give up, the exact wording would come to me. What did I learn??? KEEP TRYING. Again, push past those preconceived boundaries and expand your limits. We’ve all heard “never give up”, but how many times do we stop and accept the mediocre because we just don’t want to deal with it anymore? I wonder what heights all aspects of my life would reach if— just like the TEDx talk— my efforts were broadcast all over the internet for millions to view (and judged). I’m guessing I’d probably keep trying until I honestly felt what I was giving was my best effort.

These were the biggest lessons I got to experience first hand while preparing for the talk and I’m certainly hoping what I’ve learned stays with me. With the talk only one week away, I’m beginning to breathe easier and get excited for the opportunity to share. I’ve still got loads of memorizing to do, but the path feels clear, the hard work has paid off and I’m so ready to step on that red circle! 

Tiffany June Fisk for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 9th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Tiffany June Fisk

"Developing a Relationship with Pain"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

My sister told me Okoboji was going to host a TEDx and casually said, “You should apply.” I’ve seen many TEDx talks and often times the Ted Radio Hour accompanies me on long drives, but never in a million years did I consider hearing or seeing myself roaming around that red circle. 

This was because, in my mind, people who give TED talks have one of two things in common. They either had a profound life changing experience which caused a mind blowing perspective shift OR they dedicated years of their life uncovering something profound or life changing. 

Clearly, I felt as though I did not belong in either of those camps, therefore how could I possibly have anything to say?? I sat with my self imposed limitation for awhile until I realized the idea I felt the need to share had absolutely nothing to do with me. 

I haven’t experienced it personally and I didn’t go searching for it. I was a witness to others experience and overtime became a guide. 

I paid careful attention to each person throughout their process, taking diligent notes of what what worked and what didn’t. I then began to share what became so obvious to me, but seemed to escape a lot of those who came to see me. 

Persistent unexplained pain tended to slowly get better in those that moved towards it and spent time developing a relationship with that particular sensation instead of only looking to fix it through outside means be it bodywork, chiropractic, NSAIDs, food, etc.

Moving towards/into, spending time defining the boundaries of, listening to and exploring the sensation of pain itself creates a safe environment for the body to feel heard and the client to feel empowered. They no longer felt “broken” and needed to be “fixed,” but took control of their body and became an active participant in their healing process. 

To be honest, I applied to speak 100% fully expecting to not get picked, and when I got a call from the TEDx Okoboji organizers offering me the chance to speak, I believe my first words were something along the lines of, “Seriously? Are you sure?” Followed by an immediate juxtaposition of feelings. Sheer terror of not feeling qualified (see above reasons) and profound gratitude of being the vessel allowed to share the power I have witnessed on reframing and developing a relationship with pain. 

I tell clients all the time that deep change happens when we step into those places where we feel most uncomfortable, so let be know that I am ready to be uncomfortable, to be challenged and to share with the world the best of my ability! 

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Kiley Miller

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Kiley Miller for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Kiley Miller

"How Saving Small Towns Soothes Our Souls"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

It’s the final week. My voice is strong. My shirt is pressed. And one thought keeps running through my brain … I am so bored.

Who knows how many runs I’ve made through the script for my TEDx talk: 25, 50? Five bazillion and 7?

Each time I jump back in, there’s a sort of nauseous ‘not-again’ that wells up in my belly and chokes my throat.  I do love small towns, I do believe they soothe our spirit, but right now I’d rather converse on the length of my toenails.

Presumably, this is good. It means I’m fully rehearsed. I’ve got it down. Nothing can go wrong.

Except that it doesn’t mean anything of the sort. When Friday rolls around and I step under the lights, no amount of rehearsal will ensure energy and a centered mind. I might panic, I might get distracted, or I might just be tired.

This is where the audience comes in. I’m counting on the crowd to breathe life into me and the topic. If all goes well, a monologue becomes a dialogue, with listeners’ thoughts and opinions conveyed back to me on stage in the form of attentive postures, head nods, and maybe even some laughs. If it goes poorly, there will be other signals: sleepy eyes, furtive glances at watches, and—God forbid—cell phone glow.

Probably there will be some of both. The speaker’s job is to ignore the bad and bask in the good.

No matter which way it goes, though, one thing is certain: Come Saturday, I don’t have to rehearse this dadgum thing again.

Kiley Miller for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Kiley Miller

Attention, my fellow procrastinators: TED talks are tough.

Well, maybe not the talks so much, but the series of intermediate deadlines between my quixotic and vain decision to apply as a speaker and TEDxOkoboji on November 22nd are going to prove very troubling.

You see, I’m pretty confident, perhaps even cocky, about my ability to write, rehearse and deliver a speech. Provided the writing and rehearsing happens on the last night before the big event. I’ve never been able to find my muse without the motivating fire of impending disaster.  

But TED doesn’t work that way. It’s actually much better. Organizers have provided me and the other speakers with a set of milestones–Day XX: Title and summary; Day YY–Outline; Day ZZ–Video recording sent to coach–all meant to keep us on task and marching steadily toward success. (And yes, you read that right, we have a coach. The very fun and capable Andrea Olson.)

I appreciate the reason for such robust support. After all, organizers, speakers and audiences alike dread hearing a presenter flail and fail on the stage. Plus, the organization is really quite astounding. TED has this thing down to a science.  

But dang it, writing is about making choices, and I never choose until time is running out. Take me out to eat and I’ll order last. My cars have age spots. And most emphatically, I won’t commit to a word, sentence, paragraph or even unifying theme when there are still a few hours left for considering.

So, to the TEDx organizers, call this my mea culpa. I’ll be ready just as soon as I’m late.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Kevin Grems

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Kevin Grems for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Kevin Grems

"Artificial Unintelligence "

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Memorizing is not my forte.  It’s not a great way to teach a class, but probably is the best way to deliver a TEDx Talk.  I’ve heard horror stories from my fellow speakers about how an unplanned, unmapped out talk can “get off the rails” and never get back on.  Determined to not have that become my fate, I’ve been feverishly rehearsing, one paragraph at a time until the whole thing has been committed to memory.  I’ve found that stories or “big ideas” are generally easier to keep track of in my head as opposed to smaller, shorter anecdotes.

In the software business, testing is huge.  Getting your product in front of your target users ensures that you aren’t assuming anything about them that you shouldn’t and that your program works on the intended hardware.  It turns out that the same is true for delivering a TEDxTalk. Testing out the talk in front of a few sample “users” has proven to be quite helpful. The nature of my talk involves some technical jargon so boiling down the fancy-sounding terms and making them approachable to the masses has been incredibly time consuming.  As I discuss in the talk, people tend to be naturally fearful of technology… especially when new, confusing terms are involved.

As the big day approaches, I’m thinking back and reflecting on how challenging it can be to get an idea across using something like a TEDxTalk.  Each word must be carefully chosen and the sentence structure strategically crafted in such a way to deliver maximum impact in a minimal amount of time.  With great risk comes great reward though. The risk is looking like a fool… wondering if people are actually going to get anything useful from the talk.  The reward is a life-changing opportunity to permanently impact the lives of those in the audience and beyond.

Kevin Grems for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Kevin Grems

"Artificial Unintelligence "

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Two weeks ago, the reality of the first annual TEDxOkoboji event set in.  The process went from digital communication to a physical meeting at The Waterfront in Arnolds Park.  There the speakers and event organizers met and mingled. We got to know each other’s passions and our reasons for being there.  Everyone was a little unsure of what was about to unfold.   

It was said at our first meeting that this TEDx talk would be unlike any other talk or presentation that we have ever given before.  I quickly realized this, and how unique it would be for each individual around the table that night.

For me, giving a TEDx talk means a fundamental shift in how I share information with people.  Generally, for about 5 hours each day, I teach college students how to write computer programs.  I show them how to build video games, websites, and business software. My classes are 90 – 120 minutes in length and each student is positioned in front of a computer to work along with me through the lectures and demonstrations.  The format is loose and informal. Theoretically, my students have a natural inclination toward the subject matter being presented.

While that format is useful for teaching college classes, it isn’t for TEDx.  There are no hands-on demonstrations to fill the time and shift the focus away from the presenter.  No degrees or certificates are awarded for successfully sitting through my talk… but maybe there should be!  Instead, there is a room full of diverse people from all sorts of backgrounds, hungry to hear about ideas worth spreading.

I am beyond thrilled to have been selected for the first annual TEDxOkoboji event.  In the world of video games, we talk about the “risk vs. reward” balancing act. The greater the risk posed to the player, the greater the reward should be.  I generally apply this axiom to the real world as well. The risks of giving a TEDx talk are great: what if I choke? What if nobody really cares about my idea?  What if I’m just terrible at communicating? These are valid concerns to be sure, but the rewards far outweigh the risks. Giving “the talk of your lifetime” is about as rewarding as it gets!

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Andrea Olson

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Andrea Olson for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Andrea Olson

"Why Data Doesn't Change Minds"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Creating a TEDx Talk has been a process, to say the least. As a TEDx speaker coach, you know what to look for in a talk – whether it wanders or has a solid through line. Whether it has turned into a personal story or a clear idea worth spreading. But evaluating your own work in the same way is another matter. I thought I had a clear idea worth sharing, but just like the other speakers, I also found that my idea was just a starting point. It was necessary to go deeper, and get to the heart of what I wanted to share with the TEDx audience. 

I went through multiple iterations of my talk, and finally landed on one. This was a great relief, as I felt ahead of the game, and began the process of refinement and memorization. But then, as I continued to bounce my talk off colleagues and friends, I could feel something was wrong. It didn’t flow naturally. Even though I had written the entire piece, it didn’t sound like me. I was at a wall. I struggled to find the solution – because it was simple. I’d given others this same advice before – just focus on the idea. So more iterations came and went. Still not there. I started to get concerned and weigh my ability to get my talk completed. It was disheartening.

But I pressed on. And just like the other speakers, finally got to a version that was the right fit. It was an enormous relief, and gave me a chance to reflect on the process, both for myself and the speakers I coached. With the countless number of books, recommendations, tips, and recipes of “how to give a great TED Talk”, there’s one tip that’s rarely mentioned but the most important. Keep going. I hear many people share the fact that they’re seasoned speakers, and that a 10 minute talk is easy. And it’s anything but. TED talks are unique, and most everyone underestimates the challenge that they are. But the key to success is not giving up – and focusing solely on that “idea worth spreading”, because at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

Andrea Olson for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Andrea Olson

"Why Data Doesn't Change Minds"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

As a TEDx curator in Davenport, Iowa, for the last 3 years, I’ve always been behind the scenes, working with speakers to create amazing, memorable talks. When I got connected with the TEDxOkoboji team, it was an excellent opportunity not only to share my experience by coaching speakers and help a new TEDx organization develop, but also a wonderful opportunity to “eat my own dog food” and present a TEDx Talk of my own.  

Having attended the global TED SUMMIT in July of this year, I had the opportunity to receive insight and training on being a speaker coach, gaining unique insights and learning specific techniques. And of course, with this knowledge, I have become my own worst critic. However, it’s an incredibly exciting opportunity and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.  

TED Talks are unique, and they are designed around the principle of an “idea worth sharing”. Having authored 2 books, hosted 2 podcasts, written hundreds of published articles, and have travelled to over 12 different countries, I’ve got no shortage of ideas. The most challenging aspect of creating a TEDx Talk is narrowing it down to one and only one. In preparing for TEDxOkoboji, I knew I wanted to focus on a challenge I’ve seen time and time again – the question of “Why Data Doesn’t Change Minds.”  

We’ve experienced this frustration, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We make our case, citing studies and facts, creating endless amounts of charts, graphs and spreadsheets, only to have it often fall on deaf ears. While we believe this logical approach makes sense, I’ve discovered there are other, unexpected factors at play, and will dive into not only the ‘what,’ but the ‘why’ behind this befuddling human behavior.

I’m excited for what the coming weeks hold, for both my speaker peers and for the event overall. Having insight to the array of personalities and talks on the docket, it’s going to be one incredibly amazing ride! Get ready to be blown away.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Barry Sackett

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Barry Sackett for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Barry Sackett

"Discover 100"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Fortunately, I had signed up for the Mines of Spain 100 (MOS 100) before I committed to speaking at TEDx.  I may have hesitated to take on the race and do the talk in back to back months, but luckily it was such a great way for me to process what I was trying to say.  What I discovered at that race was amazing and informative to my talk and my preparation of the talk made it my best 100-mile race I have ever run.  

Prior to the run I had drafted this big long and boring talk that touched on lots of things, but generally did not come up with an idea worth spreading. I got that feedback from our incredible coaches Andrea and Josh who politely said, Barry you are not there yet.  I was amazed at how difficult drafting a TED talk was, I know I was warned, but it was harder than I could imagine. My concept of looking at someone living to be 100 years old through the lens of running a 100 mile race seemed like an idea, but as I tried to do craft it, I fell down many rabbit holes, the biggest and deepest one was my gigantic ego.  After getting my feedback I started to pull apart my original talk and it quickly disintegrated into a blur of words. We had a meeting with the other speakers to discuss our progress and I was reassured that I was not the only speaker with a blob of words instead of a coherent talk. With the MOS100 coming up the next week, I felt that I would focus on my run and see if I might find some inspiration.

As I stated above, the run was an amazing experience for me, so I wrote a long description of it for my coach in place of this blog, but he indicated that I should talk about the process of writing instead of a story about running.   But I will say this, I did not run 100 miles, I ran one mile a 100 times, and I did not run those miles alone, I ran them with my crazy trail people. The emotional and mental strength I have found necessary to run 100 miles is not possible without the support of the crazy people that do that kind of thing.  I am a lucky man that gets to associate with them and associate with the group of people slated to speak at TEDx Okoboji on the 22nd. The idea which is Okoboji, will show up and I think will be well worth spreading.

Barry Sackett for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Barry Sackett

"Discover 100"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

I have been running every day since November 4, 2009.  I am often asked and often ponder why I run. At this point I think the reason that tops of the list of all the good reasons I run is the internal dialog I get to have each day.  That time has produced a lot of ideas over the years, and when I was presented the opportunity to speak at a TEDx event, I thought it would be a great opportunity to express some of these bottled up ideas. 

What to talk about?  Top of mind at the time was the revelation of turning 50 years old in May of 2019, and the concept of this being the halfway mark of my life.  This of course implied that I would live to be 100 and have 50 years to go—seemed daunting. Another time in my life when I got to 50 and had 50 to go was running 100-mile races.  That sense of significant accomplishment in completing 50 miles is very muted when you realize you must do it one more time before you are through.

So, like that feeling, am I excited to live another 50?  Knowing that I will not be as physically strong, as mentally strong nor as well supported as I was in the first 50 miles.  That somewhere in the next 50 miles I will be all alone in physical and emotional despair. 

I accept that the next 50 years will have a similar result, but at some point, I may similarly find new depths of relationships with those I meet along the trudge, which will give me insight into a life beyond my own, time to distill my thoughts and desires to the most primal point.  Those are the things which have me sign up for another 100-mile race, so I hope to use that experience to become excited about another 50 years of life.

These are some of the ideas I first hope to explore, and then spread through the TEDx stage.  I am intimidated, humbled and feel a deep responsibility to do my very best, understanding that my learnings through the process will undoubtedly be much larger than my teachings.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

David Thoreson

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David Thoreson for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 12th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

David Thoreson

"Follow the Water"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Pacing, lots of pacing. I am nearing 10,000 steps today and I have hardly been out of the house. That is not a bad thing as the temperature has been hovering around zero but the majority of my day has been spent in very anxious memorization of my script for the TEDxOkoboji event coming up all too soon.

 

I recently heard someone say that if you are not feeling a little bit anxious about your work then you are probably not doing anything important. Interesting words for all of us to ponder. Preparing for a TEDx Talk feels like that. I have an idea which is important to me. I want to validate this idea, make it interesting and share my passion. I want people to talk about it. This is important to me as I want to inspire others. I’m nervous.

 

Preparing for a TEDx event is exhausting as a storyteller. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, but this is different; this is a process. I question myself from hour to hour. What a strange feeling to go from confident to wondering if you can pull it off.

 

I have to stay on message; don’t wander off into a thread that is not in my story. Stay focused and build the passion I feel for conservation, water quality and the importance of leaving this planet better than I found it, possibly a naïve challenge in the era of climate change.

 

As an outdoor photographer and explorer, I have always been attracted by the beauty of the landscape, the water and what can be found by venturing out over that horizon. The TEDx experience feels like that with similar challenges. I’m trying to draw strength from this analogy and channel it into my talk.

 

Water quality is a really, really tough subject. It can get geeky and technical very fast. I was at a water quality conference a few years ago and there was a consultant there to help us learn to talk about the subject. He said very few people care about the details; they want to know how water quality affects their families, their health, drinking water and ability to enjoy the outdoor environment. Make it personal.

 

I wish to point out that we have tremendous water challenges here in the Midwest, in Iowa, and in fact, we have a crisis which needs to be solved within small watersheds and communities from the bottom up. I live in Okoboji and have been inspired by this great water quality community here for decades now. We have an economy built on clean water, trails and public lands. We have the model for the rest of Iowa suffering from lack of outdoor opportunities.

 

I have forged many new friendships by getting involved in conservation. It is fun, hopeful and inspiring and also builds community. That is what TEDxOkoboji is all about. Whether I perform perfectly, or not, is less important than building community, having the conversations and expressing the passion I share for this idea. I’m honored to be part of the team of this new and exciting event in the lakes area. I’ll give it my best shot; that’s for sure.

David Thoreson for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

David Thoreson

"Follow the Water"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

As a Midwestern boy, it seems strange to say that I’ve always been drawn to water, but ultimately this interest changed my life forever.  I was fortunate to grow up in a time where playing and exploring the outdoors was the natural thing for a child to do. My days were spent exploring the woods, rivers and lakes of northern Iowa. It was during these great experiences of my youth that the dream to further explore the world became very real.

I have now spent the past three decades as a professional photographer and sailor, documenting the outdoors locally in the Iowa Great Lakes region and sailing the world’s seas and oceans. Water still guides my path in life and has become the issue that changed me from a person attracted by its physical beauty to an advocate for its protection for future generations.

My TEDxOkoboji talk tells this story of my connections to the water and how it has taken me along so many highways in life from local lakes to the great oceans and polar regions of the world. Sailing to the waters of the Arctic Ocean led to me to the issue of our changing climate, which altered my life’s work forever.

Back in Okoboji, and reflecting on the Iowa Great Lakes, I now understand that we have a different economic engine than the rest of the state of Iowa. Our engine runs on beautiful, clean water. As long as there are high quality natural resources, we enjoy a $300 million dollar, tourism-based economy. Everyone is outside having fun. Everyone is happy.

Iowa’s small, rural counties have seen water quality degraded, opportunities diminished and residents leaving. On the flipside, Dickinson County is growing and celebrating clean water in workshops, festivals and completed projects. We work hard in a very nonpartisan, cooperative manner to create and maintain a mix of agriculture and robust tourism. It’s a win-win.

Iowa’s agricultural economy has expanded to a point where it is damaging to our waters and nature, and we are losing our precious topsoil downstream. Restoring and enhancing natural landscapes and resources is key to developing local, sustainable economies. There is an “Okoboji Model” here that certainly could be exported to other rural areas of the state.

Let’s create a new vision of the Iowa landscape where not only agriculture thrives, but also healthy, outdoor corridors of opportunity. We once had a tallgrass prairie wilderness across the state with abundant clean water. Bringing back nature around the edges for public use is the cure for the rural Iowa blues, cleaning our waters and providing healthy family and community opportunities.  This is the Okoboji way.  

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Will Dible

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Will Dible for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Will Dible

"Blurring the Boundaries"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

As the day of the TEDx event nears, the emotional roller coaster continues. In each of these days leading up to the talk, I have gone from nervousness, to excitement, to dread, to jubilation and every emotion in-between.  It honestly reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, compassion, some humor, and some style.” This has been the process of preparation for this talk. I don’t want to just survive the talk with little chance of the idea spreading.  Instead, I want the idea to thrive. And to do that, Ryan and I have to approach the talk with passion.    
 
This process leading up to the talk has been very intense.  Consistent practice and revamping of the speech has led to what, I hope, is a clear and concise message of that one “idea worth spreading.”  It is amazing how much thought had to go into each word and the continual revision to determine if the message will truly be understood.  And, further, that the message will be one that resonates with the audience. Throughout, this process has been about feedback, in-depth coaching, more feedback, revision, and even more feedback.  It is coaching and learning at its finest. 
 
The process itself is set up for success. In the week prior to TEDx, I had a conversation with my son’s teacher that clarified this whole process. She started by congratulating me. I honestly thought she was congratulating me about my wife and I expecting another child.  Instead, she said, “I see your TEDx talk is coming up.”  She had no idea I was giving a talk until it came up on social media.  But her final statement was the clincher. “It is so awesome to me that everyday people are the ones doing these talks. It never really hit me until I realized you were one of the presenters. I just can’t get over that.” I think she hit the nail on the head. Ideas worth spreading come from those “everyday people” and the support provided by the organizers, coaches, and other speakers helps give shape to how those ideas can be spread. 
 
This ability to share this joint idea is an amazing blessing.  The emotions that I have felt throughout this process stem from my hope that our message of collaboration can influence even one person who listens to the talk.  I feel that this coaching and process has made me as prepared as I can be and all I can do is wait to see if our passion allows our idea to not just survive–but to thrive. 

Will Dible for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Will Dible

"Blurring the Boundaries"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

It started with a thought, a vision, and a big “What if?”  I have been an avid follower of TED Talks since shortly after the advent of their online postings in 2006.  I have been inspired, encouraged, and challenged by TED Talks throughout my professional career. When I had this shared idea, I thought, “What if?”  What if this idea is worth spreading? What if I can help inspire others as I have been inspired? And so, Ryan and I threw our hats into the ring, and that “What if?” became a reality. We became truly blessed to be chosen to speak at TEDxOkoboji.

What did that mean for me?  That meant excitement and loads upon loads of nerves.  With the support and affirmation of our idea, now comes the planning.  How can we articulate this idea with our passion in a way that truly reaches those across our country?  How can we exemplify what our idea of cross community collaboration truly looks like?   

I am hopeful that we can show how even little steps towards this idea make a huge impact, and how this idea can truly change communities and education.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Ryan Cunningham

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Ryan Cunningham for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Ryan Cunningham

"Blurring the Boundaries"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Happy Birthday, TEDx is a Verb, and Ninja Warp Walls.

What an adventure preparing for this talk has been.  About a month ago, Will and I pretty much finalized our TEDx script and felt we were well ahead of the game.  We had weeks before the talk, with plenty of time to prepare. We were golden.

But then reality hit.  We received an excellent article on preparing for a TED Talk by Tim Urban called Doing a TED Talk: The Full Story.  In this article, he breaks down the levels of preparation you can take to get ready for a TED Talk.

Level #1 – Wing it.  In the article he says this is for the very self-confident and very good.  Well, that’s not me, so winging the talk was not going to be my reality.

 Level #2 – Talk through a set structure.  Initially, I thought this was for me. This is how I prepare for every talk I have ever given.  You just develop a few talking points, maybe a few rehearsed lines or jokes, and roll from there.  But as I read on, I quickly realized this would not work. TED talks need to hit a certain mark for time while packing in the most dynamic content.  A set structure may be great, but it allows too much variability in regards to time and the content that is included. That’s not the vision for TED.  TED talks need to be precise and powerfully punched to get the most out of the time allowed. And with the added variable of talking with a partner, going off a set structure just wouldn’t do.

Which leaves only Level #3 – Follow an exact script.  Not just reading the script, but having it memorized to the point of Happy Birthday.  When you are nervous, you can forget lines to the Star Spangled Banner or the lines to one of your favorite tunes, but you don’t forget Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday is seared in your brain.   You can sing the words by yourself in the shower or in front of one million people when the pressure is on. The words are just there. In the article it said almost 90% of TED talkers take this route.  So I figured that was the best choice to ensure success and I took door number three.  

Once I set my mind to getting to the Happy Birthday level, it was on.  I was focused, I was ready, I was willing to spend every extra minute thinking through the script to fully commit it to memory.  Yet, since this was a collaborative talk, I needed a partner that would help with the other half of the talk. And since it wasn’t practical for Will and I to be together 24/7, I turned to my loving and willing family. They are certainly loving and willing, but my brain doesn’t work like it did 20 years ago, so I needed an exceptional amount of their time to help get me where I needed to be.   After hours of service, their willingness has (mostly) remained, and now when they see me coming they say, “Watch out, you are about to get TEDxed by Dad!” TEDx has transformed into a verb in our house. In fact, there are some in my family that could probably deliver the talk better than I could as they have it down cold!

And thank goodness we got on the ball when we did, because late in the game, just 13 days ago, a final hurdle, or more accurately, ninja warp wall, presented itself.  

With winter hitting a bit early, our family just needed to get away, so we thought a day trip to Sioux Falls with family time at SkyZone Trampoline Park would be just what we needed.  And it was great, until I thought it was time to put myself to the test and run up the ninja warp wall. I psyched myself up, took a deep breath, and gave it my all. And I would have made it had it not been for that mysterious, invisible ninja who came along and whacked me in the back of the heel.  And I haven’t walked since. My achilles went kaput, and less than 72 hours ago I went in for surgery. I sit now, with my toes above my nose, working on healing up for next week’s talk.

 

I am so glad I prepared in advance and have such an amazing support team, as now I have the talk committed to memory and can fully relax while I recover.  Despite the injury, I am still pumped to give the talk. I’ll be on my knee scooter, in the red circle with my great partner Will, with the support of all my family, friends, coaches, and excellent medical staff who helped me get to this point.  

It’s been an adventure but it’s also made for a great story.  I look forward to writing the last part of the story next week as we all congregate together to share our ideas and learn from one another.  I can’t wait to see you all soon. Until then I’ll be at home resting and fending off any invisible ninjas who think they can get the best of me.  Not gonna happen. It’s time to TEDx!

Ryan Cunningham for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Ryan Cunningham

"Blurring the Boundaries"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

If you’ve ever been a homeowner, then you likely know questions arise that need answering.  Why won’t this faucet stop dripping? Why won’t the garage door shut? Where is that smell coming from?  Whoops, just dropped a bucket of paint on the carpet, now what? Based on your background knowledge, some of these questions may be easy for you to answer, but what do you do when you don’t have the answer?  

If you are like me, you turn to your most trusted resources. In my first years of homeownership, my options were primarily close family and friends.  In the past decade, YouTube has been an amazing addition to my contacts. Without the help of others, I’m not sure how I would have fixed most every major issue that has come my way in the life of homeownership.  It’s quite humbling how little I could have accomplished on my own.

As I prepare for this TED talk, I feel the same way.  I reflect on everyone who has been a part of shaping the idea.  If you know me fairly well, you know I’m a verbal processor. I’ll wrestle with a question or a problem for days, weeks, or months through countless conversations.  These conversations shaped the idea that we can’t do it alone. Fittingly, had Will, my co-TEDx talker, not given me a call to ask if I’d be interested in sharing our idea, I would likely be an audience member rather than stepping onto the TEDx red circle.  Again, we can’t always do it alone.  

I look forward with a mix of excitement and nervousness to the TEDx speaking experience.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how much support we have to help prepare this talk. From the TEDxOkoboji organizational team to our own TEDx talk coach, there are so many people willing and working hard to ensure all the upcoming TEDxOkoboji talks will shine.  I don’t think the nervousness for me will likely go away until after the talk is complete, but it’s nice to know they are in our corner.   

And with that, I am hopeful we can bring a talk to life that will help you see how collaboration has the power to transform education and our community.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019

Phil Kassel

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Phil Kassel for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Phil Kassel

"Building GRIT Fosters Meaning In Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

The journey to the Red Circle is now less than a week away. The once dream now close to reality. As an executive leader, a coach, husband, and father of four little children, the journey up to this point has required so much grit. 

Whether it be the immense responsibilities I have in each category of my life to a few very challenging coaching calls that had to be wrestled through while crafting our talk, there have been moments over the past couple months where I have been faced with the temptations to choose the easier wrongs and feel as if we may not be ready for the stage. 

I have had to take those negative thoughts captive and redirect them. I have been personally tested to see if my burning passion of living and choosing grit is worth its salt. Many times, I have had to reflect on my purpose, reset and refocus my paradigms, so that I can reengage with greater determination. 

Each of us are faced with moments like this, sometimes seemingly insignificant, every single day. It is how we face those moments that will ultimately define us. Past choices and experiences provide fuel for future growth. So, I choose grit. To grind thru resistance to an irresistible target. I choose to face resistance with greater resistance as it shapes my daily experience. 

This burning passion remains the irresistible target. We have put in the time, the effort, and have ran through each obstacle we have faced. We have a talk we are proud of and believe will be an encouragement to many. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. We are ready to leave it all on the field of play, the stage. 

I am amazed by how one choice a few years ago has not only birthed an internal passion but has led to so many blessed connections and opportunities along the way. The TEDxOkoboji community has enriched this experience. 

Living grit has truly provided a way of experiencing authentic meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. I meet this opportunity to stand on the Red Circle and share with our community and abroad with immense gratitude and humility. And I look with anticipation for the continued rippled effects the future holds by continuing to choose grit. 

Phil Kassel for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Phil Kassel

"Building GRIT Fosters Meaning In Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

The Red Circle. Once a dream, is now becoming closer to a reality. I have always wanted to give a TEDx talk. It is like a pinnacle moment for a speaker. An achievement that is both intrinsically fulfilling and extrinsically rewarding.

While that has always been a dream, the question had always been, “What would I share?” “What would be an idea worth sharing?” But as I have grown older, now a Sherpa in the journey of life, I have the experience and exhilaration of great victories, but also coupled with the scars and pains of defeat. These have ranged in all facets of life, personally and professionally.

These life experiences have cultivated a more purposeful approach in all I do. I have developed a deep appreciation for life and an authentic passion for people. I strive to live intentionally in all my contributions as a husband, father, leader, coach, friend, and even to myself.

Watching people give up, not fulfill their potential, or stay defeated against the internal and external resistance they face breaks my heart. My burden to share is for others and not myself.

Part of living intentionally has required me to look at the circle of people I surround myself with.

It has been so important to have a circle of like-minded individuals to encourage and to hold accountable, to be around gritty people who live purposefully.

A couple years ago, I was blessed to cross paths with Rena Kirkland while working together on a project. It was clear to me that she embodied the same values and traits that I hold dear and strive for myself. As our friendship developed, it was also evident that we share much of the same passions and that our irresistible target was aligned.

So when the incredible opportunity came to fulfill a once dream of being able to stand in the red circle and spread an idea worth sharing, it was without hesitation that I knew who I was immediately going to reach out to. Partnering with someone like Rena who I admire so much, joining a TEDxOkoboji community where relationships will go much further than this event, and having the opportunity to encourage countless others in their journey of life is humbling. I type this full of gratitude.

This burning passion has become our irresistible target. It has been an idea that has incubated in my heart and mind for a long time. To me and to Rena, it is more than an idea worth sharing.

It is more than a movement. It is truly a way of authentic meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. It is a way of life. We are so humbled, grateful, and excited to have the opportunity to stand in the red circle and share.

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // Friday November 22, 2019