Rena Kirkland

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Rena Kirkland for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Rena Kirkland

"Building GRIT Fosters Meaning In Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

“There were days

And there were days

And there were days between

Summer flies and August dies….

Gave the best we had to give…” 

Lyrics from Grateful Dead’s “Days Between” by Robert Hunter embodies my emotions and experience since my last blog in August.  

The days between have brought a whirlwind of challenges. I lost my Aunt to cancer who has been one of the most impactful individuals in my life. At this moment, I feel more compelled to write about this amazing lady, but alas the focus of this blog is our TEDx experience. 

One of the best parts of preparing for the red circle, has been keeping in the forefront of my mind our central message of our talk—choosing grit fosters meaning and purpose in life. When choosing a difficult path and working towards an irresistible target, then each day provides a sense of fulfilment. The past few months I’ve had the additional challenge of preparing for the most critical point in my academic career, which is going up for promotion and tenure. These events coupled with an already blistering-difficult workload of academia, has, yet again, tested my own level of grit. 

Even with the multiple challenges, I feel even more grateful than I was at the beginning of the process. I am grateful to the TEDxOkoboji leadership team who has been extremely patient and helpful, and working with my co-speaker, Phil Kassel, has been a tremendous blessing; he’s displayed persistence, patience, and in particular optimism, which I was often lacking.

The days between August and this moment I’ve had plenty of blunders, but these failures have provided opportunities for accelerated growth that I would not have otherwise experienced. Throughout the journey, Phil and I gave the most we could give. I’m grateful for the opportunities these challenges have provided, and I’m especially appreciative of the support I’ve received along the way.  

Rena Kirkland for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Rena Kirkland

"Building GRIT Fosters Meaning In Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Last year I told two people, my husband and best friend, that one of my goals for 2019 was to give a TEDx talk. At the time, I had several topic ideas, but none specifically nailed down. Though the goal was important enough to share with my closest confidants, I did not explicitly pursue a TEDx opportunity.

Then, out of the blue, Phil Kassel, who I had not been in contact with for over two years, contacted me and asked whether I was interested in working with him on a grit project, which subsequently lead us to TEDxOkoboji. The same week Phil called, I had just finished analyzing data with some of my undergraduate students on a study examining grit. Astounded by the serendipity of the timing, I was (and still am) amazed that just before the close of 2019 I will be making my way to the red circle.

The first question I asked Phil was, “Do we get a speaker coach?” Thank goodness his answer was yes! There are many reasons I’m excited about the TEDx journey, but one of the things I’m most enthusiastic about is having the opportunity to learn from a network of passionate and brilliant individuals. Without the support of an expert coach, working with Phil, and the TEDxOkoboji team, I would feel great trepidation. Instead, I feel excitement, gratitude, and anticipation.

Though I would be dishonest if I didn’t confess that self-doubt lingers, and I still feel apprehension. I find myself wondering how I’ll manage to put together the talk of my life when my life is already packed to the rim. But fortunately, I’m super passionate about the message that Phil and I want to share with the world, so keeping this at the forefront of my mind provides a source of daily inspiration to push me through the daily grind.

Another source of motivation is that I’m surrounded by students and colleagues who inspire me every day to take risks, be fearless, and grind through the resistance towards an irresistible target, which in this case is the TEDx platform. As an assistant professor of psychology at Adams State University in Colorado, I’m fortunate to work with extremely gritty students, faculty, and staff.

Having a super-charged team, reminds me of a quote from the queen of grit, Dr. Angela Duckworth. She said, “If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.” I’m filled with gratitude knowing that I’m surrounded by gritty folks—my family, colleagues, the students I teach, and now, the TEDx Okoboji team, provide daily inspiration to grind through the resistance towards another irresistible target—to rock it on the red circle.

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

Karima Rostom

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Karima Rostom for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Karima Rostom

"Un-Consciously Bilingual"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Only a few short days until the big event! This process has been absolutely crazy. It has been over two months since I was told I was accepted, and I still can’t believe it! It has been difficult at times, and preparing for this event is different than anything else I have done. I honestly don’t think it would have been possible for me to go onto the red circle without the  help of Andrea, Josh, and Amanda. They have been instrumental to my talk, and their feedback was always helpful and informative. With all of the support given to speakers, I encourage everyone to try this next year. Being so close to the end of this process has been a bit bittersweet, and this has definitely been an experience that I will never forget. 

Karima Rostom for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Karima Rostom

"Un-Consciously Bilingual"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

As the youngest speaker at the TEDxOkoboji event, I feel a lot of pressure! I’m generally a shy person, so it’s been pretty crazy having all these people ask me what my idea is. I’ve worked on it a lot, so I finally feel like I can put it into sentence form. My talk is about how we think of foreign language as a threat to American culture. I feel this way from experience but as I’m preparing for this talk, I’ve started unraveling how deep this fear of foreign language is! I don’t want to spoil too much of the talk, so I’ll stop here. I’m very excited for this TEDx talk, I hope that you will enjoy it.

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

John Moore

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John Moore for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

John Moore

"Making Drama From Drama: An Opera Singer's Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

One week away from the most unique performance of my career. The TEDxOkoboji is a performance and I have to prepare as such. I will be delivering a prepared talk, with considerations for look, tempo, and comprehension. This is very much in line with how I think about Operatic preparation. 

This gets to the heart of why I wanted to give this talk. I will be sharing the stage with 14 other presenters. All have given their best effort in preparing a meaningful talk. We are individuals giving unique presentations, but we are each gearing it towards a formatted space and a curated event. This presents all of the necessary ingredients for “performance” and forces all of us to maintain authenticity with a rehearsed, prepared, and likely memorized presentation. 

This is the greatest challenge of being a professional entertainer. I prepare roles like I have prepared this talk. The only difference is that I have written the script myself. 

As I face the “performance” date, I am excited to share with the TEDx audience the tidbits about my work and the drama of it. 

In preparation I have been reminded of my career path and all that is required to make it work. Most of the challenge is in being an authentic person and an authentic performer. My life is my art and art is my life, but there is a difference and balance is always a requisite part of being true to the moment and exploring the depths of each experience at hand. 

I hope the audience takes away from my talk the desire to seek live performance. Opera is a specific genre and I highly encourage all people to have the Operatic experience, but what is more important to me, is that the human community joins together in a room, to experience live performance by other human beings. Being a part of live performance is one of the most collaborative experiences we can have as a human community. The working out of life’s mysteries in drama is an inherent part of meaning and I am excited to offer you my take on a small part of that experience.

John Moore for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

John Moore

"Making Drama From Drama: An Opera Singer's Life"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

What a couple of weeks it has been. After receiving the invitation to present at TEDxOkoboji, I flipped out. “What did I even propose?” I asked.  I rushed to find the application video I made. What was my “big idea worth sharing”?

This experience mirrors my professional life in a big way. I’m a performing artist. Opera is my medium and I sing professionally all around the world.  In the opera world you are either invited to sing or audition for the opportunity to sing at opera companies. Like the TEDx application, you know a bit about what you’re getting into, so you prepare. I have arias (solos from operas) that I have sung many times and offer to opera companies during auditions. These auditions are often in a small studio or on a stage. I sing one of my choosing, and then the administrators from the opera company choose one or two from the remaining arias on the list. Like the TEDx experience, I don’t know if I’ll be picked, I just have to present my best effort. The average time of an opera audition is 10 minutes…the approximate timing of my TEDx talk.   

When I get a part in an opera, it is AWESOME. I have an initial rush of excitement and then I realize the tremendous task and responsibility necessary to make a great performance. I don’t speak any language besides English. Most of the operas I sing are French, German, Italian, or Russian. The music can be hard enough, but in my work, you have to also be “word perfect.” Inflection, pronunciation, meaning and musicality are all to be as near perfect as one can make them.  There is often a language coach sitting next to the conductor and they love taking notes on a singer’s poor diction. The conductor loves to take control of the piece from the very beginning and requires much of a singer’s attention to detail. The director staging the opera is often there as well, judging, taking note of a singer’s adherence to text and musicality.  

The first day of rehearsal is like the first day of school as a kid. You’re meeting people for the first time, you’re often in a city that isn’t your home town, you’re jet lagged, nervous, and excited to start the process.

The one thing that is guaranteed in the opera business is DRAMA. Not merely the drama within the piece, but the drama of making it.

I put all of myself into making my part in the opera. My personal life is the foundation for every part I sing. My relationships with family and friends and my day to day struggle for survival. I never studied acting per se but being alive has been the only acting coach I’ve needed.

In my talk I look forward to sharing the experience I have of navigating the drama inherent in making an opera career. Participating in the creative process has infused my life with a keen understanding of the human drama we live every day, and the indispensable part artistic consumption plays in our lives as humans.

In sharing my experience as an opera singer, I hope to impart the unique responsibility we all have to understanding the nuance of life. Building characters in operas has influenced the way I live. It has given me a unique perspective on what hard work is, what nuance is, the importance of language, and the unique challenges of understanding perspective.

I’m still a bit flipped out, but now is the challenging experience of learning the part. What is the character of my presentation and how will I use language to pass on my idea worth spreading?

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

Steven Meyer

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Dr. Steven Meyer for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Dr. Steven Meyer

"Miracle Maker - YOU!"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

It seems now like a lifetime ago when I was asked if I wanted to submit an idea for a TEDx event in Okoboji.. I really love events and so I enthusiastically said yes not knowing that it wasn’t really an event at all but rather a journey. And as we approach the culmination of a four month journey I can honestly say it has been terrifying, exhilarating, and gratifying all wrapped together.

  Being a relatively frequently public speaker, I thought that giving the talk would be a no brainer. The closer we get the more I realize that the TED format is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Hence my apprehension bordering on terror!!

   Having said that I can only begin to articulate how amazing the team at TEDxOkoboji has been. Their leadership through this journey has been consistent, collaborative, and beyond effective. And taking this journey with a dozen heretofore relative strangers has been a fascinating experience.

   Not only has this process further verified my believe in the power of communication and the TED talk format but also the power of relationships and human interaction. I’m also beyond pleased to report that my TED idea regarding the reality and impact of miracles in the world has been magnificently affirmed in my own heart and mind by this activity.

  I am beyond excited to share my idea regarding miracles to the TEDx participants and the world at large. I truly believe that not only individuals but the entire universe can be positively impacted by not only believing in miracles but taking steps to create them. I firmly believe that we all have miracle worker capabilities. What is needed is to open our heart and mind to the potential of the miraculous and develop the skill set to make miracles happen.

Dr. Steven Meyer for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Dr. Steven Meyer

"Miracle Maker - YOU!"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

Nothing but darkness surrounds you! Storm clouds gather overhead. You are gripped by fear and paralyzed by uncertainty. Either because of choices made or circumstances beyond your control you find yourself in a situation where there is no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

We have all been there at different stages of our lives, some more often than we care to admit. In these terrifying and potentially devastating moments of our lives our natural tendency can be to hunker down and prepare for the worst. When we have no idea what to do doing nothing can see the safest thing.

As a practicing orthopedist of nearly 30 years, founder and president of a Third World mission, and father of six, I have encountered more than my share of challenging circumstances. I am beyond excited at the opportunity to share my perspective on creating miracles out of life’s messes at the TEDxOkoboji event.

Like almost everyone else given this amazing opportunity, I am at the same time excited but overwhelmed at what seems like an insurmountable task out of my realm of talent or experience. I think I would be totally freaking out if it weren’t for the incredible support team of everyone at TEDxOkoboji. I am so looking forward to walking through this journey together!!!

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

Mary Skopec

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Mary Skopec for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

November 18th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Mary Skopec

"Roots to Branches – The Power of Nature Based Education"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

I listen to the nervous laughter around the table as our TEDxOkoboji organizers ask us how we are coming along with mere weeks to the big event.  It feels vaguely reminiscent of those moments in school when you were behind on your final project and you wonder if everyone waits until the last minute – or if that alone is your special skill.  The laughter provides some confirmation that all of us are in that same tiny rowboat of anxiety together. I am grateful that the organizers create these opportunities to check in with each other and to provide the necessary encouragement and support to reassure us that we will all get there.   Knowing that others have struggled to find the right words or message is strangely comforting. One of the other speakers mentions spending time in a “dark place” before finding his voice. I nod inwardly. Providing an idea worth sharing is a daunting promise to make. Will my talk measure up to the expectations?  I worry that my idea is not enough for others to care about or listen to, let alone share. Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have an “a-ha” moment. My break-through comes in a work seminar. The speaker challenges us to reflect on what we value in our lives. She hands us a sheet of “value” words and asks us to circle those that speak to us.  Purpose. The word jumps off the paper at me.  The reason I get out of bed each day is to have a purpose in my life.  I am passionately dedicated to connecting people to nature. Here is the inspiration that I have been waiting for.  The more I reflect on what that means to me, the more easily the words and ideas flow. I have come to realize that while I hope to give an idea worth sharing to the audience, the personal journey to a place where I can fully embrace my purpose is a gift worth receiving.  

Mary Skopec for TEDxOkoboji's 1st Annual Conference

September 4th, 2019 | Meet the Speakers

Mary Skopec

"Roots to Branches – The Power of Nature Based Education"

1st Annual TEDxOkoboji Conference // 22 November 2019

My TEDx talk journey reminds me of the first time I traveled internationally.  My decision to go on that trip went something like this… A friend says to me, “You should come to Ireland with us”… And me saying, “Yes!”  Never mind that this friend was really more of an acquaintance at that time and I definitely didn’t know anyone else that was going on the trip.  The idea sounded cool and a little outside my comfort zone, and I mean, really, what was the worst that could happen?  

When someone suggested that I think about giving a TEDx talk, my first reaction was “definitely!”… But once I received the acceptance letter, my thoughts went to, “Oh, no! What have I done???”   I’ve given plenty of presentations as a scientist and teacher, but then the reality of a TEDx talk comes calling – a talk that has a BIG IDEA. One that resonates with people that don’t think like me (aka wonky scientist types).   For me, this type of talk is not only outside my comfort zone, but totally outside my comfort universe. Honestly, I feel really honored to be part of a phenomenal line-up of TEDxOkoboji speakers, and I know that their support will make the process fun and memorable.  Here’s to hoping that on the other side of this I am able to look back fondly on pushing that comfort zone out another few inches…

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