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October 2016

food for thought

Eight TEDxVienna Quotes To Inspire You

October 27, 2016

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my last TEDxVienna post. It’s been quite a messy, eventful year. But that’s beside the point.

This year, instead of boring you with a chronological account of the day, I picked eight shareworthy quotes from seven different speakers to inspire you and make you think.

Graffiti artists and street artists didn’t wait for a gallery to decide if their work was good enough or not. They were bold enough to just put their work out there and let the public decide. – Martha Cooper, documentary photographer

This first quote resonated with me because I think everyone is capable of creating art. In a way, this democratization of art is happening now more than ever thanks to the internet, and I think that’s a good thing. Art is everywhere, so remember to look around for it – the narrower your definition of art, the more beauty you miss out on, I think.

Our environment plays a huge role in how we feel, how we think and how we interpret the world. – Holly Moyes, archaeologist and cave lover

This talk was actually about darkness and how it affects human cognition. The speaker presented research that showed that the same person will interpret the world differently depending on the lighting conditions. If our own view on reality is so easily distorted by such simple variables, how on earth can we assume that our perception is reliable or that ours is the only way to see or experience the world, and anyone who sees it differently must be “wrong”? We are inherently incapable of objectivity and would do well to remind ourselves that there are as many realities as there are people.

Dark, moody stage shot

For every possible decision, there is a universe in which every option is played out – Ronald Mallett, theoretical physicist

I don’t know anything about theoretical physics and I have no idea whether this could be true or not. In fact, the speaker did not assert that it was, he presented it as one possible theory. But I really liked the thought, because it means that whenever you feel like you made a mistake, you can take solace in the knowledge that somewhere, you took a different decision. There is a universe in which I am a law graduate, and one in which I am studying for a PhD in biopsychology. There is a universe in which I am a married mother of two and there is a universe (far, far away) in which I stuck with cheerleading and became really athletic. There is a universe in which I don’t even exist and my mother is probably a much happier person. (Rest assured, however: nowhere in the space-time continuum is there a universe in which I have ever worn socks and sandals, or anything with an animal print.)

The Nerd Rush is that feeling you get when you first wrap your head around a new concept or when you are writing something and the words fall together just right. – Harry Baker, poet

It was nice to hear someone give a name to one of my favorite feelings in the world. It’s comforting to know that the things that make you happy make other people happy too. It makes you feel like you belong.
The view from the balcony is just so pretty.


Learning a new language is like learning to think in another color. – Harry Baker, poet

I have nothing to add to that.

When was the last time you did something that scared you? – Jamie Barrow, snowboarder

Now, I am not about to let a car pull me through a snowed-in field at 180 kph. The weights room at the gym is scary enough – breathing in that much testosterone can’t be good for you. But this talk by a snowboarder who overcame multiple severe injuries and kept going was a nice reminder to proactively seek out situations that do not make you feel good. Of course you should be content with your life overall, but I believe going out of your way to put yourself in individual situations that make you feel uncomfortable is how you grow as a person. The simplest way I have found to do this is to start the day with a cold shower. Of course, I don’t have cold water running for 30 minutes while shaving or washing and conditioning my hair because I would give myself pneumonia. But cold showers wake you up, they make you tougher, and if you can stand under cold water for ten seconds when it’s 0°C outside, you can definitely ask for a raise.

99.9% of DNA is identical in the entire human race. – Fei Ann Ran, molecular biologist

I mean, I knew this. I studied biology, and anthropology, and I was aware of this fact. But it wasn’t really something that was present in my mind. This should be one of those facts that we teach children when they are five. Like “red means stop, green means go” or “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. This should be on all those posters that kids have in primary school classrooms along with “wash your hands before eating” and the poster that explains the different traffic signs. Everyone should have internalized this fact by the time they reach puberty. We are 99.9% the same. All of us. And then there are single nucleotide bases scattered across our genome that make some people’s hair frizzier and some noses wonkier and some skin darker. But they don’t matter, because we have so much more in common with any given human being than we realize.

The art of storytelling and creating narratives is more powerful than anything else. – Julia Ebner, policy analyst

Finally, here is my personal favorite. Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremist think tank and her talk illustrated very clearly how far-right and Islamist extremists are telling the same story – they’re in the same movie, just on two different sides. Their narratives are essentially identical, which leads to the fascinating but dangerous phenomenon of reciprocal radicalization. Her conclusion was that we can only win if we challenge both binary world views, both black and white narratives. The topic was exciting, but I picked this specific quote because I think people underestimate the power of “soft skills” like storytelling. Stories speak to people on a very visceral level, they’re an incredibly powerful communication tool, and if you know how to tell a story, you can affect and motivate people and carry an audience wherever you want it to go.