Every once in a while, you just have to get up on a soap box and say something. This past Saturday outside the Houston’s first TEDx conference, we chose a University of Houston park bench instead.
Because of our love of learning and progress (not to mention our obsession with the event’s organizers, Culture Pilot), we decided to sponsor TEDx Houston. But, as usual, we didn’t feel like slapping our logo in a brochure really exemplified the Black Sheep mentality. So we staged a protest instead.
The theme of this TEDx was “Expanding Perceptions,” so we wanted to emphasize action, change and our opposition to “average” thinking. We created a fictional, tongue-in-cheek scenario – a GAS leak! GAS (General Apathy Syndrome) was spreading rapidly, and we needed to stop it! Protestors lined the sidewalk warning passersby and TEDx attendees of the imminent danger of succumbing to the terrible affliction and directing them to the nearest medic station. Our medics, dressed in scrubs and gas masks, passed out “antidotes,” stickers featuring a delta (thanks, high school thermodynamics) symbolizing change, and manifestos declaring our mission.
And, as with all Black Sheep adventures, we learned a lot and confirmed many of our beliefs.
1. Taking chances pays off. Our protest was mentioned in the first TED talk of the day and even folks in New Zealand are talking about it! Audience members, speakers and coordinators sported our antidote stickers throughout the eight-hour conference, and we received tons of rave reviews about how amazing and encouraging our protest was. We got lots of exposure, made hundreds of people smile and hopefully, we changed many perspectives. Press coverage, enthusiastic participation and a memorable event discussed all day among Houston’s biggest movers and shakers? Mission accomplished.
2. No matter how positive your message, there’s always someone who won’t get it. Keep in mind, our only goals were to inspire people to change for the better and to motivate progress. Who could argue with that? Negative reactions were definitely a minority, but these things come with the territory. Yet, despite those brief moments of let-down, we were able to keep an upbeat attitude. Like we always say, with every brilliant risk or novel idea, expect dissent. So, when you take a bold move, remember you can’t please everyone.
3. Your blood and sweat have to go into it. Cutting out cardboard with dull X-acto knives is bound to cause a scratch or two. Standing in the Houston sun for an hour and a half will undoubtedly cause extreme perspiration. But, putting your creative energy to the test and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone provides the greatest reward. Nothing is more exhilarating than pulling off a great undertaking, seeing the results and witnessing the excitement on people’s faces as they experience something amazing.
4.Empathy makes all the difference. Most people loved what we were doing, but not every participant can be treated equally. They are, after all, people. For the more reticent folks, we had to do a little hand-holding and ease them into the situation. The gregarious crowd members obviously required EXTRA stimulation. Reading responses and gauging people’s comfort levels is the key to keeping them interested and engaged on a personal level. (And yes, this paragraph is riddled with unintentional innuendo.)
Ups and downs are inevitable, but at Black Sheep, success isn’t. We were honored to be included in an event as outstanding as TEDx Houston, and we felt completely at home surrounded by the type of people who have a genuine desire to make a difference. So, in the spirit of that day, let’s all do more with less and challenge the status quo – that’s the real antidote for apathy.