TED 2018 – or, how to survive being surrounded by brillance

So, I’m at TED. Well, almost. I’m at the pre-conference for TED fellows. The big events start on Monday.

Being in the presence of the TED fellows every year is an exercise in humility.

I mean, I love what I do. I’m a good writer, I’m a good coach, and I do good development work. I’m fun to talk to, I have friends I love, and I seem to be doing a decent job at parenting because I have the best kids in the whole world.

But I am not a world-famous astrophysicist who also plays ukulele. In my spare time, I write journal articles, not screenplays. My literary agent has never managed to sell my book proposal. My TED talk isn’t one of the most watched and I never turned it into a worldwide movement for better dementia care. (I would like to do this, though. Anyone have suggestions for how to get started?) The closest I have come to saving a life is by designing a training program to build the skills of ob/gyns.

Coming to TED, then, requires a certain amount of emotional navigation. Literally everyone I meet is smarter and more accomplished than me.

The secret to surviving, I have found, is to use TED as a reminder of human possibility. I’m not dead. I have all my faculties. I’ve still got plenty of time to do amazing things. The astonishing people around me are a menu of options – a visible guide to all the ways you can impact the world. They’re not putting me in my place. They’re showing me where I could go. Sure, it’s true I haven’t been there.

Just not yet.