“Live for Awesome” – Cam Calkoen
Anyone who’s read this blog regularly since I started winding words together in early 2013 will know that Queenstown New Zealand, of Middle Earth & bungy-jumping fame, is not only one of the most beautiful and vibrant places in the world – it’s where I make my home. It’s where I wrote my first book and where I founded my business. And I love it here.
I can go on and on about the mountains and lakes, the activities and aesthetics, the bars and buzz, and, yes, the real estate and rentals… But have I said enough about the people that put the extreme-ideas-capital of the world on the map?
It was my great privilege to volunteer at TEDx Queenstown this weekend. Queenstown’s movers and shakers have fingers in a great many pies, but the creative cooks of this fast-paced, entrepreneurial hub came together to put on something particularly special when they took up the TED mantle.
For the uninitiated, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a non-profit devoted to communicating ‘ideas worth spreading’, mostly in the form of 18 minute talks. It all began with a California conference the year I was born, 1984, and since then has whipped its way across the world with the help of TEDx events, where the x indicates the event has been independently organised by local volunteers to bring the spirit of TED to the community. All talks are recorded and made freely available on the interwebs.
This year, over 4000 hours of volunteer work went into illuminating Queenstown with the words of some of the finest inspirational speakers the world has to offer. Volunteering, I didn’t get to see everyone live, but those I did get to witness absolutely blew me away.
I’d been looking forward to Trey Ratcliff, local travel photographer extraordinaire, but all I caught was the thunderous applause from the other side of the door I was guarding – needless to say I’m looking forward to the recording! I nearly had a heart attack when I saw he’d followed me on Twitter.
My highlight from setting up on the Saturday was getting to see Graeme James rehearse. On the Sunday I was lucky enough to catch his show-stopping speech, with its powerful instrumental punctuation proving how you can reach people through music.
Mark Balla‘s toilet humour was a juxtaposition to a serious message that really made you stop and think about the things we take for granted – his organisation aims to make sustainable sanitation a reality for the whole world. Jamie Fitzgerald‘s rousing talk was as motivating as they come – inspiration to succeed from an adventurer who’s walked unaided to the South Pole and who holds the world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
Closing off the day’s brilliance was a name I didn’t previously know but will now never forget – Cam Calkoen. He is beyond a doubt one of the finest and most incredible people I’ve ever heard speak – a standing ovation tells me that more than one person will have walked away believing, like him, that absolutely anyone can live their dream.
And that’s the truth. Anyone can make their mark on the wall of the world. Not only the speakers proved that to me, but the people behind the scenes, seeing it run smoothly, but, above all, making it possible for inspirational ideas to spread – for people to catch fire and light up others upon leaving, in keeping with the theme of illumination.
How wonderful, how powerful, how world-changing words can be.