#firstworldproblems or An Internet Meme Changed My Life

You’ve just flown across America. You walk up to a rental car counter to pick up a convertible you reserved. It’s not ready. You’ll have to drive a loaner Civic for a few hours. When the car you reserved is ready, it will be delivered to you.

This happened to me two days ago and I thought, what a #firstworldproblem. And in stead of being irritated at the digital infrastructure fail, I laughed.

A good meme is like sunshine on a cloudy day or a delicious new flavor of ice cream. It dashes your day with a split second of surprise awesomeness.

Recently I have taken the meme “first world problems” to the next level. I use it to catalyze optimism. When I think about it, 99.999% of would-be daily frustrations are not a big deal. They’re basically irrelevant. Like the convertible situation. Or a few hrs delayed flight. Traffic. My latte tastes burnt..and the barista didn’t even put a fern leaf in the foam. Fail. I’ve established a habit that even BJ Fogg would be proud of. I’ve figured out how to turn frustration into laughter. The answer (to all life’s problems) is a meme. Try it.

Next time you’re frustrated ask yourself if you are experiencing a first world problem.

Potential #firstworldproblem indicators:

– anything related to paid vacation
– inconveniences. Expensive healthcare is a firstworldproblem. No healthcare is not.
– Involves Internet (AT&T..terrible..yet 100000x better than Nigerian Internet), electricity (low battery already?!), technology (damn it, forgot to turn on the dryer again), spare money and time (my Mercedes only takes premium fuel)

It goes on. And on. Really this post is to say that the next time you feel frustration welling think of #firstworldproblems. I do. It changes my perspective. I think and interact differently. It also influences others. Laugh at problems. If they won’t matter in 100 years, shift focus and see frustrations for what they really are: future funny stories.

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Quantified Curiosity

I’m speaking today at Quantified Self Conference 2012 about Quantified Curiosity.  Below are my slides as well as some videos referenced in my talk. [UPDATE: presentation video now included]

Amy Robinson – QS Conference 2012 – Quantified Curiosity from Steven Dean on Vimeo.

Beautiful, scientific technological videos:






XVIVO Making the Complex Simple.

Want to play with the data?  Email me amyleerobinson at gmail dot com.

Gephi Graph of Ideas PDF.

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Healthy Mind (and what is a mind, anyway?) Presentation

Yesterday’s presentation at Redstone Federal Arsenal about building a healthy mind also touched on how a mind comes about from matter.  The slides below have been reformatted with added text to be more slideshare friendly.

Presentation opened with a video by XVIVO Scientific Animation used with permission.  Copyright prevents embedding but you can watch it here.

Slides:

Presentation ended with Jason Silva’s The Biological Benefits of Being Awestruck:

The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck – by @Jason_Silva from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

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Possibilism and the Power of TEDx

Originally written for the TEDx Blog:

TED is an epicenter of the extraordinary and TEDx is one of many examples why.  This is how organizing a TEDx changed my life.  This is the power of ideas worth spreading.

To quote Hans Rosling, “I am a possibilist.”  Endless innovations are possible.  I am inspired by the notion that great discoveries coalesce from within a dense matrix of curiosity, collaboration, determination and inspiration.

TED brings fourth the subtle intricacies of an individual.  The details of one’s passion and the content that harmonizes with wonder are fascinating to explore, both in one’s self and in others.

A leaping sense of curiosity emerges when life is enhanced by TED-like content.  One remembers to regularly experience ‘Wow!’  Prolonged exposure to TED results in a deep and peculiar effect:  curiosity evolves.

Ideas worth spreading feed back into their recipient and yield an amended manner of thought.  Open, innocent explorations of our beautiful universe and its inhabitants become a regular aspect of life and business.  ‘TEDster’ is a 21st century character attribute of the purveyors of tomorrow’s next big ideas.

This revolution of interaction may help explain why thousands of people around the world spend tens of thousands of hours helping each other put together TEDx events.  Themes like Play BigMind Wide OpenRelentless Curiosity, and Perspectives on Innovation echo the TED brand (see Rediscovery of Wonder) while leaving room for independent expression.

Fellow TEDx hosts are, in my opinion and much like TED itself, legendary in the degree to which they determinedly create a medium for the spread of curiosity and inspiration.  The TEDx network is basically a propagation of TED; a secondary support structure for the dissemination of ideas.  TEDx organizers provide one another with resources, answers, optimism, suggestions, and instant friendships strengthened by a commonality that transcends traditional boundaries.  Whether local (the teams atTEDxAtlanta and TEDxNashville are both friends and mentors) or at a distance (fromTEDxDubai to TEDxMidAtlantic toTEDxLondon) it has been my delightful experience that TEDx organizers diligently uphold TED’s virtue and purpose, together learning from setbacks and sharing successes.

Over the many months involved in planning a TEDx event, its organizer repeatedly explains his or her interpretation of the philosophy of TED and the ideas that underlie TEDx.  This perpetual redescription of ideas worth spreading helps clarify why and how we volunteer to take the idea of TED and turn it into action as TEDx.

TED changes lives by encouraging participants to explore their own.

At TEDGlobal 2010, Matt Ridley aptly shared his concept of ideas having sex:  ideas must be shared if we wish them to evolve “beyond the capacity of the [single] human mind” and reach their full innovative potential.  TED might then be an idea orgy because it exceeds explanation and seems to evolve faster than we can describe it.   It has shared its genes through TEDx and catalyzed a passionate global network of people who have thought in depth and at length about answering the question “What is TED?”   More than an organization, beyond conferences, far surpassing even the phenomenal TEDtalks.. TED is Ideas worth spreading, questions worth asking, curiosity worth pursuing, work worth doing; it represents man achieving his best and then exceeding it.

TED and TEDx events reflect the caliber ambition of creating opportunities from obstacles and thus making life TED-like and an epicenter of wonder.  There are endless discoveries to be made when we look at existing knowledge, ideas, and opinions in a new way.  So said the possibilist.

Human beings are beautiful things when reminded to thrive.   I shared this thought inspired by TEDx with Chris Anderson, who answered that TEDx hosts = heroes.  While I may be no hero, the hundreds of other TEDx hosts around the world certainly are.  And I know few so deserving of my gratitude than they who graciously share ideas worth spreading.   To TED, TEDx organizers, TED and TEDx supporters and attendees:  I sincerely appreciate the opportunity through TEDx to help others share inspiration in pursuit of innovation.

TEDxHuntsville 2012 Presenters

ideation.TopictoTopic

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Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

Ben Franklin is one of my heroes.  He is industrious, intelligent, experimental, controversial, revolutionary, scientific, social and well-traveled.  He is also the world’s first Quantified Self tracker. Here are his thirteen virtues

1.  TEMPERANCE – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2.  SILENCE – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3.  ORDER – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4.  RESOLUTION – Resolve to preform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5.  FRUGALITY – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.

6.  INDUSTRY – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7.  SINCERITY – Use no harmful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8.  JUSTICE – Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9.  MODERATION – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries, so much as you think they deserve.

10.  CLEANLINESS – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habituation.

11.  TRANQUILITY – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12.  CHASTITY.  .  .  .  . [be respectable]

13.  HUMILITY – Imitate Jesus and Socrates”

“Come give us a taste of your quality” – Shakespeare

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TEDxSummit Prezi on TEDx Music

Back in April I had the pleasure of adventuring to Doha, Qatar for TEDxSummit to think with 700 others about how to turn ideas into action  (yes I am one of the people running up the dune).  One of the many ways to do it is by curating TEDx events.  Thousands of them with thousands of ateendees have created over 17,000 TEDxTalks.  Fully 30% of the talks on TED.com are now from TEDx events.

Within this immense number of TEDxTalks is the music of TEDx, which is for the first time being collected and shared on Soundcloud, free like the great ideas on TED.com. More mediums coming soon.  The prezi below accompanies the ~15 min explanation I did at a TEDxSummit workshop.  It  starts and ends with video performances, from TEDxTaipei and TEDxToronto respectively.

What do we have here?

Thousands of passionate music performances.  creative commons license.  global scope. genre defying. currently only on youtube. many with just a few hundred views. Invigorating opportunity to share something awesome with the world.

Opportunities

collect the music, organize it for maximized discovery and sharability

Elegance

Let’s think together and make this happen. Strategize.  We must develop&design a system to collect, remaster and organize many files; we must tag this music; structure the share and discovery.  Finally we should create a how-to guide so that no more performances will be lost to poor audio.

Then we broke into working groups and for the first time, a global gathering got TEDx-ers together in one place.  We started building TEDx Music 2.0.  Excitement is an understatement. Now we’re live on Soundcloud..main site is about to be completely relaunched..

I leave you with this, a camel ride. Why not?  Life is full of surprise opportunities for adventure.  Pair accomplishments with interstitial small joys for epic invigoration.  That’s one way among many.  Live a life you love.

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TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud

Few things make me excited to be working after 10 pm on Saturday.  The TEDx Music Project is one of them.  I’m thrilled to share the next phase and give a quick update on our progress since TEDxSummit.

TEDx Global Music is on Soundcloud!

The first phase includes 17 tracks.  Follow us to be among the first with access to the latest music from TEDx.

Our team is hard at work building the next generation of TEDxMusicProject.com.  It will go live in a few short weeks and feature TED API integration.  The new site will showcase both video and audio versions of the best live TEDx performances.

Listen to the tracks, download them and share with friends. Which track(s) do you like most?

Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen and supported the TEDx Global Music Project along the way.  Major props to Souncloud for featuring us alongside audio sources such as The Economist and David Guetta.  We managed to gather well over 1,000 followers..in our first 24 hours public (June 22).  It’s only going to get bigger.

Follow the TEDx Music Project on Soundcloud.

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What are the best TEDTalks?

On Quora: What are the best TED presentations?

The best TEDTalk, in my opinion, is a 6 minute presentation by William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind.  A 16 year old boy couples science and determination, building a windmill from junk parts that irrigates his families fields, saving them from starvation. It just gets better from there.

Daniel Kahneman, founder of the field of behavioral economics, discusses the riddle of experience versus memory

Steve Keil’s Manifesto for Play

Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex

Finally, Carl Schnoover: How we see inside the brain

More favorites.

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crazy awesome, quora

“Sweet, intense and cool all in one.”  Urban Dictionary thus defines “crazy awesome,” solidifying the phrase into infinite internet existence.  Yes.  It doubles as a description of Quora.

My last three blog posts have featured Quora.  Why?  Because it is impacting how I think and I think I should share the process as it unfolds.

Stats:

I’ve asked 68 questions and contributed 65 answers.  I follow 51 topics and 11 boards,  6 of which I curate.  2358 credits. 152 followers, 109 following.

My most popular board is How to entertain an intellectual with 106 followers, 26 posts and 2636 views.

Yesterday I woke up to 85 notifications.

Whoa.

One month ago those numbers were halved or quartered.  Notifications were virtually non-existent.

It’s safe to say that Quora is a little addictive.  Thankfully, if you’re intelligent and interactive (or famous in San Francisco), Quora’s community will love you back. Why?

In the words of Jason Preston, “Quora is curiosity, never satisfied. ”

…at the core I think I find Quora addictive because it is a targeted attack on human curiosity.

We’re all wired, somewhere in our brains, to be turned on by new knowledge. And Quora is designed to constantly surface new answers about topics we are interested in, without us having to ask the questions.

And when we do have questions the crowd is there to help.  Curiosity fuels me on Quora.  It fuels people to reach out and interact with each other.  Here are a few examples.

Inbox notes from strangers:

Going through your quora answers, I see so much energy, optimism and straight pointedness.

Love it !!

another came in while I was writing this post:

I’m a recent graduate who took the plunge into the polluted fires of China and recently came back out to seek greener pastures States-side. Many of the experiences I’ve had are once-in-a-lifetime, so your outlook on career-life balance definitely resonates with me.

To fulfill my long-term goal of becoming an entrepreneur and achieving financial freedom, I’m making a career transition–I hope into an entry-level sales position. Yet, in the back of my mind, I know that rationalizing what I want to or should do doesn’t have much to do with reality, so I want to ask you a simple question:

How did you get onto the road of being absolutely happy with what you’re doing?

I know it’s a big question that probably has an equally big answer, but if you have the time to distill your experience, I’d really love to read your reply.

Awesome.  I will reply to him.

I need to think hard to venture out, to be uncomfortable and unconventional. Great people like you make this world interesting!

You can see why why Quora makes you feel good.  Strangers spontaneously light up your day with kind words, useful answers and entertaining ideas.  This week I unexpectedly discovered that caffeine is a natural insecticide and that hippopotamus milk is pink.  Useful?  Probably not.  Delightful?  Definitely.  I love surprises and ideas, two things which Quora is full of.

I often get on Quora to achieve a thoughtful interlude between projects during the day.  And ok, in honesty, I’ve also been losing too much sleep to the epic Quora news feed (it’s 1 am now).  So what’s the point of all this?  Quora is a story.  It’s unfolding now.  It’s influencing my daily activities, my perspective.  Right now I’m not sure how to think of it.  I do think about it, though.. why Quora is valuable and how that value transfers to other parts of life.

Quora is a dose of “hm, that’s interesting!” every time you open the app.  After a brief spurt of ADD-ish idea tangents, I return to life refreshed, inspired, and might even shape projects in a different way than before the influence of Quora.

It inspires me to diversify creativity and share outputs, like autotuned voice memos, and experiences by responding to the occasional college grad looking ta build a life he loves.

In closing, here’s a little creative challenge for you, noble reader:

What is the most epic day you can imagine?

Tony Nguyen sets the stage:

Here goes nothing.

You wake up in a time machine 3 days in the past on a deserted island somewhere in the Atlantic, and upon walking out, you discover that a feast fit for a king is laid out, catering to whatever culinary desires you possess. Finishing the last of your decadent meal, you fly using your newly available superpowers and perch atop a double rainbow.

You discover that all the women of your fantasies are lined up waiting on command to do whatever you wish. After you have completed most if not all of your fantasies, you ride a neon robot giraffe to the start of EDC, a massive rave with your favorite producers/Djs. You then proceed to party until the end of your most epic day ever.

This all took place while accompanying theme music followed you around.

I laughed out loud when I read this and it made me happier for the rest of the day (small joys go far).  Maybe it was the imagination or perhaps the surprise that someone actually answered.  Either way, it’s crazy awesome. I can hardly wait until tomorrow – a new day, the sunny end of this night.  New ideas and discoveries await on Quora and beyond.

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Career Advice

A question popped up in my Quora feed today that prompted a short sidetrack into a topic I think many of us struggle with on a regular basis: work.  The Question:

I hate my job, but it pays a lot of money. What should I do?

On a whim I decided to contribute a unique perspective, seeing as I am in the exact opposite situation. Here’s my response:

Interesting question.

To give you a different perspective, my job/life is spectacular but my bank account is empty. I work 80 hours a week but only a small fraction are paid.   It isn’t such a big deal because a. I live an extraordinary life and b. doing what you love eventually pays off.  Last month I spent my birthday in Doha, Qatar.  Last weekend I was sailing SF Bay during a break from building a game to map the brain with MIT.  Two examples of hundreds.. Extraordinarily wonderful and surprising things will happen when you stop focusing on money and start focusing on living with passion.  Reevaluate why you value the ideas and things that matter to you.

There is no substitute for living a life you love.  Start now..it will only get harder to change

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