20 of our favorite “wild thoughts” at TEDxVeniceBeach

The independently organized TEDxVeniceBeach event on Sunday, October 15 featured musicians and speakers from a range of disciplines sharing their “ideas worth spreading.”

As one of the partners for the event, our creative company enso helped frame the day’s theme around “wild thoughts” — celebrating our Venice Beach community for its bold ideas, ambition and innovation.

Here are some highlights from the daylong convening:

1. Tom Insel on rapid-response technology for mental health 🔥☎️

Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Tom Insel told the story of the time he was confronted by the distressed father of a 23-year-old young man suffering from schizophrenia. Frustrated, the father said to Dr. Insel, who researches brain disorders, “Our house is on fire and you’re talking to us about the chemistry of the paint.”

The accusation led Insel to ponder new questions about mental health and consider the use of technology, such as smartphones, to prevent crises:

What is the most rapid, effective response to putting out the “fires” of mental illness?
How do we develop a global “bucket brigade” of online communities that offer peer support for just-in-time crisis intervention?
What’s the “smoke alarm” system to prevent tragedies like suicide?
Photo via Community Healing Gardens

2. Nicole Landers on community healing 💔🌱

Faced with the reality of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood that threatened to tear her community apart, longtime Venice Beach resident Nicole Landers experimented with a novel way to bring people back together: planting food.

Landers successfully worked with her neighbors to incorporate Community Healing Gardens, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization on a mission to foster community through urban gardening. To date, they have grown, donated and consumed 3,000 pounds of food, with 700 volunteers and growing, in both Watts and Venice.

“We feed our souls and our bodies one garden box at a time.”
“Everybody eats.”

3. John Gottman on the math of good relationships 💑 🔢

After 40 years of researching thousands of couples, Dr. John Gottman has a pretty good idea about what makes a marriage work. His model has a 90% success rate in predicting marriage stability or divorce.

It all boils down to the cumulative balance of positive versus negative interactions during a conflict. That “magic ratio” is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a happy marriage has at least five positive interactions.

Ultimately, a good relationship is built on a pyramid of physiological calm (which leads to listening and empathy), trust (which leads to intimacy), and commitment (which leads to loyalty).

“There is magic in love that lasts forever.”

4. Julie Schwartz on starting world peace at home ✌️🏡

When Julie Schwartz (happily married to #3 on this list, John Gottman) asked her 3-year-old daughter what happens when mommy and daddy are fighting, she got a profound response: “There are no rainbows in the house.”

To find out how to restore peace and order at home, Dr. Schwartz looks towards historical research on diplomatic negotiations. She found interesting patterns in the behavior of these speakers and listeners.

Ultimately, conflict resolution comes down to deep listening and proactive communication. For best results, the listener should:

1. listen
2. ask questions for clarity and understanding
3. re-state the speaker’s point of view and postpone giving their own point of view until the speaker is fully satisfied that the listener truly understands
Photo via uniFrance

5. Agnès Varda on “inspired documentary” 🎥✨

Famed film director Agnès Varda has dedicated her craft to documenting people “in the margins.” Her films, photographs and art installations are known for their documentary realism, feminist issues and social commentary.

At age 89, her latest film Faces Places, made in collaboration with artist JR, won the top prizes at both Cannes and Toronto film festivals.

“Desire is the essence of life. Inspiration is the essence of creating.”
“It’s the way you look at things that makes them beautiful.”

6. Satchidananda Panda on circadian rhythms ⏰😴

Dr. Satchin Panda’s circadian rhythm research has found that exposure to “blue light” and meal times have profound health impacts. Blue light from our electronic devices can disrupt our sleep, so it’s better to sync our exposure to computers and smartphones with the rhythm of natural daylight. Also, eating meals sporadically over a period of 15 hours or more contributes to myriad health problems, so it’s better to eat within a 10-hour window (the optimal time frame for our metabolic clock.)

Sign up to contribute to his research study at MyCircadianClock.org.

“Light for vision is not light for health.”
“Just like showing up for work randomly can ruin your career, showing up for breakfast, lunch and dinner randomly can ruin your health.”
Photo via TED

7. Louis Schwartzberg on making the invisible visible 🔍🐜

American director Louis Schwartzberg’s 3D IMAX film “Mysteries of the Unseen World” gives us into a glimpse into what the human eye can’t perceive. The immersive cinematic experience uses timelapse imagery, super slow motion and extreme close-ups to incite wonder and awe.

“Transformational experiences are mind-blowing and it turns out they’re also good for the soul and makes you a more compassionate human being.”

8. Moby on animal activism 😻✊

Famed American DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, musician and photographer said that his greatest passion has nothing to do with art but rather activism. He is well-known for his advocacy work to promote veganism and animal rights.

“Every creature with two eyes and a central nervous system just wants to avoid pain and suffering.”
“What sustains me as an activist is love.”

9. Jen Sotham on the gifts of mortality 🙏🎁

Jen Sotham thought she had 6 to 12 months to live, after her diagnosis with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Thankfully, she beat it with immunotherapy drugs, but later developed four new tumors in her stomach and small intestine.

Instead of asking, “What did I do to deserve this?”, she now asks, “Why not me?”, dedicating herself to sharing her personal story in hopes of helping others live through their own painful experiences. You can read her writing at jenvscancer.wordpress.com.

“When you’re alive, you live.”
“When I got cancer, I found out what I was made of.”
“I give the gift of me as freely as I’m able. This disease may kill me but you will never catch me dying.”

10. Max Lugavere on brain health 👨⚕️

When his mother exhibited signs of dementia, Max Lugavere poured himself into researching the disease. He realized that 1 in 2 millennials today will probably develop Alzheimer’s disease, as they age well past 90 years old.

Ultra-processed foods from wheat, corn and rice are a big part of the problem, he found out. The filmmaker, author and TV personality released a film Bread Head that documents how the disease can be prevented through diet and lifestyle.

“Our genes load the gun, but our choices pull the trigger.”
Photo via Memrise

11. Ed Cooke on humane learning experiences 🎓🌎

CEO and co-founder Ed Cooke of Memrise wants to make learning more fun. His app incorporates smart learning technology to help students acquire new languages. Unlike traditional textbook methods, the app features local accents, speaker videos and even chatbots. Learning a new language, Cooke says, unlocks many benefits:

freedom from your personality
new ideas
new concepts
new forms of thought
increased empathy
richer, more diverse experience
Image via Frax

12. Ben Weiss on infinite complexity 💻🙌

Ben Weiss, a computer graphics researcher at Google, has been obsessed with fractals from a young age. His interactive app Frax brings the beauty of fractal geometry to global audiences, allowing users to explore complex shapes and forms with multi-touch gestures. Weiss suggests that the “sensory overload” of viewing such complex art and design may be the key to understanding the areas of the brain responsible for autism, PTSD, and even auto-immune disease.

“Maybe fractal images can have the same effect as mind-altering drugs.”
“We’re seeing a reflection of ourselves. Perhaps fractals can shed insight on the mysteries of human perception and consciousness.”

13. Luis Rodriguez on indigenous wisdom 🤝❤️

Native American and Native Mexican author and poet Luis Rodriguez reminds us that “history and philosophy did not start with the Europeans who came here.”

With the forced assimilation and genocide of native peoples, society has lost touch with indigenous philosophy that teaches us to unite in one common destiny as humanity.

He offers four key “connections” that make change possible:

Connect with yourself
Connect with others
Connect with nature
Connect with the divine

14. Mahalia Jean-Pierre on safe places 🎶💕

There was a time in her life when Mahalia Jean-Pierre and her 1-year-old son Hawk were homeless on Venice Beach. Thankfully, she got connected to Safe Place for Youth, a nonprofit organization that offers a full “continuum of care” for homeless youth, including street outreach, drop-in services, case management, health and wellness, and education and employment programs. It allowed her to explore her passion for the arts.

Now recovering from homelessness, Jean-Pierre is on the journey towards fulfilling her singer-songwriter dreams. She recently had the opportunity to perform her music at the Staples Center in front of 14,000 people.

15. Dan Buczaczer on mapping data 📊👾

Dan Buczaczer runs marketing for Quid, a technology company that uses natural language processing to analyze data and organize it visually, allowing users to unlock new insights and big ideas.

Quid generates “maps created out of language.”
“In Venice Beach, food and tourism is the hub that connects other clusters.”
Photo via Inc.com

16. Diane von Fürstenberg on her third act 💃🏻💎

Born to a Holocaust survivor, iconic Belgian-American fashion designer “DVF” has done it all. So what next?

She is best known for her wrap dress created during the height of modern feminism in 1974. “I was selling confidence,” she says of her work at that time.

After beating cancer and re-booting her fashion career, von Fürstenberg says she is now dedicating herself to helping other women build their strength, compassion and impact to make the world a better place.

“My dream was to live a man’s life in a woman’s body.”
“If you doubt your power, you give power to your doubts.”
“I’m 70 years old but I’ve lived so fully I should be 120 years old.”
“Don’t wait for the tragedy to know that you are strong.”

17. Franklin Leonard on unconventional stories 📝🎬

Franklin Leonard anonymously created “The Black List” in 2005 to combat the “anarchic and gleefully opaque” process of how screenplays usually get produced in Hollywood, which is based on a very narrow view of stories that people assume will make money at the box office.

Leonard’s list of crowdsourced screenplays was formulated by a simple ask to Leonard’s friends and colleagues in the industry: send me a list of your favorite screenplays.

Turns out, people’s most beloved stories aren’t always the most conventional. The screenplays included on the Black List “violate assumptions” about what works in Hollywood. Films on the list include critically acclaimed, award-winning crowd-pleasers like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, Spotlight and The Queen.

Since its inception, the Black List has included 325 screenplays that actually got produced, generating $25 billion at the box office from hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“When you’re in triage, you tend to default to a conventional thinking about what works and what doesn’t.
“We all live in a state of constant triage. How much of that conventional wisdom is all convention, and no wisdom, and at what cost?”

18. Ruben Rojas on pleasant interruptions 🎨☮️

Artist Ruben Rojas founded Beautify Earth, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to revitalize neighborhoods with the power of paint. He works with artists to transform neglected walls into sources of inspiration.

“Take back the landscape of communities, one wall at a time.”
“Imagine a world where every blank wall is an opportunity for an artist to shine.”

19. Brooks Brown on turning tragedy to emancipation 🎭💙

Brooks Brown has always been interested in the way stories are told. He studies the “critical path” and “symbolic order” that leads people through the stories of their lives— the way they see the world.

Brown’s own life story took a tragic turn, when he was a student at Columbine High School during the massacre that took place in 1999 in Littleton, Colorado. Brown was friends with both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two perpetrators of the mass shooting.

Instead of asking what events lined up to lead to that devastating moment, he now realizes that events are the “emancipating moments” that shift the order of everything else in our life. They give us new perspective, change hearts and minds, and make us re-assess our symbolic order.

Now he’s dedicated to the field of virtual reality, where he can design new worlds.

“In virtual reality, you are able to react naturally. There is no critical path. No unilateral direction. You get to see how you would be.”

20. Tom Kingsley Brown on altered states of consciousness 🌱💉

Dr. Thomas Kingsley Brown has been researching ibogaine treatment for substance dependence since 2009.

Ibogaine is a cousin of other psychedelic compounds like LSD. The root bark powder has been used as religious sacrament to help people meet with ancestral spirits in countries like Gabon.

Ibogaine can also be used to treat opioid addiction, shown to reduce withdrawal symptoms during detox, and to reduce overall drug use after treatment.

Unfortunately, It is illegal in the United States, where the conventional treatment for opioid addicts is Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT), replacing heroine with methadone, for example.

“I prefer life over death.”