TED X CUNY: “Making it Work”

Learning self-acceptance and taking chances

By Sonia Marinovic, Editor-in-Chief

Decor- Oh la la

The Entrepreneurship Club and the Zahn Center at City College hosted the TED x CUNY event on November 1, 2016. At this event, community speakers gave guidance to students about becoming their best selves and persevering through obstacles.

In college, students often focus on transforming themselves according to others’ needs in order to gain employment in the future. They often ask themselves questions, such as: what should I do to impress employers; what skills are currently in demand; and what do I have to do to convince someone that I can do this job? In this state of mind, students often lose perspective of the most important question. What do I want to do? In order to answer this question, students must strive to gain self-awareness and self-acceptance, in the spite of societal pressures and internal doubt. Once they have taken these steps, then students can take direction and lead more fulfilling lives, rather than just surviving. This is the “hustle” that entrepreneurs describe.

Event turnout was great!

TED x CUNY’s speakers encompass these dilemmas, under the theme “Making it Work against all odds,” speaking about their life experiences and the lessons learned in hopes of inspiring students to pursue their own hustle. The speakers of the conference included Ben Kassoy and Linda Villarosa. Ben Kassoy acts as Editor-in-Chief of DoSomething.org, which is a site that enables young students to make social change. He is also an author and a former online editor for Glamour magazine. A City College professor and author, Linda Villarosa, works as a journalist and formerly worked as an editor in the New York Times and Essence magazine. Two TED talk videos, also shown, spoke about avoiding regrets in life and being resourceful in times of struggle.

Ben Kassoy began the conference, helping students in following their interests, be comfortable in their own skin, and enjoy their work. He advised students to find what they like to do and to pursue it, to continually enhance their abilities, while accepting and embracing bad ideas along the way. He encouraged students to remain true to themselves and to find a group of friends to support them. These friends should allow them to be their authentic self and to have “life affirming” energy, while having safe space to do so. Additional key recommendations made by Kassoy were to remain childlike and to retain the sense of play in order to be more effective at work and to enjoy work more. He also advised naming the initiatives, which gives them context and importance. To Ben, knowing and doing what you love defines “hustle.”

Ben Kassoy engaging students

Linda Villarosa distilled the steps of self-discovering and accepting as OWN IT, LIVE IT, and SLAY IT. She described her identity struggles, as she grew up as the only black girl in suburban Denver and then in the newsroom. She wrestled with the idea of not being ‘black’ enough as she moved to a magazine focused on African Americans, as well as not revealing her homosexuality to anyone outside of immediate family. She learned to own her identity and not to conform herself to what other thought she should act like. She lived the life that she wanted to live, but she also learned that she did not have to hide herself and that others could identify with her struggles. Her advice to students: own your identity, strive to be authentic, and do not be afraid to pursue new, unfamiliar opportunities.

Linda Villarosa speaking at TED x CUNY

Two TED talk videos were also presented at the conference. Jane McGongial presented the first talk and she described the process in which she overcame her traumatic concussion. She utilized her love of video games and designed a game intended to help others overcome difficult situations by promoting self-healing exercises. The game encouraged physical activity; increased interaction with loved ones; reinforced positive emotions; and encouraged gratefulness. Through these actions, people overcome a traumatic event or just live life to the fullest.

Navi Radjou presented the second talk and he discussed “frugal innovation,” or making more with less. He stated that Western societies often spend very large amounts of money on Research and Development that typically result in having fewer natural resources and that fewer people can afford these new developments. Western companies now attempt to adopt and work with Eastern ‘frugal’ innovators by making cheaper technology that is more easily accessible. The three principles of “making more with less” that he outlined include: keeping the idea simple; use existing resources; and think of more diversified and less centralized business structure.

Both talks discuss looking past current difficulties and finding the potential in order to improve and move forward. The key to improvement involves knowing that your current situation is not permanent and positive change is possible.

The TED X CUNY helped to open the pathway to self-discovery, acceptance, and perseverance. Students were inspired as they laughed, attentively listened, and got up on their feet. The event also had great food and free stuff.

Free bag give-away!

The Entrepreneurship club would like to all speakers and participants for making the TED event a success! It was wonderful to hear such great life experiences and meet fellow students and facility.

The Entrepreneurship Club also hopes to continue its TED talk events, so look in the future for a TED X Harlem conference. Hope to see you there!