A Year Older…

On September 1, The Conversationalist turned one year old! Since the idea was conceived over 1.5 years ago, the platform has changed from focusing strictly on social justice and politics to the more general focus of mining the experiences of different people in order to extract truths that might assist viewers in their own lives.

In the past year we’ve heard from everyone from the inventor of the first commercial microprocessor to a man who completed five consecutive Iron Mans in five days. With each interview, I’ve been absolutely delighted by how these perspectives, although unique, can be woven together to form more universal truths.

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These conversations have become such a powerful part of my life that I find myself taking advice from them in different situations I encounter. When I left college and was terrified about the next step, I thought of Federico Faggin’s analysis of fear. When I want to take shortcuts to quickly understand something for my job, I remember Scott Resnick’s insistence on working diligently to master a subject or practice in order to be successful. When I feel as if I am experiencing difficulties with my own life or circumstances, Delaine LeBas’ advice on recognizing the institutional forces that prevent many groups from succeeding pops into my brain…and this is just the start of it. In the past year I feel as if I’ve constructed a greater understanding of what it means to build a meaningful life. Creating a space to learn from a wide group of people has perhaps been the most meaningful thing I have ever done. I truly hope that those who have listened to the podcasts, watched the videos, or read these articles have found something useful and inspirational in them.

I have prepared a video recap of the past year, complete with lots of bloopers, which you can watch below:

There have been so many memorable takeaways from all of these conversations, but I wanted to highlight just a few of them:

“Fear is energy, your energy, which is corrupted by misunderstanding.” -Federico Faggin, inventor of the first commercial microprocessor

“There are individuals and groups who really do think that their own point of view is something which is particular and bespoke to them, and that other people could never ever see things in the same way.  A lot of the work we do is about convincing people that isn’t possible. We’re all human, so there’s always going to be something we have in common with others. Most people’s ideals of what a good world is are similar, it’s just how we get there that differs.” – Caroline MacFarland, CEO of Covi Think Tank, the first visual think tank

“By putting in a lot of time, sitting down and learning all the facts, being the one person to read the 900 page budget…you work that much harder than all of your peers and that’s how you end up ascending.” – Scott Resnick, CEO, COO, former alderman

“I know that it has been a wonderful career for me. It’s just a huge privilege to be a doctor…But also, it’s like never a dull moment! Everything’s different all the time. Life becomes a great, big problem-solving exercise.” – Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Molecular Medicine at Mayo Clinic, CEO of two companies

“I really struggle with this idea that is possible for everybody to reach their full potential, particularly when so many people have such difficult circumstances conspiring against them.” – Delaine LeBas, acclaimed British artist

“I think the most important [piece of advice] that I have seen in my life is to embrace yourself and be you. I am very quirky and eccentric and it took me a long time to appreciate and be able to share that with others, and I feel like so many of us are afraid to be ourselves.” – Emily Voss, Founder and Sole Photographer at VOSStudios

“One of the things I have realized when I came to the lab I am working at currently, is there are people who are way smarter than me, and I was in awe of the fact. Were they just born smart? Did the process of grad school make them smart? That is when I realized that in life, if you want to succeed, you either have to be really really smart, and if you’re not, you need a certain trait in you that’s going to compensate for you not being that smart.” – Jazeel Limzerwala, Mayo Ph.D. candidate, former professional soccer player

“It goes back to the question of what’s your definition of success. When we first got married, my definition of success was about money, making a lot of money. And in sales I could make a lot of money, and that drove me. And my husband’s definition of success was not about money, it was about being happy. And I’ve learned so much from him over the years that the essence is being happy it’s not about how much money [you make].” – Jan Oncel, VP of Sales at Forrester Research

“With time and with experience, it takes larger earthquakes to rattle you.” – Chris Ayers, Character Designer for Disney and Dreamworks, cancer survivor

“A strong sense of insecurity. Most successful people, at least down deep, have a pretty healthy sense of insecurity, and that’s a big part of the things that fuel their drive. To prove over and over that they don’t need to be insecure. They can accomplish things. They do have capabilities. I’ve been able to tap into that.” – Dr. Thomas Kunkel, Former President of St. Norbert College

“A lot of my friends who have disabilities or health problems, I think of what they deal with every day, and I’m in pain here for five days. It’s going to be tough times here, but I think, these people deal with it every day. What do I have to complain about?” – Chad Esker, Elite Athlete. Completed the Epic 5 Challenge, which entails five Iron Mans in five days.

“I’m a fan of creating an inclusive culture. But I’ve noticed that unless you make a very strong effort consciously, the natural human tendency is not to create an inclusive culture, but to create a fairly homogenous culture…” – Lisa Calhoun, first woman to start a venture capital fund in Georgia, CEO, author

“As you get older, you realize beauty is speaking to you constantly.” – Fr. Neilson, professor of art at St. Norbert College

“If one seeks to have an impact, then you’re insisting someone else respond to you a certain way. Instead, if you find that space of joyfulness and live in that, then you’re much more likely to have an impact. When you do, it’ll happen because people choose to have that happen for them to, rather than one’s own efforts trying to force them into it.” – Dr. Risden, professor of English at St. Norbert College

Thank you so much for the past year.

Speak to you soon,

-Nora

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