By Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’well
Returning to earth is hard. But I am back on land – and in the office – after an incredible week at TED2016: Dream where I spent five days in a custom-built TED amphitheater inside the Vancouver Convention Centre. Can I just say that the setting was my idea of utopia? The beautiful space was surrounded by Vancouver Bay, where seaplanes would land just outside the convention center windows, and Whistler Mountain’s white capped ski slopes were visible in the near distance.
Inside the theater was an equally special environment. The 1,200-plus attendees, or TEDsters as we were called, were asked to be truly present during the course of the event. This meant that phones, computers and light-up screens were only allowed in the back rows of sessions to encourage everyone to be open to the learnings, lessons and insights of each of the 18-minute TED talks. What a breath of fresh air.
While the imagination and inspiration at TED was endless, there were a few things that stood out as must-share experiences that led to personal and sharable revelations.
Chasing the Hum
Let’s start with Shonda Rhimes’ talk about balance. The amazing writer and producer of the hit ABC show Scandal is responsible for over 70 hours of television each season. With her hands in other projects including Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, it was no surprise when she said that she is addicted to work. While I completely relate to this obsession, Shonda gave an honest reflection about why it is important to find balance and happiness in her personal life. She talked about how she chased the work high or what she called “the hum” and how she was only able to rediscover it after finding time for her kids and her personal life. What she learned is that the hum is not work-specific, but “joy-specific.”
Balance is something we probably all know we need and, if you’re like me, don’t always seek out. Yet, the way Shonda spoke about chasing “the hum” made it seem like a necessity for truly claiming the dream of happiness.
Taking a Virtual Journey
The virtual world opened up and wowed me, unlike ever before. Virtual reality, augmented reality and holograms were hot topics this year and dream-like experience unto their own. At one talk in particular, we were gifted Google Cardboard Virtual Reality glasses. Together with the glasses, the entire amphitheater of TEDsters went on a journey through space and time from a U2 concert to an open helicopter ride over Central Park to a sing along in an African village.
The interactive experience was so spectacular that I brought the Google Cardboard back to the S’well office so my team could explore the experience firsthand. It was kind of magical to get the entire team inspired and see individual reactions to something so new and unique.
Chasing Personal Dreams
As sponsors four years running, S’well creates custom TED-edition S’well bottles for TEDsters to stay hydrated in style during the week (and after). Only these special edition S’well bottles are permitted to be used throughout the course of the week. No other drinks, cups, mugs or bottles are allowed.
As founder and dreamer-in-chief of S’well, it is beyond a dream to see TEDsters – from movie stars to astronauts, to writers and scientists, to film and television producers – proudly using their bottles while listening to big ideas about the future.
This was by far the most personal and fulfilling experience at TED2016: Dream, because it was seeing my dream live in action. It helped me return to work this week with a renewed energy for the business and our mission to make a major impact in the world. My guess is that this is exactly what TED meant to do – keep us working toward our dreams. So that’s why I pass this experience onto you.