Life Lessons from CHICAGO IDEAS WEEK.
In four days, I listened to 34 speakers. A luxury I know. But I am unemployed. Smile. For those of you who don’t know about Chicago Ideas Week, you gotta put it on the calendar for next year. It is an extraordinary chance to hear world class speakers who are at the top of their respective fields. A NASA Scientist. A Harvard Professor. A Television Titan. It is simply put food for your brain. Each talk is 15 bucks and the talks are located all across the city during a one week period.
As I was into the third speaker of the week (Designers Rebecca and Uri Minkoff), I decided to start taking notes. All of a sudden, I felt like I was back in school. And I loved school. It occurred to me that some of you might like to hear some of the many great take-aways and life lessons that were being imparted. These are especially good for someone “in transition.” Wink. Wink.
1. Authenticity. As I surveyed every single speaker, the one commonality that transcended age, race, or subject matter was Authenticity. Ya gotta keep it real. Whether you are discussing the atmosphere on Mars, or a cure for cancer, or you are discussing your role as CEO of SiriusXM(Martine Rothblatt), the speakers were overwhelming and unapologetically themselves. Their ability to truly be themselves in a sea of sameness was striking. Not all of us aspire to become a Harvard expert on traffic congestion (YES she exists and she did speak-Rosabeth Moss Kanter) but we can all aspire to keep it as real as she did.
2. Time. Time is THE most precious commodity we have. Period. We all want more of it. And we are all racing against it. None of us gets out of this alive. So that begs the question: How are YOU spending it? And could you be spending it more efficiently? If not now, when? What I learned from the 17 speakers who spoke on time is that it is up to each one of us to determine OUR priorities and then actively make decisions that reflect that. Michael Strahan wakes up happy every day and his conscious choice to be happy makes his time more meaningful. Time management expert Laura Vanderkam told us that based on her extensive research, the busiest people find more time to do more things. You always find time to do what’s at the top of your priority list. The question is: what’s at the top of your list?
3. People. Who you surround yourself with and choose to be around is a game-changer. I was honored to host the session on Cultural Icons. Many people don’t know comedian Tom Arnold was great friends with legendary New York Times journalist David Carr. Their unlikely friendship changed each other’s lives forever. Having the right person in your corner is about as important as being the right person in someone else’s corner. Fashion Designer Cynthia Rowley said “I surround myself with creative, imaginative and visionary people.” I interviewed Kristin Spodobolski about her boyfriend ESPN’s Stuart Scott. Scott died of cancer in January and was quoted as saying “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.” I think how you live your life is your art. And the people who you choose to love and love you back determine the quality of your days on earth. Boo-yah.
4. Moments. One of the biggest take-aways from the week was what Olympic Speed Skater John Coyle said about time. He said it was possible to actually slow it down and expand it. What?! Expand time? Yes. By approaching life differently and making meaning out of moments and making moments meaningful we live in a more deliberate way. He told the story of a CEO that was given 90 days to live. He approached those 90 days with such abandon that he felt that when all was said and done he had lived LONGER than if he were never diagnosed with cancer at all.
I always took tremendous pride in answering the often asked question: So what do you do? My answer: I anchor the evening news for CBS Chicago or I work for CBS New York. Well, what do I say now? I met a lot of people this week and I was at a loss for what to say. So when one curious older gentlemen asked: What do you do? I surprised myself with my answer. I’m a student. Oh what are you studying? Life. I’m studying life….
And I can’t think of a better place to be this week in my new “job” than Chicago Ideas Week. Thank you to Jessica Malkin, Brad Keywell, John Coyle, Jason Mayden, Rebecca Jarvis, Christie Hefner, Lola Olateju, Kay Koplovitz, Kristin Spodobolski, and so many other that I connected with. You are my kind of people. Thanks for your optimism, inspiration and above all your kindness.