In the past, disruptive behavior by teenagers was something that was generally chastised or frowned upon. After all, class clowns have been distracting their teachers and fellow students for as long as schools have been in existence. But something is happening to dispel that notion. Today’s teenagers are proving that disruption can be a good thing — even a life-altering thing — not just for the disruptor, but potentially for billions of people around the world. On March 1st, 2014, this idea was showcased at the popular TEDxTeen conference, which billed this year’s event as a celebration of the “crazy” ones.
But wait… crazy isn’t good either, right? Was this an event showcasing a group of lunatics running in circles on stage while ranting deliriously? Hardly. The only thing viewed as crazy at TEDxTeen is the concept of conventional wisdom. Each of the young adults featured at this year’s event were selected due to their ability to not just think outside of the box, but to convert it into a soapbox for ideas that scream to be heard. In Marah Zahalka’s case, she isn’t just driving change: she’s driving race cars full-throttle around tracks all across Palestine, and breaking barriers for women in the process. Or Marian Bechtel, who isn’t just engineering ingenuity: she’s engineering a device to counteract the detonation of landmines, which tragically claim another life around the world every twenty minutes. Then there is Ryan Orbuch, who isn’t just creating innovation: he’s creating apps that are setting new standards in design and usability. All of the speakers and performers at this year’s TEDxTeen arrived via very different paths, but they all conveyed the same message loud and clear: when you take a chance, no matter how crazy it may be, something great could happen.
This year’s event marked TEDxTeen’s fifth year of delivering excellent talks, and our fifth year as an event sponsor. The co-hosts of the event, multiple Grammy Award winner Nile Rodgers and A Tribe Called Quest emcee Q-Tip, did an excellent job in their duties, and spoke proudly of achieving success by embracing “crazy” themselves during their youth. 2014 also marked the first year that TEDxTeen was livestreamed, making it possible for viewers from across the world to tune in on websites like MTV Voices and enjoy the talks in real time.
I count myself lucky to have been in the presence of so many brilliant young minds (even though most were far too humble to ever embrace a tag such as that), and it was encouraging to see so many of them stretch technology to its limits in order to solve their problems. So here’s to the crazy ones. Here’s to all of those who march to the beat of their own crazy drum. Never stop innovating. Never stop inspiring. Most importantly, never stop being yourself.
In the future, we’ll use this space to feature videos of each speaker’s TEDxTeen talk. In the meantime, you can learn more about those innovating change through the following videos:
Unlocking The Truth
Mark van der Heijden