For the last 3 days I have been bombarded with information, inspiration, and incredible artistry, at the EG Conference in Monterey. It was hard to take this much time out from expedition preps (and thanks to Naomi for keeping things moving along in my absence) but rarely have I spent 3 better days.
With around 50 speakers ranging from magicians to inventors to musicians to entertainers to astronauts to software engineers, I am still trying to assimilate the onslaught of input. It seems almost rude to try and pick out individual presenters, as absolutely everybody was amazing, but if pushed…..
Ren Ng – inventor of the stunning Lytro light field camera. A whole new concept in photography, the camera captures every beam of light along with information relating to its direction. Focusing happens post-production using online software. Play around with the images in the Lytro gallery and see how you can shift the focus from one part of the picture to another. Looking at a photo is no longer a passive experience, but an interactive one, a process of exploration. And the 3D capabilities are simply jaw-dropping. I had to order one!
Philip Sheppard – cellist and composer, survivor of composition marathon when he was given just weeks to arrange every national anthem in the world (203 of them) in time for the Beijing Olympic games. Performed the Stars and Stripes on cello, in the style of Jimi Hendrix – which really had to be heard to be believed!
Simon Coronel – magician and fellow recovering management consultant. I loved his description of his fascination with the unusual as seeking out the “things you find under the edges of bell curves”
Kevin Olusula – cellist and beatboxer. Check out this video to see his unique combination of classical cello with the most amazing human sound effects. I found myself looking around the stage for the percussion section, only to find that those noises were coming from Kevin’s mouth. Incidentally, Kevin was also one of the undergraduates assigned to a Yale World Fellow during his at Morse College. He reckons I’m going to have a very special time on the program. I’m sure he’s right!
Daniel Kim – this is the most incredible vehicle: to call it a motorcycle seems almost insulting. Gyro-stabilised, it would allegedly take a baby elephant to push it over. Imagine how much better our traffic would flow if all those single-occupancy vehicles were replaced by one of these.
Although the speakers were incredibly diverse, something they all had in common was their absolute dedication to their particular art form – dedication to the point of obsession. I wonder how many of them might have been told at some point that they should have “better balanced lives”, or that their obsession was unhealthy. Thankfully, they all had the courage to remain out there at the edges of the bell curves.
To truly excel in a particular field of endeavour, a degree of obsession seems essential. According to Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers: The Story of Success“, 10,000 hours is the minimum amount of time required to achieve mastery. Having been inspired at first hand by the pinnacles of human achievement over the last few days, I would take “excellence” over “balance” any time.
Excellence inspires. Balance only reassures us that mediocrity is okay.
(Featured photo: a fun portrait taken at EG – what do we think of the granny glasses?!)