Ideas Worth Exposing

What do you think of when you hear the word “exposure?”

Perhaps something embarrassing or guilt-inducing comes to mind. Or, if you’re like us and live in the frigid Midwest, you think of the threat of frostbite while cleaning snow off your car. But, for the presenters and speakers at the recent TEDxNaperville event, the word “exposure” is a beautiful, challenging, important and necessary theme in professional and personal life. And it’s a word that could use some redemption.

Through the motifs of Enduring Through Disorder, Defying Perception and Shifting the Focus, speakers presented ideas, truths and issues that need more attention, more investment and — you guessed it — more exposure. There are countless issues that are both important and unsettling that exist in our world, but it’s more common (and often, easier) to bury them in l­­ieu of bringing them to light. The following is a sampling of some of our favorite “exposed” ideas and some of the thoughts that stirred us.

Enduring Through Disorder: Daniel Geiter, Ed.D.

“He who opens a school closes a prison,” were the first words boldly proclaimed by Daniel Geiter, Ed.D. As a convicted felon, Mr. Geiter knows the “stain” that will mar his life forever. Though he can’t change his past, Mr. Geiter has decided he can shape his future, and the futures of those in a similar position. As president of Ward College, a new higher education institution in Chicago dedicated to educating ex-convicts, Mr. Geiter wonders if the correctional system is really “correcting.” His passion is not limited to merely asking the important questions, but to answering them as well.

There’s a common adage that encourages us, “if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Adversity, whether mundane or significant, offers us a choice: we can look for sympathy, make the best of the situation, or like Mr. Geiter, go and make a difference. The next time you’re faced with a challenge, meet it head-on: use your resources, find some grit, and take back agency over your circumstance. If we were handed a lemon — with all due respect to lemonade — I think something a little more audacious would be better. Anyone want a lemon bar?

Defying Perception: Scott Tillema, Hostage Negotiator and Law Enforcement Officer

If you think you’ve been in some high-pressure meetings, have a chat with Sergeant Scott Tillema, an FBI-trained hostage negotiator. Mr. Tillema shared several stories of intense, stressful hostage situations that he was able, and sometimes unable, to diffuse. Through his training and experience, Mr. Tillema shared his insights for successful interpersonal communication, and his tactics may defy the norm.

When was the last time you encountered a high-stress situation, and what was your first instinct to resolve it? In a world of go-getters and “git-‘er-dones,” it’s natural to want to “fix” each issue we encounter. But what if the best and most proactive response is to listen, ask questions — and then listen some more? While our message may be important, it is not more important than the work necessary to ensure one hears it. Showing empathy, giving respect and, ultimately, earning the right to be heard is the endeavor that requires our utmost attention and care. Being the loudest or most passionate voice in the room won’t inspire change, but patient and active listening will.

Shifting the Focus: Mike Byster

What’s 957 divided by 13? In less than a second and without a calculator, Mike says: 73.61538461. Go ahead – check it! Mr. Byster is a mathematician and educator. While his ability to solve complicated math problems is impressive, it’s the everyday application that sends a powerful message.

By teaching math tricks, Mr. Byster really shares problem-solving skills with all ages. “You can do things a multitude of different ways. If something’s hard one way, don’t just give up and say you can’t do it; look and see if you can find an easier way,” he says. Sometimes, his alternate approach to solving a complicated math problem is to do it backwards.

Think about your challenges, and take a second look. What actually needs to be solved? What’s the deeper issue? Would it help to start with the final, big picture and work your way through backwards? There’s always another way to look at a situation you don’t think you can handle. By shifting the focus, you may be exposed to even greater ideas.

Chris Oakland is a R+K Assistant Account Manager.

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