TEDxHonolulu: One Aha Moment at a Time

Published: April 14, 2015

Category: News & Events

TEDxHonolulu: Paradigm Shifting One Aha Moment At A Time

For those of you who might not be intimately acquainted with TED or the TEDx events, they are a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation. They produce their whole program based on the mission of supporting “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

The TEDx program is designed to help communities, organizations, and individuals — such as artists or entrepreneurs — by sparking conversations and connections through local TED-like experiences and community events. You can read my announcement here.

Each TEDx event is structured as a suite of short talks, demonstrations, and performances that are idea-focused and cover a wide range of topics to help foster education, learning, inspiration, and wonder – and most of all, provoke those “ideas worth spreading.”

This past month, I was given the extreme honor to not only speak at one of their local events, but fill the role as the first ever TEDxHonolulu, Artist in Residence.

TEDxHonolulu Artist In Residence Stage | Shane Robinson Fine Art


What was it like to speak at the TEDx event? In short, equal parts anxiety, stress, excitement, and adrenaline.

For me, the anxiety and stress was in large part due to the short timeframe I had in order to both prepare a talk AND develop artwork for the event. The artwork had to be large enough for a backdrop on the stage; it would also be seen in each of the speaker videos. Plus, according to the guidelines of the Artist In Residence (AIR) Toolkit that was provided by TEDxMtHood (the creators of the AIR Program), the artwork is to be shared and displayed after the event in community spaces, schools, airports, convention centers, etc. to bring continued awareness to TED and local TEDx events.

Given those additional criteria, in addition to the short time frame, (less than seven weeks) I didn’t have time to produce new work on that scale. So in conjunction with the topic of my talk, “Paradigm Shifting One Aha Moment At A Time,” I selected several abstract photographs from the very first shoot after my own “aha moment” that sparked my Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) photography series.

I created several mockups from that first shoot, scaled for the size of the stage. I then submitted them to Genesis Leong, TEDxHonolulu Program Licensee and Event Organizer, and Mariko Chang, manager of the TEDxHonolulu AIR Program.

I created several mockups from that first shoot, scaled for the size of the stage. I then submitted them to Genesis Leong, TEDxHonolulu Program Licensee and Event Organizer, and Mariko Chang, manager of the TEDxHonolulu AIR Program.

Mariko was basically my “handler” and did a great job of communications, idea generation, and being the go-between myself and the larger volunteer group. It was really helpful for me to have a single point of contact and know that Mariko would reach out to which ever “Team” was appropriate.

Here is a selection of the first mockups I created, including a mockup of the venue stage at which I was able to take a photo of Mariko holding a regular piece of typing paper. Based on the size of the paper, I could extrapolate a quick mockup of what the 30” wide by 80” tall banners would look like hanging on the stage. The first image is the original “Towel #15” that was selected based on it’s colors and dynamic visual nature.

TEDxHonolulu Stage Mockup Design | Shane Robinson Fine Art
TEDxHonolulu Stage Rhoeo Mockup | Shane Robinson Fine Art
TEDxHonolulu Stage Mockup | Shane Robinson Fine Art
TEDxHonolulu Stage Mockup | Shane Robinson Fine Art


Looking back on my time preparing for TEDx, I reflect on all the lessons I’ve taken away from this experience:

Go with the flow. It’s easy to give advice to someone by saying, “Just go with the flow” but it’s completely another thing to be dropped into an already established event and short timeline with 50 other team members and volunteers.

Establish Clear Communications. One of the things I did at the very beginning was to establish focused email communications with just my AIR Team. Having done that, I was no longer included on messages with many recipients containing dozens of reply threads, most of which didn’t pertain to my part in the event.

Stay in the Present. While this was part of the subject matter of my talk, it’s still difficult to stay Present with the stress and anxiety of the all the moving parts and those items that are out of my direct control. It’s easy to go into the Future and become even more stressed about all the possible things that can go wrong on the day of the event. It was also an exercise of not going into the Future to make up stories, or setting up expectations about what will happen after I add “TEDx Speaker” to my bio and LinkedIn profile…

Have Fun. A few weeks out from the event, my stress level was high. I had already re-written my talk 2-3 times and still wasn’t satisfied. The artwork was still not ordered from the printer in California and I didn’t know how it was going to be paid for. I had to figure out a way to hang the artwork without being able to hang it from the ceiling and I didn’t have time or budget for custom stands. So in summary, I was quite stressed and having some trouble sleeping.

A good friend asked a simple question, “How is your TEDx prep going?” To which I abruptly replied, “I’m totally stressed and not having fun!”

She followed with an equally simple question, “What would make it fun for you?” The question smacked me upside the head. What did I need to change to make this a fun and exciting experience that I initially thought it would be? I replied, “Changing my attitude and deciding to have as much fun as I can. Not stressing about the things I have no control over. And not going into the Future and making up stories about what I think may or may not happen.”

That simple question helped me completely adjust my attitude for the rest of the entire prep and day of the event.

Shane Robinson, TEDxHonolulu 2015 Artist in Residence

Shane Robinson, TEDxHonolulu 2015 Artist in Residence


It was an amazing experience. I learned so much about working with a large, all volunteer organization and how to manage my stress and anxiety in a new situation over which I had very little control.

I learned to let other people do their jobs and not constantly check in or expect communications to be instant.

And I learned that a single, simple question can help snap me out of the trap of making up stories about how I “think” a situation should go. I also learned that “Being Happy” is very much a choice when the situation is not life threatening.

I’d like to shout out massive mahalo nui (deep thanks) to Genesis Leong for organizing the event, keeping her cool when things didn’t go as planned and for inviting me to be the TEDxHonolulu 2015 Artist in Residence. Mahalo also to Mariko Chang for being my “handler” and providing communications with the other Teams, for her ideas, for being my chauffeur on Oahu, and for her professional and positive attitude.

And mahalo nui loa to Roxanne Darling for her years of love, support, and belief in my work and talent, for traveling 30 hours from Florida for the event weekend and taking care of lodging and transportation, and for her help and support during the event. It would have been substantially more difficult to set up and take down the artwork and maintain my focus during the event without her help and presence.

TEDxHonolulu Speakers + Team

Left: Some of the inspiring speakers from the event: Kealoha, Hayden Atkins, Shane Robinson, Ian Monroe, Gabriel Yanagihara, Andrea Anderson, Cheyne Gallarde, Sai Ako, Joanne Liupaono, Kimmy Takata, and Steven Chiang. Right: Roxanne Darling and Shane Robinson. (Photo Credit: TEDxHonolulu.)

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Can you relate to the experience I had during my TEDx time? What lessons have you learned in your own life that have helped you stay focused, positive, and living in the Present?