Learning from experience

A TEDx Luxembourg story

By Armand Kovacs, 21.06.2019

Throughout history, what truly has made human kind stand out amongst all other beings on Earth was ingenuity, spirit, but most importantly our ability to learn from others and use these past experiences that other individuals went through to make the human kind better as a whole.

For me, that is what TEDx is: a chance to meet other people and learn from their experiences in order to make us better altogether. This year I went to TEDx Luxembourg, an event that had massive success (it managed to fill up the whole Philharmonie Luxembourg) and earning its proper place amongst the biggest TEDx events in Europe.

It was a magnificent opportunity to hear the struggles of brilliant people, people who managed to change the world by sheer willpower, drive and hope. The whole day was presented by an amazing person which I respect and look up to, Dirk Daenen, one of the people behind TEDx Luxembourg.

First we had the honor to hear from the one and only Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, one of the leading faces of Luxembourgish politics in the last 50 years, a strong and powerful women who taught us the true meaning of perseverance: although the odds and the historical context of her time, she managed to become a leading lady of Luxembourg and never stopped thinking of her country, managing to help in the creation of so many wonderful things such as the construction of the Philharmonie Luxembourg itself, the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, creating a venue for young people to enjoy Rock´n Roll which is the Rockhal and saving the Luxembourgish Orchestra. Throughout the 20 minute dialogue we had the chance to hear the complete story of this amazing person, from her days as a pianist, to those as a radio host and finally the struggles of being one of Luxembourg’s first female politicians.

Next we had another insight of the struggles and achievements of another female face, Paloma Cortez, Former Global Director of Corporate affairs at LVMH and now Head of Communication at LIME. Through the catchphrase ‘That’s a wonderful idea Paloma. Keep it to yourself’ she managed to tell us her struggles of implementing her ideas in her work and how important it is to never give up if you think you have a good idea in order to persevere. By doing this, she is the person behind the calorie count stickers used in all fast food restaurants and the star rating system used by Amazon.

Our third presenter came with a more tragic story. Sebastian Bellin is one of the survivors of the 2016 Zaventem Airport attack in Belgium. He told us his story, how one faithful day changed his entire life. From a professional basketball player he went to basically not being able to walk. His story was a heartwarming tale about the way you see your situation, the changes you go through and how your own will can take you from being that person who cannot walk to a person who is now planning to be part of the Ironman World Championship.

Cristol O´Loughlin is one of the supermoms of the world. She is the Founder and CEO of Angel AID who help those families whose members have rare genetic diseases cope with such a devastating issue. They help them but contributing to research, relief and inspiration, encouraging people to do their best and cope by doing whatever makes them handle the situation best.

In the middle of the event we had a unique opportunity to witness a more unusual presentation from Marc Stoltz of the Krav Maga Center in Luxembourg. We managed to have a bit of taste of what Krav Maga is through short presentation of techniques, but I think most important was that we were presented the ideology of this sport, one of the most important things we have to do in life: Never give up. If you want to find out more about them you can click here.

Next came David Timis, a EU Civics Outreach Fellow at Google with whom we discussed about how Artificial Intelligence is changing our lives as we speak, how people are managing this change and how our jobs and lives will be even more impacted in the future. Although this, we should welcome these changes with open arms because they will probably only better our lives, even if we are scared of not knowing the way they will impact them.

Next on stage we have Seth Yudof. This man would be basically the chameleon of showbusiness. He went from having a magic show with a partner, to managing small projects to managing Broadway shows. His story was that of a person who never said no, who always reinvented himself to do the best he could and whom is not ashamed to admit that he has learned so much from the mistakes he has made. His talk was all about trying to do your best and always be ready to adapt to what life hits you with, not only if it is a new tripwire, but also if it is a new opportunity.

David Goldsmith came with a more cynical message of how system and structure are a big part of a what a company is, even going further as saying that they are more important than the people. He told us examples and made a very good case of maybe one of the more controversial subjects of the evening. In the end, each person decides if they agree with him or not.

There are many struggles a teenager goes through while in high school and Farah Nanji told us her story from being misunderstood at school and not achieving expectations to getting in contact with racing, one of her passions, and becoming DJ NINJA.  A more unique part of the talk with her was the presentation of a song which she created.

Who says you have to be of old age in order to have a story to tell? Dorothea Tatalidis is 17 years old, she is a Luxembourgish high school student who excels at playing the trumpet. No really, she is an award winning trumpet player and we actually had a chance to hear her play. She told us her story and how perseverance made it possible for her to become the musician she is and how art was a recomforting thing for a young girl after she moved to Luxembourg and had struggles fitting in.

Lars Sudman gave us a more light heartening  insight of his experience as a author and researcher who is currently exploring the edges of leadership. Through many laughs and giggles he showed us how people misunderstand what innovation and organization transformation is but also gave us some tips on how to start these improvements: from ourselves. Personally, as a young man working in an organization, I found myself in all the oxymoronic situations that were being presented as big no nos and some of his tips are actually tools that I thought myself to use throughout the years. It was pretty nice actually hearing of some new ones that I did not know about and not having to discover them myself. If you want to see more of his talks you can find him at this link.

Last but not least, we were charmed by David Goldrake, a Luxembourgish magician based in Las Vegas.  He told us of the meaning of being different and how you should not adapt to a world that does not understand you but use the things people don’t understand to awe and amaze because, in the end, we have the power of doing anything we want inside ourselves.

These were our speakers, amazing people who told us their stories. We should listen to their tales and take whatever we find useful from them.

Thank you so much to all the speakers as well as the sponsors for making this event possible. I really enjoy TEDx Talks and I think they are one of the things we are lacking in our educational systems: a true feeling of practicality and a touch of what reality is and how experience is our greatest teacher.

A great applause should be given to the organizers  of TEDx Luxembourg who put their hearths and souls into this event, made it possible and made the best of it. I think I can say for all the people in the audience that we bow in front of you and of the great opportunity you presented us with. If you want to find out more about what TEDx Luxembourg is doing you can find them here.

(c) Armand Kovacs

 Also a great thanks to Dirk Daenen for inviting us to this excellent event and a great thank you for sparing some of his time to answer some of our questions:

  1. How come you wished to make TEDx Luxembourg? I wish to know your motivation behind investing so much time and soul into this event.

    “I have been teaching at university for 16 years and traditional universities serve an excellent purpose for the students of a particular age, but life-long learning is incredibly important and, I feel, somewhat under served. We need to generate interest in a subject area to get people engaged and I am convinced that the TED platform uses the latest technology to reach the interests of ‘everyone’ independent of age.”
  2. What do you think about the Luxembourgish people’s response towards the event?

    “It was nothing short of phenomenal. Many people had not heard of TED before, which is probably fair as the vast majority of TED talks are in English which alienates quite a significant portion of a country where the national languages don’t include English. However, when people started to understand what it was, the interest was huge. The audience in the room were some of the most enthusiastic and responsive people I have ever had the pleasure to stand in front of. There was roaring laughter, emotional tears and huge rounds of applause with standing ovations… simply phenomenal.” 

  3. Do you have any plans of expanding even more in Luxembourg? (this includes making a bigger event, making a hub or even making multiple events since it is so successful)

    “Bigger than Philharmonie will be hard to find… but the challenge is always nice ;). We were thinking about organising a TEDxLuxembourgCityWomen event, but the details need to be finalised. We are certainly looking into TEDxSalon events which are for the hardcore fans that want to frequently get together and discuss TED talks.”

  4. What would you tell a person who is interested but hesitant to come to the event in order to convince that person to attend? 

    “Imagine if you were interested in making an investment and I told you that Warren Buffett would give you a 15 minute talk on how to do it right? Would you listen? Imagine if you wanted to learn about magic and David Goldrake the Luxembourgish, Las Vegas-based magician would teach you a thing or two… Would you attend that event? Well we didn’t have Warren Buffett but we did have David Goldrake and Paloma Castro (the creative mind behind the eBay star-system / McDonalds calorie menus / Lime Micro-mobility) and David Timis (Google / World Economic Forum)… and sooo many others. We bring experts to talk to you about what they know best… how amazing is that?”

As the catchphrase that best expresses TEDx Luxembourg and the whole day Dirk Daenen couldn’t have said it better: How amazing is that?