Coolest TEDx letters, ever. 

Obviously I’m a bit of a TED enthusiast, just by the reading of the title of the blog. 

TEDxTwinFalls took place a little more than a month ago, back in mid-April. But it wasn’t until today that I found this really cool display of TEDx letters from their event! The big red letters are a huge staple of and ubiquitous for any TED event, TED or TEDx, so seeing such an interesting play on them on Instagram earlier this evening definitely caught my eye! 

Very cool #TEDx display. #tedxtwinfalls #twinfalls #red

A photo posted by TEDx (@tedx_official) on

Seems like the theme for the event was “Unconventional Connection.” The wheels in my mind definitely started turning when I thought of the great ideas folks shared guided by that theme! Someone put me in touch with their art director! :)

The Spoon Theory.

This blog post is inspired by the following two quotes, that I’ve received many, many times in my life:

“You know, Justin, just sometimes I forget that you’re even in a wheelchair. It’s like you’re completely normal! I don’t even think about it!”

or, maybe…

“You know, when you can’t do some things I get a little surprised because you don’t act like you’re sick. You do a good job of hiding it.”

To be clear, these two quotes do not offend me at all. In fact, with the first one, I guess I’d say I kind of prefer it that this friend is no longer generally hung up on the fact that I use a wheelchair to get around. Yeah, it may be a little awkward if they forget to retrieve my wheelchair that’s stowed away in the trunk of the car that we’re getting out of (and, yes, that’s happened a few times!), but it’s okay. I’d rather them feel a little silly for just a moment than make a huge deal out of the potential chore of stowing and retrieving my chair for me.

So, a good friend, Kate N., recently shared this article with me, and I wanted to share it all with you, too (you can download a PDF version of the story here).

If you have the time to read the whole thing, that’d be great, but I understand that you might not and instead are reading this. :) So I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version, if you will.

Read more after the jump …

The Third Wave. A Book Review.

A few weeks ago, I was at a local mall just engaging in some retail therapy. Average stuff. I cut through the Barnes & Noble to use their elevator and get to the next floor of the mall. As I walked through, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I saw a sign for an author’s book-signing event that following Friday. And I was shocked to see who it was.

It was an event featuring Steve Case, an entrepreneur that I greatly admire. I’ve followed Steve and his work for a few years now, the peak occurring probably when I finally got to hear him speak at the SXSW festival back in the spring of 2015. While I didn’t get the chance to meet him then, I really enjoyed hearing about his viewed on entrepreneurship, his focus on policy (not politics), and his Rise of the Rest organization. The stories and impact of investors are great and everything, but I’ve never really been one to focus on the money side of entrepreneurship, I’ve always enjoyed the stories behind them. And Steve’s story is unique.

So, when I heard that Steve was going to be signing copies of his new book, The Third Wave, my first thought was … well I need to get this book, and read it! I knew it would be less expensive on Amazon.com, than purchasing it in the store, and I also just have an Amazon problem in general…so I had ordered the book before I even got home. The very next day, there was the book in my hands, and I got to reading. I ordered the audiobook, too, which happened to be narrated by Steve himself.

The Third Wave is a great piece of work. As the flap jacket and narration will tell you, it’s part memoir, part manifesto for the future. And the memoir piece isn’t too overly focused on Steve himself as it is on his journey through the world of establishing Internet access for Americans, navigating the United States government and their politicians, and then getting involved in present-day entrepreneurship to help advance areas that, otherwise, wouldn’t receive as much attention. This is a very, very important part of Steve’s story and one that I admire very much.

And in that interview, Steve did a great job of summing up the premise of the book. “The Third Wave” could be seen as a surfing analogy but it’s primarily referring to the waves of the internet and how they affect and impact each of our lives.

Steve identifies the First Wave by the fact that in 1985, only 3% of Americans were online for an hour week. There was not as much content or interaction, so there wasn’t as much a need to be present online or to have access.

The “Second Wave” saw the development of apps and services on the internet. Companies like Google and Facebook made the internet searchable and social respectively, and the way we interact with each other and our devices changed greatly as a result.

The “Third Wave,” Steve says, is upon us. It’s all about integrating the Internet more into our lives. We will have to start thinking about how we can use the internet to stay healthy, how it affects what we consume, how we think about investing money. And as it enters more facets of our life, it will also come with more regulations form everyone’s favorite entity: the government. So, how do we work together to advance this technology while not going overboard?

The #ThirdWave of the internet: "More personal. More individualized. More data-driven."

A photo posted by The Third Wave Book (@thirdwavebook) on

Steve talks a lot about how there is a ton of opportunity for people to position themselves to be a part of  these industries that very well may be disrupted by this next level of and progression of technology as it relates to the Internet. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? That’s what so many of my entrepreneur-type friends think about, study, and quite frankly: do. They are always looking for that next big but also MEANINGFUL thing that they can build, help with, or contribute their time and passions to, as to be a part of that “Third Wave.”

A stitch of our September Hive 2014 experience.
A stitch of our September Hive 2014 experience.

Back in September 2014, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a program called the Hive Global Leaders Program. This program gathers hundreds entrepreneurs from across the world in San Francisco (and now many other cities, like Boston) to engage in deep, meaningful, and quite frankly (and honestly) life-changing conversations and exercises in what we were really doing in our work, why we were doing it, and what we want to do moving forward in terms of adding quality and value to the world and people around us, in our communities and abroad. Hive was one of the most transformative experiences I’ve ever had, and reading The Third Wave really reminded me of that.

Reflecting on Steve’s experiences and his passion to work toward policy points that would be advantageous for entrepreneurship in places where economies are weak and people are poor is an example of values-based, meaningful work. From his position of wealth, it would be easy to just throw money at these problems as a VC or an investor, but Steve is conscious about issues facing the world and helps eradicate issues through entrepreneurship. It’s impressive and very service-minded.

To say that I admire Steve Case and his ethos…would be an understatement. It was definitely a treat to not only be able to meet him at the book signing, but to have a quick chat and have him sign my copy of the book!

Case Stitch
Here I’m smiling for a photo with Steve during the book signing event at Barnes & Noble. Ironically, this site was less than 1 mile from where Case founded America Online 2 decades earlier!

It’s been years since I’ve been really been able to engage in leisure reading. After graduate school finished in 2014, the last thing I ever, EVER wanted to touch was a book. But as I begin thinking more seriously about my next academic steps in life (applying for Ph. D. programs sometime in the somewhat nearish future), I’ve decided to pick up reading a bit more. And it’s been great. The Third Wave is but one example of being able to leisure read something that’s not academic, and outside of my defined field of interest…but was a great read, anyways.

So, to wrap, up, I wanted to share two of the biggest takeaways that I really enjoyed from the book. Here’s the first one. The three P’s.

unnamed

Steve’s three P’s are partnership, policy, and perseverance. The most important of this one, in entrepreneurship and even more importantly in life, is perseverance. Being able to bounce back and work through both successes and setbacks in life is very, very important to success. In my opinion, it is the only way to successful. I must admit, I have less respect for those who tend to give up easily. Perseverance is essential to being successful and getting through challenges. And we ALL experiences challenges.

The second big takeaway that I wanted to share is some food for thought.

unnamed (2)

“As Senator Marco Rubio has pointed out, Airbnb is now the largest hospitality provider, yet they don’t own a single hotel. Similarly, Uber is the largest transportation company, though they don’t own a single vehicle. And neither company existed just a decade ago.”

The Third Wave. Read it…it’ll make you think.

Koshka & 3.2.

How you make sense of a tragic situation can say a lot about who you are as a person. I’m saying…in terms of perseverance. I deeply, deeply admire perseverance, as a human trait.

And, too, optimism and gratitude are two qualities that I do my best to practice on a daily basis. Especially amidst tragic situations. Tragic doesn’t have to mean something life-threatening, but it can. And one of the most grueling, life-threaetening, tragic situations I’ve ever been “near” … is April 16th, 2007. Last year I wrote at length, on that day, about my emotions and feelings toward 4/16/07, so I won’t belabor the point. You can check out that blog post here. Nonetheless, every year, there are different memories and feelings that I associate with that day – some positive and some negative. This year, two of the biggest feelings are optimism and gratitude.

Hokie HOW Loog
neVer, EVER, forgeT.

Read more after the jump …

Where Deafness is Not a Disability.

I grew up with cousins who were deaf. My experience with those who used sign language to communicate began at a very young age. But, I didn’t learn to sign right away. I took an introductory American Sign Language course during high school, and wasn’t able to really flex those muscles during college.

But towards the end of my college years, I was asked to come speak at an event called the Youth Leadership Forum. Sponsored by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, the event gathers students of varying abilities and teaches them numerous skills. Most important of those skills, I think, is self-advocacy. It also teaches acceptance of yourself, and acceptance of others.

To get that latter message across, learning a few signs was a big part of the forum, as there were a few students who used sign language to communicate, exclusively. Those two students, Liberty & Triton, who happen to be deaf have become really good friends of mine over the years – 2 people that I care about deeply.

Over the years, they have taught me a ton of signs. Combine that with what I learned from the ASL course in highs school, from my second cousin Sha’Nelle and her parents (my cousins), and I not only enjoy using ASL to communicate (it’s great to communicate in loud places or when your mouth is full!), but whenever I see a story or media that heavily features sign language, I always pay attention. For example, even though ABC Family wasn’t (and Freeform isn’t) really my jam when it came to TV shows, the show “Switched at Birth” quickly became one of my favorite shows to binge on Netflix becuase it heavily features ASL and some scenes where only ASL is featured.

CNN Films recently posted a digital short online that really caught my eye in this regard. The film is called All-American Family. In theory it is about a football team in California for an all-deaf school and their journey. But in reality it’s about an amazing family. The film is made by Andrew Jenks and follows the Pedersen family and their four generations of deafness over the course of a few weeks. I felt like you sort of get to know the family and see two of the brothers compete in the first home football game of the season.

1 heart
In one of the more moving scenes in the 12-minute film, the team quarterback, Zane, gets everyone pumped up by reminding them to play with 1 heart. It’s amazing … it happens towards the end, before their first game.

You can check out the entire short film here or click the image below. It has been praised by the deaf community and obviously I really enjoyed it, too. If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, I would definitely recommend it. And if you know or are learning ASL, even try it without the captions like I did. :)

Proud
Zane: “I’m proud of my identity.” Amen, brother.