'The Ones Who Do' Greece Faces the Spirit of Action at the TEDxAthens

28/11/2012 11:05 GMT | Updated 27/01/2013 10:12 GMT

TED is this incredibly inspiring global format of 18 minute long talks from the world's thinkers of all professions: polar explorers, quantum physicists, tech entrepreneurs, creatives. It is for people who have something to say.

TEDxAthens this November, took the format even further by focusing on 'The Ones Who Do'. The theme seemed entirely appropriate, given the country's current lack of belief in the system and in the future. "Our choice of topic is not only local but urgent: we need to turn thought into action today", one of the organisers Dimitris Kalavros comments.

So, what do the ones 'who do' do exactly? Yes, no more no less, they are 'just doing it'. Nike's mantra was the ever-present patron in encouraging young Greek entrepreneurs to action. After all, before escaping abroad and acquiring an American accent, wasn't Nike a Greek goddess of victory and action. She was. TEDxAthens delivered the mythical goddess home, reinvigorated by the American dream and hopefully there to stay.

Mary Katranzou, the hottest young Greek in fashion whose prints were all over SS13 catwalks and editors lips, spoke of the self doubt that any creative person goes through. Coupled with that of a Greek, it was the constant 'Am I good?', 'am I going to be good' and the eventual, unavoidable victory of the self over doubt by 'just doing it'.


Katranzou speaks: "What is the opposite of DO? - Think. Art used to be about craft, now it's about thinking. Jeff Koons doesn't even want to touch his art. Imagine if the great artists of antiquity didn't touch their statues. This self imposed thinking is killing action." People want to help you do. Katranzou is convinced that if there is a goal in life it will be achieved, it only requires one trigger: Action.

Ashley Fiolek agrees. The deaf motocross champion, now sponsored by Red Bull, has dreamed of becoming a female rider since she was small. People laughed in her face, teachers dismissed it. Yet she did it. The young athlete, translated by her mother ended her talk on an inspirational: "The universe has a clear path for those who know what they want".

Yet this universal path is not a yellow brick road. Attending the event are the two founders of the first direct insurance company in Greece, Hellas Direct. It would be fair to say that whilst some have a universal path mapped out early, neither of them dreamed of starting an insurance company since they were 17. Emilios Markou and Alexis Pantazis made a considerate choice: innovate and change the industry which has been affected the most by the low morale, mistrust and failure. Their journey, in retrospect, is a mathematical equation: 3 years setting up, 2,500 approaches to raise money, 300 meetings all over the world, 11 investors. It's a fascinating math to follow through, in fact their presentation on failure has gone semi-viral, inspiring the younger generation of Greeks to action.


On the subject of maths and sciences, Andreas Mershin, the research scientist at the MIT Centre for Bits and Atoms makes a point about the human dream of constant evolution: 'Nature already knows how to create electricity, smell etc. All we do as scientists, is recreate these processes". Such, the project for recreating the dog's nose for smelling early signs of cancer - building an electronic nose to revolutionase medicine with nanotechnology. "To understand something, you need to design and build it". Mershin comments, and this is what pushes technology to promote evolution.

AOL's digital prophet David Shing names technology as one of the primary sources that we will use to make us more human again. He comments: "The next generation is not just about creating the content, it's all about making the connection, mobility driven design and an ever connected universe - A friend of a friend of a friend..."

The currency of the humanity's Future then is Attention. Coming from Shing, a charismatic entrepreneur with eccentric hair, oversized glasses, studded black boots, we believe and repeat: Attention is the currency of the Future.


Attention, Action. Filmmaker Stefanos Sitaras talks about taking the birds eye view of the universal path and his concept of the Relax map. He comments: "I have a filter to life: I ask myself, Am I stuck in my journey? If yes, I move on" The concept of the relax map rests on the film making principles of taking a holistic perspective of the scene and knowing that there is always a beginning and an inevitable end. Sitaras, born with a cyst in his brain, is very much aware of the fatality of every journey and says: "Remember your mortality. Our culture is about avoiding the fear of death. We need to constantly remember about it: it brings urgency. I get to live my life in the now. I ask myself: am I urgent?" Sitaras says there is a journey ahead of all of us and in most cases, the trigger to moving on and to action, is to let go.

Sam Coniff talks of the benefits of re-including ex-offenders into society and giving them a chance by bringing technology into equation. Technology has the power to recycle their skills and give them new possibilities. In fact their programm has shown that technology has the power of reincarnating ex-offenders from social cost to social capital. Backed by Google, Coniff taps into the street wise knowledge of this young offending generation, born as digital natives, to apply their knowledge to real life problems and turn them to new paths in life. Their success rates speak for themselthes.

What was it that switched it back on or you? asks one of his apprentices Coniff : "I remember the day when I understood that you liked me"

There were many more interesting talks but I would like to round up here. That quote was truly powerful for me as a conclusion from the day: there is nothing more important as a trigger to action, than the power of endorsement, collaboration and Liking not in a way of a Facebook button, but a human commitment.