the ideation conference: from behind black rimmed glasses

Photo Courtesy of Beth's Blog

We are all people. A statement seemingly self-evident, yet many of us go about our day-to-day without living fully aware of that reality, because if we did, I find it hard to believe that 27 million would be enslaved in the world, that 1 billion would be without clean water, and that 3 billion would be living on less then $2/day. These numbers make it clear that we as a collective global community either don’t value the humanity in others enough, or we elevate our own humanity to self-idolatry too often. It’s usually a fair mixture of both.

However, if you can sift through all the ways most of us mistreat each other and our world, there are in fact those who not only believe in but genuinely live out the notion that we are all people, that whatever the circumstances, no one deserves to be denied of a chance to live life to the fullest. What happens when you gather a collective of these humanitarian leaders into one space and allow them the freedom to dream and collaborate? Welcome to the !deation Conference.

As someone whose track record in benefiting this world falls well short of the opportunities that have been given to me, it was deeply humbling to be in the midst those whose life’s work ultimately revolve around the effort to give a chance at life back to those who have had it taken from them.  Speakers and attendees alike at the conference made up a powerful collective of those leading the way in creating long-term relief and solutions to the world’s biggest problems, issues ranging from global poverty to clean water to slavery to community development to education to broken relationships and everything in between. Forget comic books—I walked and talked among real-life superheroes over the past two days.

Don’t let the superhero tag fool you, though. Even though everyone in attendance was incredible, they were not superhuman. Some of the most enduring images from this particular conference were not necessarily when our guests of honor shared their amazing stories on stage, but when those same speakers stepped away from the lights and sat down to talk with the other participants. I’ve hardly been to any conferences, but even I know that the wall between ‘keynote speaker’ and ‘conference-goer’ is rarely broken, and at the !deation Conference, the wall was almost non-existent. Without this barrier in the way, what became obvious was that all of us there were not that different from one another, that we all have the same hopes of seeing humanity become healthier and if anything, we are simply in different points along that same journey.

Which brings us back to this: we are all people. We are all people not just in the sense of our worth and what we deserve,  but we are also all people in the sense of our potential and capabilities. As much as I look up to men and women like the amazing individuals who led our time at the !deation Conference, I am becoming increasingly pressed by the truth that these people who become icons in the world of non-profits and humanitarian work (and in any field for that matter) are not so different from those who are unidentifiable in the crowd. This in no way downgrades the ‘notable;’ it should upgrade the ‘normal!’ We are all born capable of imagining and dreaming, and so the questions should not be ‘How intelligent are you?’ and ‘How creative are you?’ but rather ‘How are you intelligent?’ and ‘How are you creative?’ I’m not saying just because we think we can, we will. I am saying that too many of us don’t think we have much to offer in the first place. That is not humility or even realism; that is hoarding that which could be of immense value to many. There is no need to short-change both yourself and the world.

All this to say that the !deation Conference was an incredibly inspiring experience, as well as timely, as I have been going through a lot of wondering and processing over what my soon-upcoming next steps in life will be like. Though all questions haven’t been answered, I have been emboldened to (re)commit myself to the ongoing movement to make sure that we are all people as it should be defined, to “Love Human” and “Do Good.”

To follow up more on the !deation Conference

@theideation (#theideation)



  1. Great insights, Paul. I must need me some black rimmed glasses. 🙂

    I too, “have been emboldened to (re)commit myself” to action.

    Cheers! To next steps.

    • Yo! Appreciate the visit and, of course, all your help prior to and during the conference. 😀

      To next steps indeed. But for now, lying on a bed is nice.

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