You might remember me writing about a talks night that we had at Makers Academy at the beginning of last month. It was so good that Enrique realised that we would all be missing out if he didn’t make these a regular occurrence. And so, last Friday evening a few of us gathered round to hear what we each had to say. Due to people forgetting it was on, and therefore making other plans, there was only a small group of us, but this more intimate affair gave the talks night a different vibe. Rather than the presentations being more of a performance, they had a more personal tinge to them.
I kicked off the evening. I asked the audience to imagine they had volunteered to be part of an experiment on visual perception. You are shown four lines on a screen – one on the left, three on the right, and the question is simple: which of the three on the right match the height of the one on the left? The answer is supposed to be obvious to you, but would you still say that answer if the six people who have announced their answer prior to you all announced the same incorrect answer? The group answered that they would, and then I introduced Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments of the 1950’s. Asch uncovered the power of social pressure and the desire to conform in the face of unanimity. In around 40% of his test cases, a volunteer went along with an obviously incorrect answer just because the group of other volunteers (set up by Asch himself) had given that answer. To find out more, check out this video. Ruzbeh then followed me with an energetic, and at times very funny, presentation on the benefits of learning to dance – there was a clear emphasis on the advantages that this could bring to men, but the women in the audience still very much enjoyed it!
Just like last time, the best talks came from those that were not planned. Natalie gave a brilliant talk introducing us to the wonders of silent cinema, complete with entertaining Youtube clips. Steve, a new teaching assistant, spoke about his awesome cycle across America, a challenge which was born out of drunken chatter one night in a pub, but which he nonetheless rose to. One of the most moving speeches was by Tom from the November cohort. Initially claiming he didn’t have anything to talk about, with a little pressure from the group, he stood up and started to speak about his love for motivational speeches. He listens to them all of the time, including one in the morning to get him started for the day ahead. But what began as a simple description of an interest quickly turned into a powerful piece on continuing on in the face of the adversities that life throws at you and the power of words when it comes to motivating you to get going again. In the words of Eric Thomas, a personal favourite of mine and Tom’s:
When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you’ll be successful.
But to end on a lighter note, we must speak of ecomba’s accidents™, so numerous, varied, and sometimes just plain shocking that this man is still alive, that they do deserve their own trademark. Enrique, who’s known as ‘ecomba’, also hadn’t planned a speech for the evening, always preferring to do something more impromptu. The chosen theme were his accidents. What were some highlights (if you can call them that)? He and a friend had gone into a garden of what they thought was an abandoned house. Well, turns out it wasn’t an abandoned house and in his fright ecomba leapt back over the fence, falling onto his two outstretched arms. Both wrists were broken, and there was protruding bone…another time, he was throwing an axe in the woods, not realising how heavy the blade end was, it swung back and he had to whip his head back just in time to prevent it getting sliced off. Having gone through so much pain, his threshold to withstand it is now dangerously high. Not so long ago, he was staring down at some raw meat, wondering why he could smell cooking meat when he hadn’t even placed it in the pan yet. Turns out, he was frying his own hand without realising!
Ultimately, these talks nights show me what unique people I have the pleasure to be in the company of while at Makers Academy.