Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard? | Jon Jandai | TEDxDoiSuthep

There is one phrase that I have always wanted to say to everyone in my life. That phrase is "Life is easy." It's so easy and fun. I never thought like that before. When I was in Bangkok, I felt like life is very hard, very complicated. I was born in a poor village on the Northeastern of Thailand And when I was a kid, everything was fun and easy, but when the TV came, many people came to the village, they said, "You are poor, you need to chase success in your life. You need to go to Bangkok to pursue success in your life." So I felt bad, I felt poor. So I needed to go to Bangkok. When I went to Bangkok, it was not very fun. You need to learn, study a lot and work very hard, and then you can get success. I worked very hard, eight hours per day at least, but all I could eat was just a bowl of noodles per meal, or some Tama dish of fried rice or something like that. And where I stayed was very bad, a small room where a lot of people slept.

It was very hot. I started to question a lot. When I work hard, why is my life so hard? It must be something wrong, because I produce a lot of things, but I cannot get enough. And I tried to learn, I tried to study. I tried to study in the university. It's very hard to learn in university, because it's very boring. (Laughter) And when I looked at subjects in the university, in every faculty, most of them had destructive knowledge. There's no productive knowledge in university for me. If you learn to be an architect or engineer, that means you ruin more. The more these people work, the mountain will be destroyed more. And a good land in Chao Praya Basin will be covered with concrete more and more. We destroy more. If we go to agriculture faculty or something like that, that means we learn how to poison, to poison the land, the water, and learn to destroy everything. I feel like everything we do is so complicated, so hard.

We just make everything hard. Life was so hard and I felt disappointed. I started to think about, why did I have to be in Bangkok? I thought about when I was a kid, nobody worked eight hours per day, everybody worked two hours, two months a year, planting rice one month and harvesting the rice another month. The rest is free time, ten months of free time. That's why people have so many festivals in Thailand, every month they have festival. (Laughter) Because they have so much free time. And then in the daytime, everyone even takes a nap. Even now in Laos, go to Laos if you can, people take a nap after lunch. And after they wake up, they just gossip, how's your son-in-law, how's your wife, daughter-in-law. People have a lot of time, but because they have a lot of time, they have time to be with themselves. And when they have time to be with themselves, they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves, they can see what they want in their life.

So, many people see that they want happiness, they want love, they want to enjoy their life. So, people see a lot of beauty in their life, so they express that beauty in many ways. Some people by carving the handle of their knife, very beautiful, they weave the baskets very nicely. But, now, nobody does that. Nobody can do something like that. People use plastic everywhere. So, I feel like it's something wrong in there, I cannot live this way I'm living. So, I decided to quit University, and went back home. When I went back home, I started to live like I remember, like when I was a kid. I started to work two months a year. I got four tons of rice. And the whole family, six people, we eat less than half a ton per year. So we can sell some rice. I took two ponds, two fish ponds. We have fish to eat all year round. And I started a small garden.

Less than half an acre. And I spend 15 minutes per day to take care of the garden. I have more than 30 varieties of vegetables in the garden. So, six people cannot eat all of it. We have a surplus to sell in the market. We can make some income, too. So, I feel like, it's easy, why did I have to be in Bangkok for seven years, working hard and then not have enough to eat, but here, only two months a year and 15 minutes per day I can feed six people. That's easy. And before I thought that stupid people like me who never got a good grade at school, cannot have a house. Because people who are cleverer than me, who are number one in the class every year, they get a good job, but they need to work more than 30 years to have a house. But me, who cannot finish university, how could I have a house? Hopeless for people who have low education, like me.

But, then I started to do earthly building, it's so easy. I spend two hours per day, from 5 o'clock in the morning, until 7 o'clock in the morning, two hours per day. And in three months, I got a house. And another friend who's the most clever in the class, he spent three months to build his house, too. But, he had to be in debt. He had to pay for his debt for 30 years. So, compared to him, I have 29 years and 10 months of free time. (Laughter) So, I feel that life is so easy. I never thought I could build a house as easy as that. And I keep building a house every year, at least one house every year. Now, I have no money, but I have many houses. (Laughter) My problem is in which house I will sleep tonight. (Laughter) So, a house is not a problem, anybody can build a house.

The kids, 13 years old, at the school, they make bricks together, they make a house. After one month, they have a library. The kids can make a house, a very old nun can build a hut for herself. Many people can build a house. So, it's easy. If you don't believe me, try it. If somebody wants to have a house. And then, the next thing is clothing. I felt like I'm poor, like I'm not handsome. I tried to dress like somebody else, like a movie star. To make myself look good, look better. I spent one month to save money to buy a pair of jeans. When I wore them, I turned left, I turned right, looked in the mirror. Every time I look, I am the same person. The most expensive pants cannot change my life. I felt like I'm so crazy, why did I have to buy them? Spend one month to have a pair of pants. It doesn't change me. I started to think more about that. Why do we need to follow fashion? Because, when we follow fashion, we never catch up with it, because we follow it.

So, don't follow it, just stay here. (Laughter) Use what you have. So, after that, until now, 20 years, I have never bought any clothes. All the clothes I have are leftovers from people. When people come to visit me, and when they leave, they leave a lot of clothes there. So, I have tons of clothes now. (Laughter) And when people see me wear very old clothes, they give me more clothes. (Laughter) So, my problem is, I need to give clothes to people very often. (Laughter) So, it's so easy. And when I stopped buying clothes, I felt like, it's not only clothes, it's about something else in my life, What I learned is that when I buy something, and I think about, I buy it because I like it, or I buy it because I need it. So, if I buy it because I like it, that means I'm wrong. So, I feel more free when I think like this. And the last thing is, when I get sick, what will I do? I really worried in the beginning, because then I had no money.

But, I started to contemplate more. Normally, sickness is a normal thing, it's not a bad thing. Sickness is something to remind us that we did something wrong in our lives, that's why we got sick. So, when I get sick, I need to stop and come back to myself. And think about it, what I did was wrong. So, I learned how to use water to heal myself, how to use earth to heal myself, I learned how to use basic knowledge to heal myself. So, now that I rely on myself in these four things, I feel like life is very easy, I feel something like freedom, I feel free. I feel like I don't worry about anything much, I have less fear, I can do whatever I want in my life. Before, I had a lot of fear, I could not do anything. But, now I feel very free, like I'm a unique person on this Earth, nobody like me, I don't need to make myself like anybody else. I'm the number one.

So, things like this make it easy, very light. And, after that, I started to think about that when I was in Bangkok, I felt very dark in my life. I started to think that many people maybe thought like me at the time. So, we started a place called "Pun Pun" in Chiang Mai. The main aim is just saving seed. To collect seed, because seed is food, food is life. If there is no seed, no life. No seed, no freedom. No seed, no happiness. Because your life depends on somebody else. Because you have no food. So, it's very important to save seed. That's why we focus on saving seed. That's the main thing in Pun Pun. And the second thing is it is the learning center. We want to have a center for ourselves to learn, learn how to make life easy. Because we were taught to make life complicated and hard all the time. How can we make it easy? It's easy, but we don't know how to make it easy anymore. Because we always make it complicated and now, we start to learn, and learn to be together.

Because, we were taught to disconnect ourselves from everything else, to be independent, so we can rely on the money only. We don't need to rely on each other. But now, to be happy, we need to come back, to connect to ourselves again, to connect to other people, to connect our mind and body together again. So, we can be happy. Life is easy. And from beginning until now, what I learned is the four basic needs: food, house, clothes and medicine must be cheap and easy for everybody, that's the civilization. But, if you make these four things hard and very hard for many people to get, that's uncivilized. So, now when we look at everywhere around us, everything is so hard to get. I feel like now is the most uncivilized era of humans on this Earth. We have so many people who finish university, have so many universities on the Earth, have so many clever people on this Earth. But, life is harder and harder. We make it hard for whom? We work hard for whom right now? I feel like it's wrong, it's not normal.

So, I just want to come back to normal. To be a normal person, to be equal to animals. The birds make a nest in one or two days. The rats dig a hole in one night. But, the clever humans like us spend 30 years to have a house, and many people can't believe that they can have a house in this life. So, that's wrong. Why do we destroy our spirit, why do we destroy our ability that much? So, I feel that it's enough for me, to live in the normal way, in the abnormal way. So, now I try to be normal. But, people look at me as the abnormal one. (Laughter) A crazy person. But, I don't care, because it's not my fault. It's their fault, they think like that. So, my life is easy and light now. That's enough for me. People can think whatever they want. I cannot manage anything outside myself. What I can do is change my mind, manage my mind. Now, my mind is light and easy, that's enough. If anybody wants to have a choice, you can have a choice.

The choice to be easy or to be hard, it depends on you. Thank you. (Applause).

TEDxCalgary – Donna Kennedy Glans – Volunteering: The Next Generation

In the last few years, we've learned a lot about the human brain, and scientists can even point to a so-called "compassion gene". But really, why and how do people move from thinking about me to thinking about we? There's no magic formula and there's no compassion supplement that you can take, although that would be great new space for energy drinks. There is just a lot we don't know about volunteering. But there is one certainty. We know that the community is where divisions between the self and the whole can be reconciled. So how can we do volunteering better to foster, even accelerate, this integration of all these MEs into WE? To explore this question, I want to look at volunteering past, present, and future. I want you to think about how your parents, and for some of you, your grandparents volunteered. I want to think about how we volunteer today and I want to extrapolate into the future.

And I want to do this by breaking volunteering down into easier, bite-size pieces. I want to talk about the WHAT we do, the HOW we do it and the WHY. And that's not a linear; that's a pulsing cycle. What do we do as volunteers? What sectors do we work in? How do we do this work? What values do we bring? And why? What motivates us? I grew up on a farm. My parents volunteered in our rural community. The church was the hub of their volunteer work. They'd organize church suppers, they'd look after the ill; they'd look after the building itself, they taught Sunday school. How did they do this work? Human to human. They were very low key, it was grass-roots, pure grass-roots. Why did they do it? They did it out of a sense of Christian duty. I heard the word "duty" a lot when I grew up.

They also had a sense of responsibility to embed those values in their children. So, fast forward to today. How do my husband and I raise three children and volunteer in the city of Calgary? Well, my husband coaches hockey, and I taught quite a few Sunday school classes. That sort of sounds familiar. And yet there are huge differences. Not only do my husband and I volunteer weekends and evenings, we also volunteer as part of our jobs. Lots of for-profit companies do this. This is a tube of toothpaste from Toms of Maine. And right here on the package it says: "What makes a product good? At Toms it includes how we make it. 5%, twelve days of employee time to volunteering." But that's not all that's changed. My parents volunteered in the geographic community that they were part of, in the small faith community that they lived in. Shared values were just assumed in that geographic space.

Today, volunteering has gone exponential, it's gone global. I worked in the international energy sector and I worked in a lot of countries. And one of those countries was a very poor, muslim majority country, Yemen. No doubt you've heard about Yemen in the news. Their Arab Spring is dragging on and on. A decade ago, this country's leaders were looking at constructive change and they were even looking at ways to integrate women into professions and bring them into a predominantly male workforce. And they invited people like me, outsiders, to support that work. I founded Bridges Social Development in 2002, to take Canadian Calgarians, nurses, doctors, midwives, teachers, lawyers, journalists to Yemen, to do that work. So that takes me to the HOW of volunteering.

Has the HOW of volunteering changed all that much? Well, one of the big changes that I've noticed is the expectation of professionalism and the focus on risk. When my father volunteered to coach my sister and I in softball, all he had to demonstrate was interest and availability. Today, to coach minor hockey, we're talking minor hockey in the city of Calgary, my husband has to demonstrate absolute knowledge of the game, the ability to coach. He has to stay abreast of issues like the correlation between body checking and concussions and he needs to subscribe rigidly to the harassment policy of the league. The other big change from my parents' generation: they were insiders, they worked with a community whose values they knew.

Today, when we do this work, we're often outsiders. Now look at that blond hair in there! We're visible outsiders in a place like Yemen. And when you're an outsider volunteering, it changes the HOW incredibly. You have to be invited. You HAVE TO be invited. You have to talk about values. And you have to collaborate. You just have no choice — even at minimum, with the local champions or whoever has invited you in. Over the years, Bridges has partnered with a variety of organizations, large for-profit companies, small NGOs, local community leaders, young and old, multilateral organizations like the UN, faith leaders, government partners. This picture here is from the island of Socotra. It's offshore Yemen. And our health care training team there was a little bit surprised by the prevalence of cesarean births and deliveries. We did a lot of work with in-child care. And we were surprised by this.

When we found out the reason — 12 and 13 year old girls were having babies, we were absolutely shocked. But as outsiders, our saying anything would probably have been a negative. So what we did instead was work with our partners and the Minister of Health – there in that blue shirt-, and encouraged him to have dialogues with the tribal and the faith leaders, to talk about the issue of early marriage and convince them that it was good physically, let alone emotionally, for girls to wait until they were 15 or 16 to have children. And navigating these partnerships can be tough. This is hard work. It's touchy, sensitive. In 2005, I met a young Yemeni journalist named Touaco Carmen. She's there in the green head scarf. And she was anomalous. She belonged to the Isla party, one of the most conservative strands of Islam in that country, and yet she was advocating for gender equality and freedom of the press. She had just launched an organization called "Women Journalists Without Chains." And she wanted to partner with our organization Bridges. It was a bit of a startling experience. Could we collaborate with Women Journalists Without Chains and not get co-opted into advocacy? We did capacity building.

We spent a lot of time talking about values, talking about roles, and we ended up with an incredible partnership. And then there are times as an outsider volunteering when you know you just have to go, you have to leave. In 2008, Al Qaeda hit Yemen and started to target westerners. That was us! In 2009, our board of directors put a moratorium on travel to Yemen and we haven't been back since. It was very, very difficult for us. We mourned, it was like a loss. But the resilience of our organization was incredible. We did three things in direct response to that situation. First thing we did, we went to the neighboring country of Oman and we negotiated with them to take these Yemeni doctors there, to conclude their training in pediatric life support and project management. We went open source with all of our materials. You want any training program that we've got, you just go to our website, download it, and take it, and please use it.

And the third thing we did was set up a youth social entrepreneurial program focused on diaspora communities and aboriginal youth right here in Alberta. It took a really jarring event for Bridges to make these choices. I'm proud of these choices, but I'm also aware that great ideas can sometimes die because we focus so much on our organizations and not enough on the idea itself. Oops, I hit the wrong button. These stories give you some sense of the HOW and the WHY. You probably understand a little bit about why I volunteer and why Bridges volunteers do this work. But really, have the reasons for volunteering changed all that much over the generations? Or are we just using a different language to say the same thing? My parents talked about Christian responsibility and duty, and I talk to my children about responsibility, compassion and global security. But what sustains us, generation after generation? I believe it's that emotional spark. It can be as simple as holding a baby in your arms, knowing that you've done something, maybe very small, to give confidence to the people responsible for delivering healthcare in a place like Vietnam or Calgary.

Or it can be as dramatic as hearing news that your partners have just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Either way, that feeling is the same. Volunteering neutralizes that space between self and the world, and it allows us to relate our self to the world in a positive emotion. So what about the future? I'm going to use an example from right here, in Alberta, to talk about the potential. Aboriginal youth in Alberta suffer. On a daily basis, they deal with drugs and violence and gangs and suicide, and I expect every one of us cares deeply, but we don't know what to do. So let's think about the WHAT. What is it that we do now? Right now we focus on top down. We do a lot of work talking about strategy and policy for aboriginal youth: what kind of youth education strategies work? And we give them a lot of guidance on transparency and governance. In the future, to be effective, I think we're going to have to go to the grass roots, and we're going to have to get to know these young people, not just as statistics but as people.

And we're going to have to wear every single hat we have: for-profit, not-for-profit, government, acting as individual, social entrepreneurs. HOW can we do this differently? I understand the issue of being an insider and an outsider and I understand why an aboriginal youth would look at me and say: "You're an outsider". I respect that. Aboriginal youth who live off reserve can be seen as outsiders. But I don't think it works. It just doesn't work anymore. And I know it's really hard to talk about the other and how we relate to the other, but I just think we can't avoid this conversation anymore. We need to talk more about who are insiders and who are outsiders and who owns these issues and who's responsible. That brings me to the final suggestion, that's about collaboration. To create a community of support for aboriginal youth, we need to partner with a wide range of organizations and individuals, even ones we really don't like.

We have to bring all the resources to the table that are possible: open source, capacity building, advocacy, top-down, bottom-up, global, local, doing whatever it takes to support these young people, with resilience, determination, and humility. And what is humility? It has nothing to do with down-passed eyes and misty voice and noble stories of volunteering. It has everything to do with getting ourselves and our organizations out of the way and doing what we can to support these young aboriginals. And believing that one day, an aboriginal youth from Alberta could indeed be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Thank you! (Applause).