Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
The tagline for TED is Ideas Worth Sharing. Platforms like The Huffington Post make it that much easier to do so. Sometimes the content is such that we can simply sit back to absorb the insights. Other times, the only right response is to stand up and do more than listen. Certainly, this is true when the topic is social justice or global crises, but I've just learned that it can also be true when the topic is the elevation of a common childhood toy to the realm of high metaphor.
BLACK's story has all the elements of a modern-day myth. He began as a child with no perceived talents or compelling prospects, until he one day picked up a yo-yo. He was hopeless at first, yet began practicing each day, thinking that he'd found the one thing that might make him famous and important. Even after becoming World Champion, however, he found that life didn't miraculously change. It didn't change until he decided that refining his command of the yo-yo wasn't his most authentic goal. To make his unique mark on the world, he set about fundamentally transforming the way in which yo-yo is perceived by others.
It's one thing to master oneself by overcoming fear, doubt, and insecurity. All mythical heroes must pass this threshold test. But BLACK takes it to the next level, moving beyond mere skill and self-possession to reinvent his art and himself in the process. Watching his performance is the best way to witness how he raises yo-yo to the level of art. BLACK's TEDTalk is a reminder that passion plus creative persistence pushes us beyond the limits of conventional thinking. BLACK is the archetypal hero as entrepreneur, as well as artist, warrior, and teacher. A man for our times indeed.
Every journey calls upon the hero to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Every life story -- yours and mine included -- calls upon us to do the same. It is how we face the proverbial Cyclops that reveals what we're made of. Obstacles teach us about ourselves. When we turn those lessons into something that elevates, delights, or enriches the experience of others, then we are reaching for our highest purpose.
As the great poet C.P. Cavafy suggests in his remarkable "Ithaka":
As you set out for Ithaka
hope that the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Pray that the road is long and rich with bumps for then:
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Deep bow to BLACK for sharing what his Ithaka has meant. May the force of your own passion, imagination, and determination carry you to the most interesting places possible. As Yoda, the Homer of space age would say: Do or do not. There is no try.
Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email tedweekends@hufﬁngtonpost.com to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.