Lessons from TEDxMarrakesh

What is it that brings about success? Is it character, money, talent, a good idea, hard work, a combination of the above or something completely different? Who can succeed and why? These questions have often been asked, but they come up in discussions time and time again.

There are probably few people unfamiliar with TED, a string of notable conferences held under the motto “Ideas worth sharing.” The first event was organized in 1984 and conferences have been held annually since 1990. The spirit of ideas worth sharing gave rise to the TEDx program. This series of local, independently organized events aim to exchange ideas within the community. Despite the local nature of these events, the ideas reach audiences on a global scale thanks to modern technology and the internet. Ideas worth sharing touch on all subject matters from science to entrepreneurship to global issues.

All TED events are characterized by short talks of no more than 18 minutes and are held by successful individuals looking to encourage deliberation, promote good practices and introduce useful changes. The topics are extremely diverse, but the talks are always inspirational. And so are the speakers!

Always look on the bright side …

In late February 2015, the 4th edition of TEDxMarrakesh was organized at the legendary Medina of Marrakesh and promised plenty of innovative thought leadership, new ideas, fascinating speakers and appearances from other notable individuals. The theme of this year’s TEDxMarrakesh, “Always look on the bright side …” was somewhat playful while also raising many questions about success. “Are positive thoughts always powerful? Does having a sunny disposition make you live longer or simply drive others mad? Do we need to balance optimism with realism, light with dark? Is an overly cautious approach to life ever a force for good?”

The theme was general enough to attract a range of speakers who discussed their own — often highly personal — battles on the way to success. Yes, we said battles. Despite the different viewpoints, topics and personalities, all speakers had some key points in common.

Every beginning is hard!

The young and inexperienced Echo Collins-Egan overcame all obstacles and launched a health care organization in Morocco. Christoph Santner is a speaker and motivator who has overcome his fear of public speaking. Today, he teaches and reminds people that the bright side all of us are so intent on finding is actually the light within ourselves — the vision and wish that he also found within himself. Vincent Melilli explained the importance of the choices and decisions we make. Mariana Bozesan started her talk about money, a responsible society and fear of risk by sharing her own experience of poverty in her native Romania. Richard Reed explained that success is far from easy to achieve and presented 7 principles to follow in order to increase your own chances of success. Giulio Bonazzi, CEO of Aquafil, which owns the ECONYL® brand, used his own life story to illustrate how he learned persistence and determination to lead him where he is today — a successful CEO of an international, innovative, multi-award-winning sustainable company.

These were just some of the speakers at this year’s TEDxMarrakesh. Early in life they felt lost and confused, but they had the courage, desire and strength to change their course. “Without hard work, it is difficult to succeed in business; you are more likely to win the National lottery,” was Giulio Bonazzi’s way of putting it.

Why obstacles are a good thing

Hard work and a strong will are prerequisites for success, but as you will see, they are not just crucial during the first step. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you want to climb to the top of a mountain, you have to train and push your body to its limits. No other path than the one you walk yourself offers the same feeling of triumph and satisfaction. There is something special about success that did not come about as a coincidence. We appreciate it more. But there are obstacles along the way and they also play their own part.

As many as three speakers at this year’s TEDxMarrakesh started their talks by relating childhood experiences to adversity they would face later in life. Poverty, speech impediments and defeat are some of the obstacles they had to overcome on their way to becoming the successful people they are today.

“Being the youngest, I would always lose. I couldn’t stand it! After one such battle with my brothers, my father brought home a pair of boxing gloves. Do you know how it ended? To my dentist’s delight, I paid him a visit with three damaged teeth. But believe it or not, I kept on fighting until I started to win. I took some beatings, my father smiling says they were never enough, but I can proudly say it taught me to never accept defeat.”

This endearing childhood story from a successful entrepreneur includes several important lessons.

It is important to know how to face obstacles. If you are a parent, success stories show you that they did not have overprotective parents. Quite the opposite. They learned about effort and survival at an early age which later helped them to achieve their goals. The true challenge for parents is not how to protect their child from the world but how to teach their child to face challenges and embrace what the world throws at them. Obstacles won’t just go away. Instead, new obstacles will continue to pop up around every corner.

It is overcoming obstacles that make us stronger and motivate us. “Being an entrepreneur, I know I must take risks in order for the company to evolve and grow. But with risks come mistakes! That is unavoidable,” said Bonazzi.

Do you dare to take a risk? Go on, do it!

Taking risks is the third thing the speakers had in common. None of them were afraid of failure. Or if they were, they managed to overcome their fear. Mariana Bozesan said it best in her talk, “People who don’t risk have already lost.” She stressed that people have a special relationship with money.

Keep in mind that money has become a clear measure of success. And success is in no way easier to measure than in the case of the long-standing president and CEO of an unusual company that makes a profit by removing dangerous remnants of fishing nets from the sea to process them into useful material that can even be recycled.

“People told me I was crazy, but the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward,” said Bonazzi.

You have to admit that the idea is unusual and slightly crazy. Waste that floats freely in our seas and oceans now serves as raw material for carpets and garments. It was a risky business idea that required considerable time and effort into the research and development of previously non-existent technology, as well as securing partners who would be willing to take part (and take risks) in a project as strange as this.

“You need courage to change things and make a difference in this world,” said Bonazzi.

And that is what it’s all about.

If you work, you make mistakes

And then there are mistakes. We all make them. Sometimes they are our fault while other times caused by external factors circumstances beyond our control. The important thing is to not give up in these defining moments but to rectify the mistakes, learn a lesson and find a different path. We learned that even successful people make mistakes. “Trust me, we too make mistakes. We just tend not to admit it because we simply don’t like to be wrong,” admitted Bonazzi.

Let these encouraging words from a successful entrepreneur and firm believer of a circular economy inspire you to chase your dreams and never accept defeat.

“I wish to reassure you that there should be no fear in taking a risk or making a bold decision. You may be wrong sometimes, but it’s always worth a try. The environment is pushing us to change and find its bright side.”

-Giulio Bonazzi

Beginnings may be hard but if there are no new beginnings, there can be no success. This time, instead of the usual “Good luck”, we will end by wishing you plenty of defeated obstacles!

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