Show Up and Start Something

When I tell people I went to TEDx Austin last weekend, the most common thing I get asked is, “ What’s the coolest thing you heard?”  Or, “Who was the best presenter?”

It’s a tough question.  It’s a little like going to the Mother’s Day brunch at Fonda San Miguel and then being asked, “What was your favorite dish?”  It’s impossible to choose, because each talk has its own flavor and each speaker brings his or her own unique flair to the presentation. That said, there was definitely one major theme that I took away from TEDxAustin.  Simply put, it was this: Listen to your heart, trust your obsessions and start something.

No one exemplified this theme more than Jason Roberts, co-founder of The Better Block Project.


At GSD&M, we had a lot of fun designing the TEDxAustin program including the infographic above. You can see the full program here:

Here’s a guy who doesn’t just say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone fixed up this run down neighborhood block?” He brings people together and gets it done. He’s not a celebrity. And he doesn’t partner with big brands to do pop-up stores. He creates pop-up dog parks. Pop-up plazas. Pop-up bicycle lanes in the middle of temporarily revitalized pop-up blocks. And what he proves again and again, is that when you do these pop-up projects, when you just start something and get a little momentum behind it, the local community pops up as well.

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What’s his secret to making things happen and getting things done?

1. Show up. If you don’t show up and do something, someone else will and they’ll probably be a curmudgeon who will make it miserable.

2. Give it a name. People need something to rally around. When you give your project a name, it gives people something to get behind and tell their friends about.

3. Set a date and publish it. This is a little like blackmailing yourself. If you say you’re going to do something and you put up fliers all around the neighborhood with a specific date and time, then you’ll force yourself to follow through.

So now what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? What do we want to do to make the world better? Let me know. Let’s collaborate. Let’s start something and see where it goes.

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