Tremendousness co-founder Bill Keaggy’s 2022 TEDxVienna talk: “How to Find Attention, Mindfulness, and Creativity in the Ordinary”

All of us here at Tremendousness have our side projects and hobbies. We’ve got visual artists of all kinds, plus writers, designers, musicians, woodworkers, cyclists, runners, hikers, skiers, gamers, and on and on. My personal art projects tend to focus on making things interesting by helping people appreciate—and possibly better understand—what’s right in front of them. Things like found grocery lists and abandoned chairs can help us think about the lives behind the things we leave behind.

Last year I was invited to do a TEDxVienna talk about those personal projects of mine. I called it “How to Find Attention, Mindfulness, and Creativity in the Ordinary” and it was all about paying attention and “collecting with photography”, framing these activities as a way to use and grow your attention and mindfulness, and ultimately enhance your wellness and creativity. I included many other artists as well.

It was a huge honor to be part of a speaker group that included Phan Thi Kim Phúc, the “Napalm Girl” from the famous Vietnam War photograph; the “Birds Aren’t Real” guys; Bob Wiltfong, comedian and actor, formerly of The Daily Show; plus nuclear scientists; biotechnologists; robotics and AI specialists; activists; engineers; architects, and more. I like to think that my talk and the other kind of “fun” or “creative” talks were nice palette cleansers amidst all the incredible insights from the others, where everything from war to nuclear fusion to civil rights took center stage. The organizers and volunteers did an incredible job. Thank you!

OK. So, first, watch me screw up the clicker for three slides. It kept jumping ahead two slides rather than one, but finally got the hang of it (…I honesty thought that would simply get edited out!).

Then, please watch the rest of the talk. I show examples of some of my projects, as well as others’ clever, creative work, including Austin Kleon, Dave Gray, Lisa Rienermann, Michael Pederson, W. Scott Matthews, Clotilde Olyff, Paul Nordmann and others, plus a project by Jessica Helfand’s former students at The Yale School of Art (there’s even something made by elementary school kids).

It runs the full 18 minute TEDx time limit, so hit play and chill for a bit later this evening. It’s kind of fun.

Bonus material: I thought that because my approach and the gist of the talk requires real people, things, and cognitive and physical activity, it would be interesting to have ChatGTP summarize such a real-world talk with AI. It did a decent, straightforward job—up to the next-to-last paragraph where it completely made up the “Milk Carton Art” project (nothing like that appears in the talk, except that I wrote a book called, Milk Eggs Vodka a long time ago). I have no idea why it fabricated that, but it’s a great example of the random and unimaginable mistakes AI still makes. Here it is, unedited. 

In his TEDxVienna talk, “How to Find Attention, Mindfulness, and Creativity in the Ordinary,” artist and writer Bill Keaggy shares his unique approach to finding inspiration and creativity in everyday life. Drawing on his experience as a creator of art and media, Keaggy challenges the audience to see the world around them in a new and different way, and to find beauty and inspiration in the ordinary.

Throughout his talk, Keaggy emphasizes the importance of attention and mindfulness in the creative process. He suggests that by paying closer attention to our surroundings and being more present in the moment, we can unlock a deeper level of creativity and find new sources of inspiration. He also emphasizes the importance of playfulness and experimentation, encouraging the audience to approach their creative endeavors with a sense of curiosity and wonder.

One of the key themes of Keaggy’s talk is the idea that creativity is not a mysterious or elusive quality, but rather a skill that can be developed and honed over time. He suggests that by practicing simple exercises, such as taking a different route to work or trying a new hobby, we can train our brains to be more open and receptive to new ideas and experiences.

*Keaggy’s talk is also characterized by a sense of playfulness and humor, as he shares examples of his own creative projects, such as his “Milk Carton Art” series, which involves transforming ordinary milk cartons into works of art. He encourages the audience to approach their own creative projects with a sense of fun and whimsy, and to embrace the unexpected and unconventional.

Overall, Keaggy’s talk is a powerful reminder of the importance of creativity and mindfulness in our daily lives, and a call to action for anyone seeking to find inspiration and joy in the ordinary. It is a must-watch for anyone looking to unlock their own creative potential and find new sources of inspiration and meaning in their daily lives.

*The first sentence in the next-to-last paragraph is completely untrue, but the rest is pretty spot on.

Huge thank you to the TEDxVienna team, the other 2022 speakers, and all the folks whose “everyday” creative work inspires me and so many others. I hope there’s something in this talk that can do a little of the same for you.