Event Portal: TEDXSunway: The Powerhouse within

TED talks are given by renowned people in order to share “ideas worth spreading”. Past speakers have included Stephen Hawking, Jeff Bezos and many other Nobel Prize winners. On the 25th of September, TedxSunway University organized their salon event known as “The Powerhouse Within”. “It signified how breakthroughs were still possible from science and technology even though we were faced with hardships and the internal powerhouse that drives all of us to achieve our goals regardless of being short or long term goals.” says the emcee. 

1. “The Presence of Power” by Datuk Ramli Ibrahim 

Datuk Ramli Ibrahim was the first speaker, commencing the series of talks with his speech, titled “The Presence of Power”. A profound speech it was, as he illustrated the charismas of power and its multifaceted forms, comparable to the forces of energy of a tsunami or earthquake, and a vital force that both inhibits an individual and manifests with the collective energy of a community or nation. As a renowned ballet, modern, and Indian classical dancer, his commentary was no short of strong emotion, creativity, and symbolism. In particular, he spoke of the meaning of “power” from a Hindu philosophical approach, in which it is known as a divine cosmic energy called “shakti” or “sakti”, as well as of the influences of power portrayed through Indonesian wayang and traditional theatres. 

Shiva and Shakti - The Divine Union of Consciousness and Energy
(Source: TemplePurohit)

Conversely, Datuk Ramli warned that power can become a catalyst for raising “the monster within”, as history has shown that when power corrupts, it does so absolutely. Nonetheless, power is neither good nor evil; it is up to an individual to positively harness and utilise the power entrusted within oneself for the good of others and society as a whole. “We all need power to evolve collectively into an informed and civilised society,” Datuk Ramli concluded, stressing the importance of the presence of power in a community, wherein an artist or audience together with the politicians and the rakyat must synergise in order for a system of government to work effectively. 

Datuk Ramli Ibrahim’s speech served as a poignant opening for the event, providing a unique perspective and enlightening viewers on the metaphorical, mythical, and spiritual significance of power. 

2. “Framing Opportunities” by Annice Lyn 

As a sports photographer that is based in Kuala Lumpur, Ms Annice is a documentary and sports photographer. She is also the first and only Malaysian whose works have been accredited by the Olympics. With everything coming to a halt, we are all in the same storm but each riding their own different and unique boats. When Annice first started her photography journey in 2017, she spent years developing her portfolio and in 2020 it felt like the world is her oyster. However, 2020 was filled with countless amounts of cancelled events and jobs. Photography became a form of expression that she used to frame her opportunities and also catalyse change by capturing the present and preserving the past. Photography plays a key role in uniting, informing and reforming people by providing contextual information. Annice managed to document both the ups and downs of the COVID-19 Pandemic from the star-studded Olympic Games that was held in Tokyo, Japan to the vaccination outreach in rural areas of Eastern Malaysia. Annice strongly believes that imagery not only has a voice that is able to narrate the past but it is also able to construct the future. Through the pandemic, Annice has learned certain key lessons such as: 

  1. To be a good person first before being a photographer.
  2. Using her work to make an impact and stir a conversation or even start a movement. 
  3. Prepare yourself and believe in personal projects. 
  4. Give back to the community by cultivating the community. 

3. “Manifesting Dreams” by Nauraj Singh Randhawa 

It was his childhood dream of being an Olympian. With his speech “Manifesting Dreams”, Malaysia’s national high jump athlete Mr. Nauraj could proudly share his journey towards achieving this very dream when he represented Malaysia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. 

To begin with his story, he recalled how the year of 2016, in fact, saw a large budget cut for him because he was not initially identified as an athlete who would qualify for the Olympics that year. With a loss in financial funding and the need to improve his 2015 record by 7 centimetres, he felt that he was unfortunately put into the position of an underdog. The second obstacle in his path that crucial year was the absence of his longtime coach, Mr. Alim Ahmejanov, whom he had trained closely with since 2008 but recently retired, leaving Mr. Nauraj without a coach. On top of these challenges, Mr. Nauraj had suffered injuries that led to him being operated on thrice, for ankle reconstruction, ankle stem cell, and ruptured triceps’ tendon, all by the age of just 18 years old. 

It took him 15 years to achieve his goal. This had come with approximately one million jumps and one million kilograms lifted across all his training sessions. Of the 100+ competitions he had participated in, he said he would probably win approximately 15. Indeed, not everything will go according to how one plans and expects it to. Thus, he reminded the audience that “in life, we are going to lose a lot more than we win”. But it is how one is able to overcome these losses and persevere that really matters and proves oneself powerful. 

Mr Nauraj’s takeaway piece of advice was firstly to “have an abundant mindset”. This means looking for the positives in any negative situation and cultivating a healthy environment for oneself to blossom. Just as one would sow a seed and nurture it every day until it grows into a beautiful tree and bears the fruits of one’s labour – his favoured analogy. He had made short-term sacrifices to avoid distractions by keeping his circle small but close, consisting of only the most essential support, from his parents and family, his coach, and his sports psychologist. Secondly, he emphasised believing in oneself, for, despite being an underdog at one point, there had to be a deep belief that came from within himself in order to improve. Finally, his biggest takeaway was to “not only expect obstacles but to also embrace them!” 

4. “SHELTER: Human Resilience in the Anthropocene” by David Mizan Hashim

As the founder, group president and director of the VERITAS Design Group, Mr David has led VERITAS Design to win the 1999 Enterprise 50 Award for the best run medium-sized firm. Since then, he has gone on to speak at various national and international conferences and has also played an active role in promoting global trading services. His speech for the TEDx conference revolved mainly around human shelters and how they can be reimagined and reengineered to be more well prepared for the challenges lying ahead. 

From the Igloos to the skyscraper buildings in the centre of New York City, our ancestors have all come a long way to continuously modify and improve the shelters in order to deal with the various types of dangers that are specific to the place and time. This has been key to the survival and evolution of Homosapiens. Our ancestors have also learned to build shelters that were specific to the types of danger faced. For example, when the danger was tides and waves, they built shelters on stilts; at places where earthquakes were common, shelters were built in order to withstand them. Necessity has been the mother of invention and the driving force for the evolution of buildings and cities. It has also resulted in the resiliency of our species. Through thousands of years of trial and error, mankind has been able to improve and perfect the technology and tradition to construct a shelter in order to protect human life. 

However, there are still newer and more serious threats that there are fewer preparations for.  The current pandemic has been able to expose the fragility of modern architecture and design. Although it has been known since the Black Plague took place in the 14th century that ventilation, open place, sanitation and air circulation is key in reducing the number of casualties, modern civilization has failed to create a safe environment to protect mankind from contagions such as the COVID-19. Recent studies of Infectious Diseases have further confirmed the importance of good ventilation, sun lid public spaces and buildings with greater physical separation in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Such features are important since most pathogens dissipate quickly in the presence of circulating air as well as solar radiation. Balconies should also be a necessity instead of a luxury for residential buildings as it is necessary to maintain a reasonable quality of life. Albeit having prior knowledge of all these things, the convenience of forgetting about it due to the pressure of space and economics has resulted in fewer preparations made for the pandemic. 

Let the arising hardships from this current pandemic be a wake-up call so that preparations can be made for the challenges that lie ahead. The most significant challenge right now in the Anthropocene is none other than, Climate Change. Scientists have dated the current epoch to the industrial revolution in the 1800s and the acceleration of it due to the event of the atomic bomb. Until now, necessary steps have not yet been taken to confront the effects of climate change. The momentum of global warming is said to be likely to continue for centuries as it takes that long for the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to disappear. Should the sea level rise by half a meter in the year 2100 as predicted, it would wreak indescribable havoc on mankind; storms will become more frequent and intense than we can conceive, parts of the earth will also become uninhabitable and scientists also believe that pandemics will occur more frequently. 

By starting immediately to divert the resources available at hand from trying to prevent global warming and climate change to actually dealing with the impact of this slow-growing catastrophe is among the ways to mitigate the crisis. In order to achieve this, Mr David proposes that cities and buildings should be reimagined and reengineered in order to provide shelter and protections needed for continued well being and survival. For example, buildings should be built at a higher level and away from seafronts in anticipation of the rising sea levels. As global climate changes take effect and migration becomes increasingly popular, mistakes made in the past to build slumps and overcrowded high rise buildings to accommodate for the migration should not be repeated. The effects of climate change are not only bound to shelter itself but will also affect the power supply, water supply and sanitation among many others. Infrastructures that are resilient to such problems can be built through less reliance. For example, a change in lifestyle in order to reduce the dependence on electricity and also alternative sources of electricity such as solar, thermal or even biomass. Smart cities will be able to collect data on the ways an area function and use it to manage the municipal assets more efficiently. 

Last but not least, Mr David urges everyone to continue to work towards carbon reduction and hope that such efforts will result in lower climate change. However, one should also be aware that hope itself is not a solution and we should all start to physically prepare for the worst if our species are to survive the effects of climate change. 

5. “Emerging from the Depth: The Journey of an Olympic Diver” by Nur Dhabitah Sabri

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated speakers of the afternoon, Nur Dhabitah Sabri needs no formal introduction. Her speech “Emerging from the Depth: The Journey of an Olympic Diver” took audiences for a dip into some of her early beginnings and latest experiences as a national athlete, including a candid talk about her struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had tested the limits of her inner strength like never before. 

Ms. Dhabitah’s father, a former athlete himself, first signed his daughter up for swimming lessons at the tender age of five after noticing that she enjoyed playing in the water. A couple of years later, he foresaw that she would not go as far in swimming due to her petite physique and signed her up for diving, instead. From age seven, she began training six times a week after school, having only Sundays off. With her fast-growing enthusiasm for the sport and quick progress, she went on to enter competitions just two years later, including her first state competition at the Sukma Games (Sukan Malaysia), at which she won her first medal. One could call it love at first dive, for she immediately embraced diving as a career in which she could prosper and established her dream of being an Olympic diver. At age 13, she joined the national team and upped her training to eight hours a day, for six and a half days every week, together with her national teammates, who became her second family. And the rest is history. 

Malaysian divers show off their prizes after collecting all 13 gold medals in aquatic diving events of the 29th SEA Games at National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil today. Bernama Photo
 (Source: Bernama)

Although known for maintaining a cheerful disposition and smile on her face throughout the most high-pressure situations, Ms. Dhabitah took time to acknowledge the grave realities brought upon herself and her fellow athletes by the pandemic, the weight of which was almost too much to bear at some points. The team would usually attend 5-8 competitions a year but for a year and a half, all competitions were cancelled. This left the athletes devastated, as, after all, they depend on competitions to stay on top of their game, determine benchmarks against their competitors, and assess shortcomings to improve on. Furthermore, the SOPs for athletes were stricter than the ones set for the general public. For instance, the athletes had to remain in a sports bubble, consisting only of their fellow teammates and coaches. They were transported solely between their hostel rooms and training grounds day after day.

The four walls of her hostel room started to feel claustrophobic, with not much to do to distract herself besides scrolling through social media. Ms. Dhabitah said she fell into a mild depression, her self-confidence waned, and she felt “useless” and “not good enough”. The physical interaction with her family that she needed most desperately during the time leading up to the FINA World Cup and subsequently the Olympics in Tokyo, simply could not be possible due to the rules and restrictions. She nearly gave up. So, how did she emerge from such depths? 

 National diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri's  during the women’s 3-metre (m) springboard individual final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatic Center. - BERNAMA Pic
(Source: Bernama)

Ms. Dhabitah imparted the following advice based on the ways she was able to help herself: 

  1. Meditation and prayers: Meditating every morning and evening allowed her to regain some sense of balance and mental wellness. Moreover, she relied on her faith to find peace and patience.
  2. Positive affirmations: She sought for and subscribed to platforms that delivered daily messages of affirmation. Watching inspiring TEDx talks kept her spirits up. 
  3. Look up to a mentor: Ms. Dhabitah was lucky to have her mentor with her physically every day, as her roommate. This is none other than Dato Pandelela Rinong Pamg! Seeing the way Dato Pandelela combatted her own struggles encouraged Ms. Dhabitah to stay strong herself. In addition, the two could comfortably exchange personal concerns and sentiments with each other. 
  4. Surround yourself with positive people: It is beneficial to foster to the best of one’s ability an environment that is healthy, as the people one spends time with have a great influence on one’s thoughts and actions. This may mean having to get rid of toxic friends while making room for the positive friends that stimulate one to look at the glass half full rather than half empty. 
  5. Don’t sweat the small stuff: “Life will throw you little bumps, hurdles, and even major hills to climb,” she said, “but don’t dwell on them for too long. […] Get over disappointments, forgive hurtful actions, get up, and pat yourself on the back. […] Move on. […] Most importantly, be kind to yourself [and] trust yourself!”

6. “STARTUP: Starting from Zero” by Ong Yong Xun (Zero)

To make the Forbes 30 under 30 list, there are numerous criteria that one needs to check off but that does not seem to be a problem at all for Ong Yong Xun, Zero. Passionate in making change for the better, Zero identified a problem and brainstormed a solution to it which led to the JomStudy application that aids Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates in accessing revision materials. In his speech, Zero talks about the three phases that he used in order to kickstart his idea. 

The three phases are known as Planning, Executing as well as Sustaining and Adapting. 

The planning phase starts with brainstorming an idea that can be done at any time or place. Upon getting the eureka moment, one is then tasked to question themselves if the idea is a solution to a problem and if there is a demand for it. In order to know if there is a demand for it, put yourself in the shoes of a customer and start asking yourself if you would purchase it. Believing that the idea itself is great is insufficient and it, therefore, leads us to the second step of the planning phase which is performing market research. A few key points to note when doing market research include: 

  1. The targeted audience.
  2. Amount of target audience.
  3. Know the industry. 
  4. Surveys. 

A business plan is also equally as important as it is able to act as a guide to the founder. After getting all of this done, one should then set long-term goals and short-term goals. The goals should also come along with their individual plans in order to achieve them. Lastly, a priority list is essential in order to manage everything at once and get things done more effectively and efficiently. However, he also emphasises that having the list is not enough and one should have self-discipline and consistency in order to ensure that they are able to succeed. 

The main target of the second phase, executing is to blast the start-up to all the consumers and customers. In order to achieve that, the simple answer is to advertise the product to the target market. Getting constructive feedback from existing customers through good customer relationships is also crucial to improving the product and services. In order to sustain the startup, one needs to try to stay relevant through adapting and sustaining to the current environment and circumstances. 

Zero’s last piece of advice is to never stop learning and earning regardless if they are both done at the same time. However, if an individual is not earning and learning then it is time to quit that activity. He also hopes that the audience will never stop seeking discomfort for he believes that it is when one is out of their comfort zone that they will realise their limits and capabilities.

7. “Ideas Spaghettification: Jazzing up your Creative Portfolio To The Next Level!” by Firdaus Khalid 

Mr. Firdaus Khalid is a Virtual Reality Artist and Programme Coordinator in Animation, Web Development & Games Programming at SAE Institute UK. His out of the ordinary speech, “Ideas Spaghettification: Jazzing Up Your Creative Portfolio to the Next Level”, provided an engaging insight into how the concept of spaghettification in astrophysics can be applied to the development of a creative portfolio. 

What is “spaghettification”, to begin with? Spaghettification refers to the phenomenon of a star wandering so close to a black hole that it gets pulled into the center of it by gravitational force. In the black hole, the star gets shredded apart into long, thin strands of noodle-like debris– in other words, spaghettified. Transformed into bright flares, these strands then wander across space looking for their next destination. So, while the term is not exactly about the long, thin strands of cylindrical pasta that can be consumed by human beings, it can very well be compared to what the average person knows as “spaghetti”. 

On top of that, Mr. Firdaus explained how this concept of spaghettification could be closely linked to illustrate the process of developing one’s creative portfolio. For instance, imagine the star as one’s creative project. After sending it out, it hits many speed bumps as it travels out to various companies, some of which may not appreciate the work in the way that one had hoped and consequently, it gets rejected. Even so, fret not as one can take this work into a process of creative brainstorming aka spaghettification. This means tearing the portfolio apart and building it up again, only better, jazzier, and even crazier. 

To further elaborate on this, here is Mr. Firdaus’ recipe on the key ingredients for cooking a creative portfolio spaghetti: 

  1. Mind-mapping aka The Pasta: Draw out your idea in the form of a mind-map to show where an idea begins and where, how, and to whom it could branch out to. It can help visualise what could happen if one were to take each path. 
  2. SWOT analysis aka The Sauce: This is an analysis tool with which one can assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of one’s creative portfolio. 
  3. Reverse brainstorming aka The Cheese: Work backwards by starting with the identification of the problem, then reverse the problem, collect ideas, reverse the ideas, and finally evaluate the ideas and identify solutions. 
  4. Role-storming aka The Meatball: This is a collaborative brainstorming session, in which each member of a team takes an active role to provide their own views on why this creative portfolio may not have been accepted by certain companies. It can be especially helpful to have friends each take the role of a company, challenging each person to think from various perspectives of external parties that they hadn’t considered before. 

The final result should speak globally. Should one send their creative portfolio to France, Mr. Firdaus said, make sure that it is “as tasty as their croissants”. If it were sent to Japan, make sure it is “as delicious as their sushi”. And, of course, should it be distributed locally within Malaysia, make sure it has been transformed so much that it may be akin to “mouthwatering nasi lemak, sambal lebih, extra telur, lebih *chef’s kiss*”. 

8. “Embracing your Passion” by Jeffrey Webb

One of the only two winter Olympians for Malaysia, Jeffrey Webb is a national alpine skier who represented Malaysia in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Jeffrey first started skiing around 5 years old although it was not what he initially picked. First starting with Karate and not enjoying it as much, his parents exposed him to skiing. He then began skiing and doing karate at the same time before making a shift to skiing completely. However, it was not until he was 8 that he began to compete in skiing. Through participating in the Ski Clinic Camp, he was discovered by one of the coaches who approached his parents and expressed his wishes for Jeffrey to sign up for the ski team. The innocent 8-year-old Jeffrey agreed to join the team as he wanted the red jacket that he has seen people wear for the past week. 

The competitiveness and intensity of travelling began to pick up when he was about 16. As time progressed, Jeffrey took part in more and more competitions and eventually made his way to the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. At this point, he began wondering how far he could actually go with skiing. Could he possibly make the cut for the winter Olympics? Even after qualifying for the Olympics, it didn’t actually hit him until he began his event at the Olympics. It was at the top of the mountain at the start gate that he realised that all of it was real and he was no longer the 8-year-old kid who just wanted the red jacket. 

With the many skills and techniques involved, it is safe to say that skiing is quite a demanding sport. The journey to the Olympics was not easy and it came along with certain hardships such as the time when he crashed and injured his back. Such injuries made him question if it was all worth it but the answer was always yes as he was doing it for himself. With that, his determined mentality propelled him to continue to train and compete. The key idea is to enjoy what you are doing and constantly work towards improving and bettering yourself. It is also completely fine to switch paths if you do not find yourself enjoying the activity that you are doing. 

TEDxSunway University: “The Powerhouse Within” wrapped up with a total of over a thousand live viewers throughout the event. It was surely an enlightening talk that showcased a wide range of takes, from various fields, on what it means to ignite the powerhouse within oneself in order to overcome challenges and, ultimately, achieve one’s goals. For more content from the event, check out the hashtags #TEDxSunwayUniversity and #thepowerhousewithin on Instagram. 

Written By: Sumitra Cheong & Michelle Cheong

Edited By: Maki

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