The TEDx Blog interviewed me earlier this week about my role in the Batkid adventure. Check it out here: http://blog.tedx.com/post/69698054158/our-resident-supervillain-an-inside-look-at-the
Read the full interview text below.
1. How did you get involved with TEDxIB@York? What was your favorite part about the event?
As with many positive circumstances in life, it was via an odd set of connections. It was my boss’s boss’s boss’s wife (from an internship I did 10 years ago), who recommended me to her son’s school principal who was running this particular TEDx in Toronto.
I was skype-interviewed by him, and mentioned my recent volunteer work at 826 Valencia and San Francisco Film Society, where I had been encouraging students to find their passions, and to work hard to develop them. This, combined with a statement along the lines of, “I will work like hell until this is as perfect as I can possibly make it” ultimately convinced him to give me the opportunity. I think I hit the ceiling when he said ‘Yes’.
Honestly, my favourite part was actually the preparation. I had about 6 months on-and-off to work on it. I talked for hours with friends and family about what they thought my “idea worth spreading” was. I wrote a bunch of drafts and threw most of the ideas out. I learned that I wouldn’t have presenter notes on the day-of, meaning that all 18 minutes needed to be memorized; a month out, I practiced 3-4 times every night to make sure it went smoothly. My family and closest friends attended the event, and it was incredible to share months of dedicated work with the people I care most deeply about. It’s also been awesome to keep in touch with a few of the students and to see their progress.
2. If you could describe your TEDx Talk in one sentence, what would it be?
Genuine childlike enthusiasm is surprisingly rare in adults, so when you find something you care deeply about and show the world with your attitude and actions, people are swept away and often go out of their way to help support your vision.
3. Your talk focuses on the importance of following your passions and not being afraid to show enthusiasm in any situation. How did this passion for enthusiasm fit into the Batkid adventure?
Enthusiasm is a way to interact with others. When it boundless, yet also focused, it sends out a variety of other messages: commitment, dedication, keenness to advocate.
This summer I had a backyard BBQ and my buddy Eric Johnston and his wife Sue showed up. Eric said to me, “What are you doing Fri. Nov 15th? And please say ‘Yes’.” I paused for a microsecond and said, “OK… ‘Yes’! So… what did I just agree to?!” He said we were going to dress up in costumes and run around in a little Make-A-Wish event for a sweet 5-year old named Miles (“Batkid”). It sounded awesome and I told him I was “all in”. On the big day, Eric played Batman and Eric’s wife Sue was the “Damsel in Distress”. We had no clue it was going to be as big as it was.
Lots of people have asked me why I was chosen to take part. Sue and EJ said they thought I should be The Penguin because “my enthusiasm has never known bounds”. My TEDx talk started with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it.” They believed I would live up to these words.
The many days of preparation included going back and forth to AT&T Ballpark to do location scouting and pyrotechnic safety run-throughs, figuring out the sequence of events for Miles, trying to guess if he’d be apprehensive about chasing and capturing me, watching old 1960’s Batman episodes to do some character research, many other hours worrying if my part of the day would go smoothly, and that it wouldn’t rain and people would show up. This prep time flew by, as per the old adage, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
My enthusiasm for this idea not only helped me plan (OK, “obsess”) over all the small details of my role, but it also encouraged me to look at the bigger picture too.
Make-A-Wish timed this event so that it would occur after Miles had finished his treatment, so I realized that this was also a celebration for Miles’ family. I made a point to help them feel welcome on the big day. I helped spread excitement about the event via Facebook, Twitter and Blogger as it was clear that social media would play a huge role in attendance. A large attendance would mean more potential donations to Make-A-Wish, helping them achieve even more wishes for more children. (In fact, Make-A-Wish’s website had 1400 visitors-per-second at the peak of Batkid mania, so many that the website went down!)
Miles sneakily stole my umbrella (The Penguin’s “weapon”) after he captured me, and I made sure his family got to keep his “umbrella trophy” at the end of the day. A week after the event, I wrote a summary blog post (http://jutanclan.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-day-batkid-defeated-me-and.html) showing some of our behind-the-scenes photos (as a hook for readers), but intentionally ended the post with a serious message about the importance of making a commitment to community service with a local organization or Cause that you believe in. This post was read 2000 times within 24 hours, and several people emailed me to tell me which organizations they planned to commit to.
4. What did you learn from being a part of the Batkid's epic day in San Francisco? Any ideas worth spreading?
Making a wish come true starts with one person saying ‘Yes’.
Make-A-Wish began planning the incredible Batkid event in March 2013. Patricia Wilson (Executive Director of Make-A-Wish Bay Area, the real superhero behind the Batkid event) and her incredible team asked Eric to take part, and he said ‘Yes’. Eric and Sue asked me to take part, and I gave them an unconditional ‘Yes’ – before I even knew what I was getting myself into! The event grew as the good will of this great idea continued to snowball, and the word ‘Yes’ kept occurring. SFPD did not spend city funds on the event, no overtime was paid to SFPD officers who took part, yet the outpouring of support was massive. SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr filmed TV clips for Miles to watch throughout the day, updating him on the dastardly deeds of The Penguin and The Riddler. SF Fire Department said ‘Yes’ and was there to help. The Justice Department said ‘Yes’, giving Miles his own mini FBI “raid-jacket” and creating a faux indictment for The Riddler and The Penguin (…uh oh!). AT&T Park, the SF Giants and their mascot Lou Seal said ‘Yes’ and were amazingly supportive of our crazy plans. Twitter said ‘Yes’, and helped Make-A-Wish with the huge social media presence on Batkid day. Chris Taylor, editor-in-chief of news site Mashable, shouted a resounding ‘Yes’ from the rooftops with his beautifully worded articles and op-ed pieces supporting the event and its deeper meaning. Chris even challenged his (many) readers: “What dreams can you help fulfill today?” in his article “Batkid Was Beautiful — Let's Keep It Going”: (http://mashable.com/2013/11/15/batkid-beyond/). President Barack Obama recognized the unique spirit of the event, tweeting a picture of Batkid and a video high-five to Miles.
Finally, the ‘Yes’ ultimately snowballed to the city and people of San Francisco. They cheered ‘Yes’ from Union Square and from City Hall. Over 20,000 people heard the bat-call on social media and said “Yes, we all know it’s a Friday, but we’re definitely skipping work for this.” Entire families showed up in costume, with homemade posters, cameras, and big smiles on their faces, cheering “Batkid! Batkid! Batkid!”
This incredible event started with one person saying ‘Yes’. Then one more, then another…. And then civil servants, city workers, organizations, politicians, media outlets, startup companies, sponsors, and ultimately the entire city of San Francisco and even the President of the United States of America said ‘Yes’, too.
Batkid turned into an international news story seen by more than 2 Billion people and it started with just one little, tiny word: ‘Yes’.
5. Anything else you'd like to add?
The city of San Francisco said it. Now you say it too…