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TEDxBigSky: Meet the speakers pt. 1

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Introducing the 2022 TEDxBigSky speaker lineup

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – In the popular Rocky movies, Sylvester Stallone’s character, Rocky Balboa, says, “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give … it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.”

Moving forward in the face of adversity, the act of resilience, is the theme of this year’s TEDxBigSky speaker event. Each of our seven esteemed speakers will tell their stories of resilience during the Jan. 29 and 30 event at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. Ahead of the event, Explore Big Sky spoke with four of this year’s speakers to hear their own stories of resilience.

Benjamin and Azrya Bequer

Benjamin and Azrya Bequer aren’t afraid to ask you hard questions. The husband-wife force of nature is devoted to helping humanity achieve its full spectrum of aliveness, a process they call “Beqoming” that is outlined in their new book “BEQOMING: Everything You Didn’t Know You Wanted” and will soon be joined by a podcast and a six-month online course.

Beqoming is meeting yourself fully and unapologetically, shaking off physical and psychological barriers in order to become the person you are destined to be. Although the path to get there appears different for each person, the potential that awaits, the Bequers believe, is enormous. In their TEDx talk, Azrya and Benjamin will speak of their own journey of Beqoming, as well as their use of plant medicine, particularly Ayahuasca.

“Our theme is everything you didn’t know you wanted,” said Benjamin. “That is different for everyone, but our proposition to the audience and why we’re sharing our story, is when we relinquish our personal preferences, that’s the master key to unlocking [potential].”

Resilience, they say, fits into that theme perfectly as resilience is no longer resisting what is, no matter how challenging that might be.

“It’s having trust when it’s difficult to,” Benjamin adds.

Learn more at beqoming.me.

Nick and Mike Fiorito

On his way to his corporate job in New York City, Nick Fiorito would pass the same homeless man each morning. It was his urge to improve the man’s situation, coupled with his unhappiness in his own work life, that led him and his brother, Mike Fiorito, to quit their jobs in 2016 and start the nonprofit Blankets of Hope.

“Something in my bones just told me ‘we have to do this right now,’” Nick said. “If I was outside and I was cold and someone came up to me and offered me a blanket, I would appreciate it.”

What started as a casual day their friends and families took to walk around New York and hand out blankets to those in need, grew—with the help of a viral video of their efforts and the help of a California tech investor—into the launch of a new nonprofit and a new career for the Fioritos. Today, 100 percent of all donations go toward the efforts of Blankets of Hope.

Since then, Blankets of Hope has partnered with 500 schools across 46 states to provide 60,000 blankets to those in need. A large part of Blankets of Hope is their Kindness Workshops, through which they educate children about the importance of compassion.

“These kids are going to be our future leaders, running the communities and country that we live in,” said Nick, who says the emphasis of their program is really to instill that mentality of service in children at a young age. “That really is one of the most important things we can teach the future generation.”

Nick and Mike will join TEDxBigSky this year to talk about Blankets of Hope and the journey of resilience it took them to launch its success. Their talk, titled “The Cheat Code to Fulfillment,” will focus on self-fulfillment and the better world that results when people are doing what they truly love for a living. To them, resilience means moving forward with a positive attitude, despite all obstacles.

For more information, visit blanketsofhope.com.

Julie McGue

In the U.S. nearly six to eight million people are adopted. It’s an experience that has affected a large portion of the population, including Julie McGue. After undergoing her own journey of self discovery, McGue is devoted to helping those adopted find their identities. The author of “Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging,” is no stranger to the process of finding herself. After facing a medical issue in her 40s, the identical twin and adoptee realized there was a major flaw in the closed adoption system. While it protects identities, it also shields adoptees from important, and sometimes life-saving information about their past.

In her TEDxBigSky talk, titled “When it comes to the adoption process, conversations matter,”

McGue will discuss her five-year journey searching for her biological parents, the roadblocks she encountered, the lingering stigma surrounding adoption and the importance of having a strong sense of identity.

“In my era there was a stigma of illegitimacy, so it was very important for an adopted child looked like the family they were being adopted into,” McGue said. “That shame has become a part of their personality.”

To McGue, resilience is the journey she and her sister took to discover their own identities. “It took perseverance,” she says. “Figuring out the next angle to attack.”

Learn more at juliemcgueauthor.com.

Timothy Tate

While nature and nurture are important factors in a person’s psychological growth, Timothy Tate, who has been a professional psychotherapist for over three decades, believes in a third force, which he calls the “unique genius.” It’s a theory outlined by James Hillman in his book “The Soul’s Code” and one Tate has integrated into his psychotherapy work. 

While Tate believes that family, environment and trauma all play a role in our development there is more depth to discovery.

“Beyond, behind and underneath all of that is a force of soul, a force of character or your unique genius, that goes back to a theory that Plato put on the table first, saying that each of us are given a unique genius—a ‘daimon’—just before we’re incarnate,” Tate explains.

Tate’s goal is to help people realize their unique genius through three core modes: dream, imagination and creativity. In his TEDxBigSky talk, he will draw from examples from his life to illustrate this concept. By discovering our unique genius, he says, we are liberated because we return to something that’s always been there and accept our full selves.

Resilience, he says, is the persistent call to be, to say, to accomplish what is true to someone’s nature, without performing or trying to impress others.

This is part one of a four-part speaker introduction series. Read part two and part three.

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