Introducing the 2022 TEDxBigSky speaker lineup
By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Solidarity. Responsibility. Fortitude. We’ve heard a lot of iterations of what resilience means to each of this year’s TEDxBigSky speakers. This issue, meet Todd Dittmann, who spent 25 years in energy finance; Lisa Senters-McDermott, CEO and founder of Jet Senters Aviation; Ryan Busse, author of the critically acclaimed memoir, “Gunfight”; and Bruce Anfinson, Montana born and raised singer/songwriter who will close out night two with some inspiring tunes.
This year TEDxBigSky is paired with another great Big Sky Ideas Festival featuring a roundtable discussion about trust in the media on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m. as well as live performances by musicians Monique Benabou and Bruce Anfinson on Friday, Jan. 28 at The Independent at 6 p.m. Be sure to purchase your tickets to all events at tedxbigsky.com.
As we wrap up our speaker introduction series, we’d like to remind you to find your own sense of resilience in life—whether it’s working together to save the planet, start your own company, write some good music or change the culture of our community for the better. Join us at TEDxBigSky this month to start your resilient journey.
Todd Dittmann believes that the practice of solidarity is waning in our culture.
“That is unfortunate because if you don’t practice solidarity it actually comes at the cost of personal fulfillment and it comes at a cost to social justice,” Dittmann said.
The cost he will address during his TEDxBigSky talk is that of inaction on climate change, specifically the need to practice solidarity in order to fully transition our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable sources and halt the detrimental effects of climate change and ensure the longevity of humanity. In order to achieve this, he believes, we need solidarity in our country as a whole population, as well as among its leaders.
Dittmann spent more than 25 years in energy finance with investing and board experience in both public and private companies. He joined Angelo Gordon in 2013 to lead the firm’s energy strategy and today is a managing director and member of the firm’s executive committee. He believes there can be a happy ending to the fight against climate change, but that relies on the concept of solidarity.
“When I think of resilience I think of fortitude,” Dittmann said. “And if I’m right about waning solidarity then we live in a culture that’s increasingly self-focused and it takes fortitude not to be so. It takes fortitude not to be self-focused and I think that’s a challenge.”
“Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting,” the late Betty White wrote in her 2011 book, “If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t).” “If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”
It’s a quote Lisa Senters-McDermott, private aviation expert and CEO and founder of Jet Senters Aviation, referenced when recounting her path to success. Senters-McDermott will be speaking about resilience as an entrepreneur and how the journey of of climbing to the top has changed over the years with the introduction of technology. Perhaps the greatest contributor to her success, she says, is her belief in trusting her instincts in the face of disbelievers and naysayers.
For her, this success does not come without failure. In fact, according to smallbiztrends.com, entrepreneurs fail an average of four times before succeeding.
“Resilience is essential,” said Senters-McDermott. “You have to follow your gut, trust your instincts and allow yourself to dream.”
She hopes her TEDxBigSky talk is funny, inspiring and enlightening and reaches younger listeners, encouraging them to follow their wildest dreams—all while teaching their parents not to quash those dreams.
“Everyone’s brain functions differently so everyone is unique and capable of achieving different things,” said Senters-McDermott. “That’s the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur, you can see things different then I can. I’m bringing something to life that no one ever thought of before.”
To Senters-McDermott, resilience means not giving up. She illustrates an image of the old Bozo the Clown punching bag toys—when you punch Bozo, he pops back up. Although humorous, that’s the image she likes to encourage others to feel—the tenacity to get back up, no matter how hard the punch.
John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” It’s a conundrum Busse—a former firearms executive, activist and author of the critically acclaimed memoir, “Gunfight”—believes we’re faced against as a country.
In his TEDxBigSky talk, Busse will talk about what decisions led him to stray from the firearms industry. Once a member of the National Rifle Association, he believes the firearms industry and the politics related to it, combined with a lack of societal responsibility, has created disillusionment around gun culture that is responsible for events like school shootings, inner-city gun violence and domestic terrorists.
“Some of what I’ve said and stances I’ve taken end up being political because that’s just the way things are,” Busse said. “I’m less concerned with Archean laws and what we do to control guns. I’m [more] concerned about irresponsibility and culture and the way in which guns and the power of guns fuel that irresponsibility.”
“The balance between our freedoms and responsibility is really badly out of whack,” he continued.
Busse is also an environmental advocate who served in many leadership roles for conservation organizations including as an advisor to the U.S. Senate Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Biden presidential campaign. He is a proud outdoorsman, gun owner, father and resident of Montana.
Busse believes his idea of rediscovering our responsibility as a country plays well into this year’s theme of resilience.
“Our responsibility as gun owners, or as Montanans, whatever, we’re not going to be very resilient if we don’t integrate reasonability into that,” Busse said.
During his interview with EBS, musician Bruce Anfinson was driving from Helena to Big Sky after last week’s big snowstorm.
“Looking at the wide open spaces and landscapes really feeds a person,” Anfinson said, the sound of his automobile rumbling in the background of the call.
Driving along the open roads of Montana is a fitting scene for the country/folk musician—a lot of his inspiration comes from his home. Anfinson grew up along the Missouri River in Great Falls and today lives in a home he built himself near Helena recording music (in a studio he also built himself), raising horses, huckleberries and a family. He has performed all over the world including at the famed Berlin, Germany Volk Festival and has shared a stage with Merle Haggard, Michael Martin Murphy, Big Sky Mudflaps and many more.
“I guess they’re going to get a stack of my life,” said Anfinson, answering the question of what TEDxBigSky-goers can expect from night two’s musical guest. “People have told me that I’m authentic and I don’t know what else to be, why would you be anything but yourself?”
Anfinson’s music paints intimate pictures of the Montana way of life; the people, landscapes and history we love so much. His music is very lyric-heavy, relying on the power of storytelling to make people feel and connect. His idea of resilience: “…keep on keepin’ on. Keep that focus out there, that’s how things get long,” he said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to play around the world a lot,” Anfinson said. “It allows you to see the world through different spectacles, but there’s no place like home to hang your hat.”