When I graduated from engineering school, the professor told me that the half-life of my education was about 10 years. (I believe it might be less today!!). Notwithstanding the time and energy I put into school and the cost of the education, I realized that my relevance to the companies for which I would work would decline over time unless I reinvested in learning and continued to challenge my own paradigms. This would keep me fresh. We bandy about the word relevance fairly regularly yet that word, for me at least, has taken on new significance in the recent past. This is not a mental exercise or philosophical debate like we use to have in college. Being relevant will affect our lives and the lives of our progeny. Being relevant will require everyone us to continually reinvent ourselves. And that reinvention is nearly a continuous process. The good news is that TEDxOrangeCoast contains a full day of speakers and interaction on the subject of redefining relevance because no one can do the subject justice in a brief blog, an article, or even a book. From Wikipedia, “something is relevant … if it increases the likelihood of accomplishing the goal.” Since everyone has different goals, the term relevance has to be put into CONTEXT. What is relevant to me might not be relevant to you because of my personal life, my desires, my fears, my job, or my family. That relevance will necessarily change over time as well. People in their early careers were immediately relevant to their companies. They had new ideas coming out of school and they were still assimilating ideas from new sets of friends, travel, and being exposed to the diversity of ideas from college classmates from different backgrounds. In the go-go 80s, everyone was relevant and the times were much simpler. Today, because of the smart phones, touch pads, expansive internet and the new social media, relevancy is continually redefined and reinvention – or the opportunity for reinvention- occurs daily. And everyone has to continue to challenge themselves for improvement because of the economy and the devastation caused by the major recession in 2007/2008 where many people became unemployed and their relevance severely challenged. Relevance may be triggered by a concept, a person, a thing, a process, a technology, or just information that can be used to help improve “the world” or your slice of the world. And while something may be relevant to you, it is also suggested that redefining relevance means that you become more relevant to the world today and maintain that relevance in the future. Most of us watched the Olympics in London a few weeks ago. The world became aware of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic athlete with the infectious smile and personality. What makes Oscar relevant? He displays that there are no limitations and no excuses. Think about the trials and tribulations he faced and his belief that he can succeed in the world of competitive athletics. He became relevant to millions of able bodied as well as physically challenged athletes by his courage and willpower. So the first concept in my opinion in defining relevance is your belief in yourself…. That you can make a difference and you want to make a difference by example. Without this belief system, I believe we will be like a deer in headlights- frozen into acting the same as in the past. Jesse Owens once said: Don’t look back; someone may be gaining on you. Rather, we must look back, look at the changes in the environment and make changes to our game plan. Let’s consider time in the concept of relevance. What is relevant today may not have been relevant at a different time. Hip-hop music is relevant today as it tells stories from a different perspective. Today it is relevant. Twenty years ago it was unknown to the masses. Similarly Rock n Roll and the messages in songs became more relevant in the 50s, 60s and 70s as the economy and political climate changed after World War II and the Korean War. And that continued in the music and its messages today. In fact, music may be one of the prime media that displays changes in relevance and changes our paradigms. As a technologist, I believe that technology redefines relevance. Consider the iPhone and the ipad. When Steve Jobs developed these tools and the eco-system surrounding them (iTunes and the app store), he enabled this technology to be more relevant to hundreds of millions of people. Apps are relevant to people and people can choose from millions of apps to help them improve the world or their slice of the world. Miniaturization of technology, artificial intelligence, “big data,” wireless technologies, and virtualization technologies, to name a few, have become more relevant for the masses and in turn help each individual make their lives or jobs more relevant to their companies or to others. What are the lessons to be learned? Relevance is unique to each individual. Relevance changes over time. An idea, a thought, a person, a technology injected at the right time may change your perspective. That great “ah ha” may lead to a new view of the world, a new business, a new way to deal with people, a new way to view your own character, or a new way to relate to people (think social media for example). And that is the power of TEDx. What if you were able to have an idea discussed at the conference trigger a unique thought? What if that thought redefined your view of the future? What if these ideas or things presented or technologies discussed or inspirations by the presenters enabled and encouraged you to challenge prevailing wisdom? The ability to open our minds to the reality of a new future state will provide us with new tools to help us all to remain relevant. Think. Reflect. React. Change the world for the better. See you at TEDxOrangeCoast in October.