From the drug war to memory

Moving on UP: Life lessons from 16 of America's top minds

Moving on UP: Life lessons from 16 of America's top minds

Mentally exhausted but intellectually and emotionally charged, guests of the fourth annual UP Experience — Unique People and Unique Experiences — had no choice but to go up.  

For the capacity crowd at Stafford Centre last week — add 400 plus high school juniors down the hall — the opportunity to hear 16 nationally-acclaimed speakers was one of a kind. UP covered a wide array of topics from local issues to international phenomena including technology and science, social issues, business and leadership and mind and body. Curated by founder Sheryl W. Rapp, the UP Experience is Houston's homegrown response to the need to have access to personalities and forums that have a strong message for change.

Pulling in an audience of mostly professionals, educators and those with a hunger for academic stimulation, the appeal was a combination of 20-minute passionate lecture presentations intermingled with breakout sessions during which guests could individually probe speakers for knowledge and insights. Where else can you freely chat with Daniel Pink, Benjamin Zander and Katie Linendoll in the same place?

Lots of knowledge was shared.

 Men named Dennis are more likely to become dentists because there's an affinity to recognize one's name. Statistically, you are more likely to marry someone whose name starts with the same letter as yours. 

Stephen Klineberg, co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, summarized Houston's last 30 years in 10 minutes. His swift lecture focused on the need for Houston to change its own economic attitude and shift from dependency on natural resources to nurturing its innate human capital.

With Houston home to the largest medical center in country — and also the highest percentage of children without health insurance — Klineberg took issue with the increasing gap between rich and the poor, and blamed access to quality education for such disparity.

The solution? Invest in the skills of future Houstonians to thrive in the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology, bio-nano-info-technology and enviro-technology, and encourage the best and brightest to maximize such knowledge in commercial ventures.

Tracing immigration patterns, Klineberg attributed the Bayou City's economic stability to its growing diversity. The aging and colorizing of American — what he called "the graying and browning" — is part of a demographic revolution such that by 2045, Klineberg predicts U.S. residents will no longer trace their ancestry to Europe.

Dr. David Eagleman melded science and ethics while questioning our species free will. A large gap between what the brain knows and what the mind knows is responsible for peculiar phenomenon.

Men named Dennis are more likely to become dentists because there's an affinity to recognize one's name. Statistically, you are more likely to marry someone whose name starts with the same letter as yours.

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world and 30 percent of those in custody suffer from a mental illness. Eagleman advocates for increasing dialogue between neuroscience and legal fields to distinguish between explanation and exculpation. 

Katie Linendoll, aka the "Chic Geek" and the host of A&E's We Mean Business, may be petit but with her fashionable charisma — with a touch or nerdiness — she uncovered technology game-changing global initiatives that are making a direct impact in people's lives. 

Among them was Vision of a Nation, a UK-based nonprofit working with the Rwandan government to address the lack of available optometrists in the Central African country. Four optometrists to 11 million people doesn't cut it. The organization — consisting of 12 employees — designed self-adjustable spectacles at an affordable cost to offer a solution to the estimated 7.5 million people who don't have access to proper eye care.

Waging War On The Wrong Drugs

For Robert Stutman, the drug war had veered from black market narcotics like LSD and crack to prescription drugs, now responsible for one death every 14 minutes. No longer can authorities seek out peddlers — those affected never interact with a drug dealer. Rather, these are substances out of a medicine chest given to someone by a physician. 

Everyday on a college campus because of such drugs, 2,500 students are taken on ambulance, 300 are raped and five die. The age when students begin experimenting with drugs has dropped from 15 years old to 12. The drug of choice is PAM cooking spray, inhaled. Tobacco at a young age predicts a likelihood of drug abuse and alcoholism into adulthood.

Who are the drug addicts? Seventy-eight percent are Caucasian.

It's not a big city problem.

Montana and Alaska have the highest quantity of teenage addicts. Private schools have higher rates than public, and students involved in team sports are more likely to abuse drugs than those partaking in individual sports. 

What's the solution? The number of times a child has dinner with his or her family is indirectly proportional to the possibility of drug use. If President Obama can have dinner with his daughters, Stutman challenges all parents to follow suit. 

It's Not Science Fiction

When it comes to engineering and growing organs, the future is now. Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, uses cells, scaffolds and fiber to cultivate tubular structures, heart valves, bladders, digits and ears.

And that's just the beginning.

Alison Levine relived her adventures climbing atop Mount Everest via colorful stories and dramatic photography. Lessons learned extend beyond extreme sports. Fear is OK. Complacency is what will kill you. Progress happens even when going backwards.

Getting to the top is optional, coming down is mandatory.

If you really want to change the world, you have to levitate some frogs. That, in essence, was author and journalist Daniel Pink's philosophy for thriving in today's creative economy and conceptual age. The adage originated from a serendipitous discovery by Nobel Prize-winning scientists during experimentation with noncommissioned work. The conditions for discoveries   — those that give the world something it didn't know it was missing — emerge from conditions that encourage autonomy and investigation free of expected singular outcomes. 

Most innovative ideas at Google come from 20-percent of the time allotted to noncommissioned work.

Forward Thinkers

From crack dealer to successful business man, life coach and mentor,  Food Network chef Jeff Henderson learned everything he needed to know to thrive from his need to be "the man of the house" at a young age. Prison was where he read his first book, where he learned to cook and where he realized he could put his intellect to good and productive use. 

Returning as an UP alumna, University of Houston research professor Brené Brown addressed hope as a function of struggle. In a world of scarcity, the highest amount of hope was found in those that had experienced the highest amount of failure. People with hope can set goals, can cultivate pathways to achieve those goals and have a belief that they can accomplish such goals.

 With Houston home to the largest medical center in country — and also the highest percentage of children without health insurance — Klineberg took issue with the increasing gap between rich and the poor. 

The problem? Society is not letting children experience failure and struggle. Hope exists in the space between the person and failure.  

After Ron White's mind-blowing demonstration of his otherworldly power of recall — those who met White during the conference were asked to stand and, with 100-percent accuracy, he remembered the names of approximately 50 guests —  no one could doubt that memory can be trained and nurtured to learn and retain large amounts of information.  

White's technique involved five steps: Focus, file, picture, glue and review.

Begin with preparing to memorize by focusing on the task at hand. File away by noticing a distinct physical attribute like the shape of an ear, hair or eye color; something physical that stands out. Create a mental picture by associating the name with another object like stove for Steve. Glue is the process of creating a story, an action around the file and picture. And reviewing seals the deal.

Conductor Benjamin Zander revealed the activities that led to his epiphany: The role of a music conductor, while not making a sound, is to inspire possibility in others. His power lies in making others powerful. Who are you being to either inspire or hinder possibility?

While convincingly advocating that classical music is for everyone, Zander concluded the UP Experience with an audience rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy chorus in German.

News_UP Experience_October 2011
Ron White demonstrated his exceptional memory skills by remembering a myriad of people he had just met at UP.  Courtesy of Schipul - The Web Marketing Company
News_Joel_UP Experience_October 2011
A conductor's job is to inspire greatness in others. Who are you being to inspire possibility? Courtesy of Schipul - The Web Marketing Company
Katie Linendoll
Katie Linendoll addressed a room-full of high school juniors.  Courtesy of Schipul - The Web Marketing Company
News_UP Experience_October 2011_Stafford Centre
Stafford Centre was the venue for the fourth UP Experience.  Courtesy of Schipul - The Web Marketing Company