Thrivals 5.0 - Quests not "adventures," they're about us

Just quick recap of the awesome speakers at Thrivals 5.0, "The Quest." Many of the better quotes are italicized. Speakers appear in chronological order. 

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Tori Murden McClure - the first wom an and first American to row solo across the Atlantic and author of A Pearl in the Storm. She is President of Spalding University

She rowed across the ocean to fight, as she later understood, "helplessness." Near the end of the first row, capsizing five or six times, she says "one dislocated my shoulder, the other put it back into place." She never made it all the way.

She was inspired to try again by Muhammad Ali, who said that she "didn't want to go through life as the woman who almost rowed across the ocean." On her second trip, east-to-west this time, and upset by bad weather again, she said that she realized that her demon was helplessness, a helplessness that she had learned early on in life, a helplessness that she was now conquering. Two quotes:

"Quests are not adventures, because quests are about ourselves." AND

"We step way from the world because we are discontented." We "want to live the stories."

If you've made the decision to qo on a quest, "what comes next are tests and trials - and if you're not afraid, you should be."

But make the changes anyway. "Discontentment, if you let if fester too long will turn into anger and rage. That won't help you slay the dragon."

Maurice Asheley - first African American International Chess Grandmaster, author of Chess for Success

"I was hooked by the game." It was the thing I wanted to do, and eventually I wound up with "the brothers in the park," who trashed-talked, but they taught me to play without being distracted. To get better though, Asheley realized that he had to leave the park, and he began to play club matches against players who "respected good play." From the club mentors he learned patience and focus.

Getting even better, he announced to his mother that he wanted to be a chess player. She said: so where's the money? It was discouraging to him, BUT

"The quest is the soul's unfinished business. You can't just listen to other people's vision FOR you."

"I knew I had to do more." So he trained a group of Brooklyn kids the game, and learning that he loved to teach chess, too. That group went on to take first place in a national chess competition. Those kids, he proudly points out, have gone on to lead accomplished lives in other fields.

An epiphany occurred to Asheley one night while preparing for a game that would, if he won, award him the title of International Grand Master. He had failed to take that next step many times. Thinking about his grandmother, who always said that he was jack of all trades and master of none, he realized that "you have to be a grandmaster before you get the title." He won the match the following day with "peace."

For Asheley, "work is love made invisible." - Khalil Gibran

Kevin Olusola - beatbox cellist who placed second in the Yo-Yo Ma cello competition and first on NBC's a cappella show "The Sing-Off"

Taking piano lessons for the first time, Kevin at a very young age could immediately reproduce what his piano teacher played - backwards. From the moment his gift was discovered, his parents focused completely on it.

"Anyone can be innovative," he believes. There are four parts to that process:

1) Paradigm shift: "Opera completely changed how he sang on his instrument." His Chinese friends first suggested combining beat boxing with the cello. Not convinced at first, he ultimately decided that "you have so see your status quo and do something different."

2) Process: you gotta to do the work and be patient. "It's just going to take time, ya'll."

3) Downtime: his 18 months in China let him understand that he COULD make a difference through music. Stepping outside his realm "helped his process."

4) Collaboration: "Success in the 21st century will come through interdependence."

Sarathbabu Elumala - Real Life Slum Dog Millionaire. Food entrepreneur whose goal is to help end hunger in India

Everybody wants recognition. Growing up in extreme poverty, Sarathbabu Elumala has known hunger, and recounts a story of finding out that his mother, instead of eating, rationed the familiy's meager food to the children. Conditioned by their experiences and their lack of food, they competed to see who might eat last. Resisting descriptions of the poverty that was his everyday life, he realized that he could nonetheless be rich in thought and eduction. "Each and every situtation has a positive. Look for the positive to achieve your goals."

He conserved energy by uttering no more than ten words a day in school, by not playing, and by devoting himself completely to his studies. In order to not oversleep scheduled morning classes, he would sleep on a bare floor with temperatures in the 20's.

Eventually, he landed in the best engineering college in the India, where the mostly well-to-do students would hold conversations about celebrities and places that he had never heard. Not understand the context anyway, he would study, study, study.

Elumala's quest is that no one should be hungry, and has since that childhood, and those school years, started companies and foundations to combat hunger, from which, he clearly believes, NO ONE should suffer. This quote stuck: "If my mother's sacrifice only helps me, I am selfish."

In the subsequent question and answer sessions, he said he hopes to become the education minister in his state in India, and through education, teach young students to feed themselves.

Spencer West - Motivational Speaker for Me to We Foundation

"Imagine if you woke everyday believing you could make a difference in the world." It's humbling coming from Spencer West, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on his hands.

"I've been given these obstacles to show others how they can overcome theirs." He BELIEVES that.

In the Q&A that followed he talked about bullying in his school. Looking back on the bullying, which took place in a time when the subject was not widely discussed, "he's only angry that he never said anything." There needs to be a safe space for people to go to because this is not OK. "A community that excludes one of its members is no community at all."

Spencer's session was far too amazing to recap effectively. If you'd like to follow up with him and his work, go to 

He's currently working to bring clean water to 100,000 people "for life."