Debbie Millman - "Don't Waste Time"

At Debbie Millman’s presentation at IdeaFestival 2014, we are again reminded of the profound importance of failure in living a creative life.

When she was a young girl, Millman imagined a life “like Mary and Rhoda’s” on the Mary Tyler Moore show. She wanted to be a career-woman — little did she know just how complicated her own journey would be. 

Millman is now President Emeritus of AIGA, the largest professional association for design in the world. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine and Co-Founder and Chair of the world's first Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting, "Design Matters," the first podcast about design on the Internet. In 2011, the show was awarded a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award.

She is the author of six books on design and branding. Last year, an exhibition of her visual essays debuted at the Chicago Design Museum.

But before all that, Millman traveled a rocky road. Her work was met with many rejections. AIGA was initially a road block, and early on, Millman was humiliated by criticism she received on a 2003 weblog about her role in giving a design award.

Here at IdeaFestival, she narrates her career trajectory — with design, journalism, business, marketing, and leadership stepping-stones — to illustrate how each mis-step has created a new opening.

So often, we are our own worst enemy. Those who are successful, Millman says, “didn’t determine what was impossible before it was possible. Just the possibility of failing turns into something self-fulfilling.” 

Humans, Millman says, are like computers. “The computer will do absolutely nothing unless commanded to do so.” It’s only our perceptions of our abilities that limit us. 

Whether you’re starting out young, or reconfiguring your life mid-way, there is always time to “rewrite the possibilities of what comes next.”

“Do what you love.” Never put off your dreams. Never underestimate the “strength of imagination.” 

Millman puts it best:

“Don’t compromise,
 And don’t waste time.
 Start now,
 Not 30 years from now,
 Not 20 years from now,
 Not 2 weeks from now,


Hope Reese



Helping New Ideas become Tomorrow’s Businesses

Enjoy this guest blog post from the Kentucky Innovation Network. Mandy Lambert is the commissioner of business development in the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival. Wayne

When provided the right support, great ideas become the foundation of our economy. This spirit of innovation has marked Kentucky for centuries.

  • In 1873, Louisville druggist John Colgan invented chewing gum.
  • The radio was invented by a Kentuckian named Nathan B. Stubblefield in 1892, three years before Marconi made his claim to the invention.
  • In 1934, cheeseburgers were first created at Kaelin’s restaurant in Louisville.

Today, innovators across the Bluegrass State continue to dream up great ideas. That is why the Kentucky Innovation Network is the presenting sponsor of IdeaFestival this year – to help new ideas become tomorrow’s businesses.

Innovation and small business creation go hand-in-hand. IdeaFestival exposes Kentuckians to some of the most visionary ideas in the world. The Kentucky Innovation Network wants to show and help these Kentuckians turn their own ideas into full-scale businesses.

Consisting of 13 offices throughout the state, the Kentucky Innovation Network partners with small businesses to provide the resources needed to start or grow a business. Assistance can range from marketing and sales assistance and small business advocacy and resource referrals, to helping small businesses navigate the variety of financial and incentive program options that can encourage investment and job growth. All services are provided free of charge.

While you’re at IdeaFestival, be sure to stop by our booth. Network directors will be happy to talk to you about turning your idea into a business or taking an already developed business to the next level. And, for the daring and creative, we have some fun activities and opportunities to win prizes. Here’s a hint: you could be a star!

The Kentucky Innovation Network is an initiative of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship. Visit our website at

Mandy Lambert

IF Film: Indie Filmmakers Stay Curious

Enjoy this guest blog post from IF Film. I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Wayne

Since the Louisville Film Society was first approached by the mayor of Louisville to join with IdeaFestival and create IF Film, the concept of combining the 6 years of success we have had at our Flyover Film Festival with a brand that challenges its attendees to “stay curious” appealed to both the board and members of the organization. After all, what evokes more thought in filmgoers than story and actor-driven films whose very nature is to buck the establishment and push the boundaries of storytelling? It is independent film that keeps the audience curious. No formula has to be followed for this type of filmmaking since big studios aren’t dictating artists’ every move. Directors, actors and writers are allowed to break rules, trying new methods of getting the story across all while aiming to keep the audience engrossed in the film. We felt that bringing our film festival over to IF and rebranding Flyover as IF Film would continue to attract our local film lovers as well as allow a nighttime programming component that many IdeaFestival attendees will enjoy.

We have selected 13 features and short films from across the globe, many of them winning awards and playing large festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW. The thing that makes the IF Film program different than your normal night out at the movies is that none of these films have been distributed into theatres or on DVD yet. In fact, many have only played select festivals so you will truly be some of the first people to watch, enjoy and stay curious with the films we are screening.

We start off the fest with a Louisvillian turned The Good Wife Hollywood starlet, sprinkle in thought-provoking documentaries and features, host a short film showcase that includes animation, drama and docs from around the world and close out the festival with the premier of Produce at Slugger Field which was shot right here in Louisville, including scenes in the ball park. $5 from every ticket sold for Produce benefits local Down syndrome advocacy agencies.

We have a special discount on tickets and passes for IdeaFestival pass holders and hope you will find our program as varying as we do. There is something for everyone. Check out our teaser of the scheduled films and then reserve your tickets now.

We hope to see you at the movies!

IF Water: Challenge the Way You Look at Water

Enjoy this guest blog post from IF Water. I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Wayne

Are you willing to challenge the way you look at water?

Water. It’s one of the Earth’s most powerful and precious resources, yet many people in this country rarely think about how fortunate we are to have easy access to a seemingly limitless supply of water. If we are thirsty or need to wash our hands, we turn on the facet and it flows freely. How often do you think about where your water is coming from, or how much you are consuming? Have you ever had to worry about how you’re going to get safe drinking water for your family?

As Founder and CEO of WaterStep, a local non-profit that works to create water solutions and fund water projects all around the world, it is my job to bring awareness to the world water crisis and to rally people to help fight this severe problem. One of the ways we do that is by hosting the IF Water Conference, part of IdeaFestival®, which will be held on Tuesday, September 30th at The Kentucky International Convention Center.

This marks the 3rd year for this event, and the water activists and experts that will participate are going to lead us in some mind bending discussions that will forever change the way we look at water. New this year, students from around the world will be “attending” this event via live streaming, and they’ll even have the opportunity to tweet in questions to the panel of our water experts.

Fabien Cousteau is an oceanographic explorer, conservationist and documentary filmmaker. As the first grandson of Jacques Cousteau, Fabien spent his early years aboard his famous grandfather’s ships. Today, Fabien continues to fulfill his family’s legacy to protect and preserve the planet’s marine habitats. Fabien will share stories from his recent 31-day mission living under the sea, the longest time a human has spent underwater.

Rose George is a Journalist from England who will speak about sanitation issues worldwide. As the author of The Big Necessity, Rose George brings a global perspective to sanitation practices and behavior. Rose will speak about the cultural, bacteriological, and psychological landscape of sanitation throughout the world. 

Pat Mulroy earned her fame as the general manager of the Las Vegas water district, where water usage has decreased over the last two decades, despite continued population growth. Pat Mulroy has led the Southern Nevada Water Authority through one of the worst droughts in the history of the Colorado River region. Pat will share more than 20 years of experience with water conservation in the United States.   

After hearing each of these fascinating presentations, we’ll use creative thinking to explore solutions that could potentially result in saving lives.

As always, the IdeaFestival® invites you to Stay Curious™. At IF Water, we encourage you to take this invitation one step further, and actually become part of the solutions that will change the world. After all, what could possibly be more inspiring than saving someone’s life?

Follow along at #IFWater14.

Mark Hogg, Founder and CEO of WaterStep     

Creativity Needs "Leaky Mental Filters"

One of the most interesting writers on the psychology of creativity is cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. In a recent article at Scientific American, quoted in part below, he discusses the potential relationship of non-clinical levels of psychopathology to creativity.

[Researchers] have found.. that while on-the-spot, timed creative cognition is associated with the ability to focus attention, real-life creative achievement is associated with the ability to broaden attention and have a 'leaky' mental filter. In other words, perhaps the very same characteristics that may hinder performance on IQ tests and standardized academic tests (e.g., broad attention, impulsivity, daydreaming, and fantasy-proneness) are the very same characteristics that increase the chances of real-life creative achievement. Further research should investigate this intriguing possibility.

While careful to point out that certain mental pathologies shouldn't romanticized for their supposed connection to creativity, Kaufman's point about "leaky" mental filters interests me because it suggests that our brains differ in degree, not kind. Prodigious savant and synesthete Daniel Tammet very quietly made similar points during his IdeaFestival 2010 appearance, parts of which may be watched here.

Elsewhere, Kaufman writes about the link between intelligence and "an openness to experience."

His interest in the subject grew out of difficult childhood. A self-described "late bloomer," he regularly argues for wide range of intelligences in his writing.

The little understood relationship between creativity, intelligence and the brain is certainly a big part of the story of Jason Padgett, who as a young adult was attacked and beaten outside a bar. Severely concussed, he later began to experience crippling social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Like other synesthetes he also noticed that he had begun to see shapes and angles everywhere, and had somehow also gained the ability to intuit the complex mathematics behind natural phenomenon.

Padgett is one of the very few people in the world with acquired savant syndrome. He'll share his story at IdeaFestival 2014.

A limited number of Festival passes and Day passes are available, but you'll need to get one soon.

I hope to see you at IF14!

Stay curious.


Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

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