Clutch, Shift, Gas—When the road ahead calls for a switch in mindset.

Pretty much everyone on the planet has had to undergo a not-so-trivial shift in life during the past couple of months. Some, of course, have been much more dramatic than others. Life isn’t back to the way it was, and won’t be for some time—if ever. 

Right now, as we’re all moving forward together into the unknown, here are a few people who have graced the TEDxTUM stage with a common core message: don’t feel intimidated to think in a new way.

Any way you slice it, the world is going through a new phase, and it’s up to us to define what that means. Whether we’re comprehending our brain power through our hands, learning to understand a mystifying new medium, or revolutionizing something we didn’t think could be improved—the power of shifting gears is tremendous. 

Just because a situation is new doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. Sometimes, it only requires a dance between the clutch and the gas. The transmission always roars the loudest right before the upshift. 

So, is it time to do things in a new way?

Anja Schweimer: This is what happens when you actually understand your dog

When is the last time your dog told you how he felt? Seriously. Think about it: how long ago did your pup come up to you, tail wagging, to let you know what kind of dog owner you are? And when your furry friend managed to get through to you…what did you do with that feedback? 

According to Anja Schweimer, there’s a good chance that you’ve misinterpreted the signals.

“The truth is—we do those things to our pets, because the world is designed for the owner. Not the animal.”

-Anja Schweimer

Anja outlines in her 2019 talk that so much of what dog owners do is, sadly, not always optimal. We tend to believe we know the right ways to care for our pups—whether it’s an exciting car ride with ears flopping out the window, a game of fetch with a favorite ball, or the most humane way to discipline. And yet, these widely-accepted ways of dog-rearing are not only ineffective…but could end up marking your dog with lasting mental and physical trauma.

Anja’s talk reminds us that, as humans, we don’t always know best, and there’s so much to be gained from taking a deeper look—even if the other side seems incomprehensible.

Ralph Ammer: How drawing helps you think

Let’s be honest: most of us haven’t drawn for fun in decades. Even distracted doodling feels like a thing of the past once the monotony of adulthood set in, once work took precedence and Real Life demanded our full attention. And for a great deal of us, if we picked up a pencil right now…we’d still probably draw like an eight-year-old, as if our artistic skill just rested on pause all these years.

Ralph Ammer believes otherwise.

“We don’t find beauty. We make the world beautiful by paying attention.”

-Ralph Ammer

In his 2018 talk, Ralph explains that the reason our drawings don’t often reflect the images in front of us is because we’re relying too heavily on what we know. It’s in the empty spaces between the rational objects that our brains visualize—Ralph asserts—that we can access a deeper, uncharted sense of looking at the world.

Ralph’s talk, peppered with insights, teaches us not only that creativity isn’t limited to classical artists, but also that new doors in one’s mind are waiting to be opened. All you have to do is pick up a pencil and see what happens.

Gustavo Strauß: A violin meets a loop station

A violin can produce a spectrum of sounds. A bright, uninterrupted vibrato of robust tenor can be quickly followed by a peppy pluck of the strings or a spiccato stroke of the bow, creating a sound pattern that is as unique to each song as the composer himself. Throughout history, violinists performed their compositions one by one, with little room for innovation.

In 2018, Gustavo Strauß took to the TEDxTUM stage with a cutting-edge new sound, ready to revamp what we’ve come to know about the violin.

“I wondered if it’s possible to combines these two extremes in one composition and create a song which could be enjoyed by all of my friends.”

-Gustavo Strauß

If you held your eyes closed as Gustavo played, the chances are high that you’d mistake him for a band of several different members performing in tandem. Using just a violin and box on the floor flanked by serpentine wiring, Gustavo sat alone on the stage, recording bits of himself playing notes before moving along to an entirely new sound. The machine remembered these notes and looped them back atop the notes Gustavo played in real time, bursting into a sequence that felt almost like chapters of a book flowing together to tell a story in the ears.

Through Gustavo’s composition, we see that an instrument designed centuries ago can electrify us still…as long as we’re willing to experiment with new tones and resonate in different pitches.