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Loudoun finds its superpowers in TEDxAshburn talk

Lovettsville native and combat veteran Rob Jones urges TEDxAshburn Salon attendees to use the weight of personal hardships to help them become more capable people. Times-Mirror/Veronike Collazo
At TEDx talks — the local initiative associated with educational TED talks — the star is the message, and the latest message out of Ashburn is that there is a strength in all of us.

TEDxAshburn hosted its latest salon Dec. 1, with speakers including Loudoun County High School student Ryan Thomas, entrepreneur Mukami Kinoti Kimotho, Marine veteran Rob Jones, "Shark Tank" contestant Krista Woods and A Place to Be co-founder Tom Sweitzer.

Themes from the night’s speakers included living in the moment, trusting one's self and using adversity to build strength and resilience.

“What we want to do is focus on that moment which we all have where we find a new level, where you may go into that abyss — could be anything, could be bills, could be health, could be harm, could be violence — and then all of a sudden, you find that new you and I think that’s something we all have in common,” organizer Nick Savage said.

Jones, who hails from Lovettsville, shared his experience of losing his legs while deployed in Afghanistan after stepping on an improvised explosive device.

After his injury, he said he realized his mission in life hadn’t changed. He still wanted a life he could enjoy and be proud of, so instead of seeing his hardship as a barrier, he saw it as a tool. He urged audience members to welcome new and unexpected challenges and determine how burdens can be used to make yourself more capable.

“When you use your hardships to make yourself more capable, not only can you handle that hardship, but you can handle even greater hardships later on until eventually, you get to a point where you can withstand anything life can throw at you,” Jones said.

Similarly, Ashburn resident and GloveStix founder Krista Woods told the audience to trust themselves and go after the things they want in life. When she invented the odor-fighting GloveStix, she didn’t wait until she knew exactly what she was doing, she just did it.

And she went on the “Today Show” and “Shark Tank” even though she felt afraid and like she wouldn’t win, she said. Woods said she always trusted that if she failed, she would pick herself back up, and if she won, that she would win gracefully.

“Do you really trust yourself? Because that’s the key,” Woods said. “We all have fear. We all have doubts. But if we trust ourselves, like truly trust ourselves, our gut, we can overcome anything.”

Kinoti Kimotho said everyone should find strength in their differences, in the things only they can contribute to the world.

“We are so hard on ourselves,” Kinoti Kimotho said. “We put ourselves down for all the wrong reasons. We nitpick. There’s always something to change, something about us that is imperfect, that we dwell upon. The issue became that we relate our value and our self worth to elements that have nothing to do with what is beautiful and what is powerful about us.”

Kinoti Kimotho said this is what put her on the path to create a line of dolls that aim to empower girls to accept and celebrate their differences.

The salon attendees also heard a song from rock opera A Will to Survive, spoken word poetry and about the power of living in the moment and disengaging from social media.

Savage said it was time for everyone to recognize the superhuman within.

“There’s not a kid or a human being on this planet that doesn’t have a strength,” Savage said.


What the heck is TED?

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