Full transcript of Ingrid Vanderveldt’s TEDx Talk: The Art of Making Impossible, Possible at TEDxFiDiWomen Conference. This event occurred on December 1, 2011 in San Francisco.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The art of making impossible, possible: Ingrid Vanderveldt at TEDxFiDiWomen
I mean what a treat but also kind of scary to go after SARK and then TBird, they were amazing, thank you. Whoo!
Okay, so before I get into my presentation, what I’m really curious about, given that this is TEDx for Women: How many women out there think that women are key to our global sustainable future? Raise your hand. Whoo! I do too. That’s pretty much everybody in the room.
Okay. Well. Good news. For many, many years, I’ve built and sold a number of companies, and as they’ve mentioned I hosted a show at CNBC, and I’ve been fortunate to do a number of different things in my life and in my career that have been a lot of fun for me. And people have always asked, “Ingrid, how do you make the impossible possible, how do you do this?” And I’ve never felt like I really had a good answer because I thought, well, you just kind of do it. And after years of really kind of doing it, there really is an art and a science to it — an art and a science to making the impossible possible.
Today, we’re going to talk about the art, because I dare to say, that the science piece, which I’d love to talk about at some point as well, without the art, it really is almost impossible to make the impossible possible. And the reason that this is important now, is because the last company that I built and sold last summer, it was a green energy company. And when I was doing this company, last fall, I really stopped and said, “Universe, what is it that I need to do next? What do you need me to hear?” And I really clearly heard, “Ingrid, everything that you’ve been doing in your life to date has been leading up to where you’re going to go now.”
We need to create a global sustainable future. And the only way to do this is through a new set of eyes, and that’s the eyes of women. And what you’re called to do is to do everything in your power to empower a billion women by 2020. So, I knew that everything that I was doing then, from that point forward — and that was just a year ago — my business, my policy, my TV initiatives, everything needed to line up towards this vision.
But the other thing was, I realized that, well, that’s great, that the things I’m involved in all moved towards that vision. But what happens if I’m not actually doing my part to share my story, and reach out to other women, who are exactly like me and I’m exactly like them, and help them understand the power of possibility, the power of belief, and the power of turning the impossible into the possible.
The Power of Belief
So, I want to share with you three things today, and the first one talks about: The Power of Belief. When I was in the 4th grade, it was really interesting because the principal called my parents up, and called my parents for a meeting. And they said, “Hans and Joan,” my parents’ names, “Dr and Mrs Vandervaldt, your child,” at that time the language they used, I was failing out of school. And they said, “Your daughter is not only learning disabled, but we believe she’s retarded.” — is the language they used. I was retarded.
And my parents, thank God for my parents, didn’t believe what they said — thank you dear God. And they said, “This cannot be.” And the principal said, “She is. And she is failing, she doesn’t listen, you know, nothing’s going right, we can’t do anything with her, we absolutely don’t know what to do with your daughter.”
Well, thank God for my blessed parents who said, “We do not believe you. And we believe she has possibility. And we believe that there’s something else going on here, that if we invest a little bit of time and effort, maybe we can figure it out, and maybe we can actually turn this little girl around.”
So, my parents found a special school, which was many, many miles away from our home. And they somehow got me to go over into this special school. So, the school I was in had four classrooms, in one big room, and I couldn’t really hear very well. This classroom, or this school, had one classroom per room.
Okay. It was many, many miles away from our house, and my parents went back to the principal and the school board and said, “Hey, our daughter, we’ve gotten her over into this school and if you look at the rules, she lives far enough away from this school to deserve busing to get to the school.”
And the principal and the school board said, “Impossible. Not happening. She’s the only one from this area that’s being sent over to that school. We can’t afford it.” And my parents were thinking, well, how are they going to do it. Because my dad was working, my mom’s taking care of all of the kids. How are we going to do it? They found a loophole in this whatever the laws were, whatever, and they said, “No, she deserves busing.” Lo and behold, first day of 4th grade. I go out of my front door, my parents say the bus is going to be here to pick you up. So, now I know, in the 4th grade, I’m going off to this special school.
Well now, the bus comes and picks me up. And the kids — I’ll jump forward and then I’ll tell you the story — the kids in school were like, “Ha ha! You were the short bus kid!” And I was like, actually I wasn’t, because the school had run out of the short buses. So, what they sent was a long yellow bus. You know, that fits like 65 people on that thing. And I was the only one on it! It was awesome. It was totally awesome. Because the bus driver, he became my best friend. And get this, he was like — you can imagine, a 4th grader, pretty small — he was smaller than I was. He was African-American, and his name was Shorty. Shorty and I had a lot in common. We had issues.
Anyways, so, Shorty drives me to the special school on the special bus and it was, I’ll just say, pissing off the school that my bus is taking all this room, and we’re blocking it. So, they decided I need to have my special parking space. So, what happened was: I was the last to arrive at school, just get her in last, get her off, whatever. And then they gave me a special parking spot, so that I’d be the first one to leave school at the end of the day. So, I had my own special parking spot.
Okay. Well, then when I was in school and the kids were like, “Ha-ha, this is the special kid, you’re special,” blah blah blah. Okay, so, when I was in school, they decided that I really did have issues, and I needed more help. So, they gave me a tutor, and that tutor would take me off to some special classes. And they would work with me and train with me, and we’d try to figure out what was going on with my learning disability, and all the other things that they were saying about me.
And through this whole time, you know, kids were joking with me, they were teasing me, it actually — you know, maybe I sort of lived in my own world, I mean, people say that I do that sometimes. But, you know, kids would tease, and to me, I was like, “Wait a minute. Here are my parents doing all of this stuff because they believe in my possibility. And here I am, going to a special school, on the special bus, for the special kids, in my own special class, had my own special parking spot. I’m freaking special! I am awesome!” Not everybody thought that, but I certainly did.
But, here’s where it all paid off. Because in the 6th grade, they did figure out that what the issue was, was I had hearing problems. That once they fixed those hearing problems, I excelled. But I realized at a really young age, not only the power of great parenting and belief from a parent — I’m not a parent myself, but really — I understood the possibility of choice, the possibility of believing in my own possibility, and believing that I was special. That’s critical.
As women as we move out into living our fullness, living to everything that we can be, is understanding the power of our own possibility. Casey talked about it a little bit earlier, everybody’s been talking about it. It’s been so awesome, I actually forgot I was supposed to speak today, I was so into it. And it’s been incredible.
So, here we go with another story I want to share with you, though. Because believing in the power of possibility is critical to delivering game-changing ideas that are going to change the world and help us move towards global sustainability. Certainly help us move towards empowering a billion women by 2020.
Get really comfortable with being uncomfortable
The next story is this. When I built my first technology company, I had just come out of business school, and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had gotten an MBA in Entrepreneurship. All my friends were getting corporate jobs. That was not for me, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was in Austin, Texas. Dell was there, the Internet was starting, and I knew that if Michael Dell, and if some of these other people, could build billion dollar companies, why couldn’t I do it? I didn’t know any better.
So, what happened simultaneously to that is this: I realized that in realizing and believing in the possibility of that, and being okay with the fact that I didn’t really know how I was going to build a billion-dollar company, but I could figure out how I might get there, I started thinking about what do I need to do. And so I decided I need to get myself a mentor who’s done this before, that I can work with. And the two people in Austin were Michael Dell, and a guy named George Kozmetsky, who built Teledyne, and he also mentored Michael Dell.
So, I decided, since Dr K, who was in his 80’s at the time, had done it himself, had worked with Michael Dell, and he was the benefactor of the business school I went to, that he was a good match for me. So, I went to Dr K and I said, “Hey, I’m just out of school, I want to build a billion-dollar company.” He took me on. The reason he took me on is because I was ballsy enough to say this is what I want to do, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but if you’ll help me, I will figure it out. And he took me on, but here was the deal — like I said he was in his 80’s. And he said, “Ingrid, I will work with you, but you have to come and pick me up at 4 o’clock in the morning, take me to the Holiday House”, which was his favorite place, to eat greasy-spoon breakfasts. And the reason was, is because by 6 o’clock in the morning, I would have to take him back to his office, so he could get on one of his many private jets, literally, and fly around the country to go see his companies. So, that was the deal, and I took it.
So, at 4 o’clock in the morning, every month, I would go pick him up from his assistant, Patty, take him to the Holiday House, and we would work on the business idea that I had. At the time, the Internet was starting to kind of grow in popularity and, you know, I saw a lot of people getting funded, and I thought, “Gosh, I would love to participate in that! And certainly I can build a billion-dollar company out of this!”
Well, long story short, my father ran an artificial intelligence technology company and that’s actually where I get my real geeky side. I love technology, AI, all that stuff. And he and his team had developed a piece of technology that they were using for defense systems. So, what they were actually doing, is that here in the United States — you know, those big helicopters you see in the news all the time, like in the wars unfortunately? — well, if people, if the army thinks something is wrong with these helicopters, they ground them to look at them. Every time they ground them, that costs $300,000. It’s kind of like when you take your car in, and you’re going to spend $100 to have it checked out, well, in the army it’s $300,000.
So, this technology that my father’s company had developed was an artificial-intelligence-based technology that they would apply to the database of the helicopter while it was running, and it could predict, with 97% accuracy, what the likely chance was of some kind of fault happening in this helicopter. And this thing, it was saving tons of money for our government and all that stuff, winning lots of awards, and as I was working with Dr Kozmetsky and I was thinking, “What can I do in the Internet? What can I do in the Internet?” And this stuff was going on with my father’s company, and I was like, wait a minute. There’s got to be a way to use that same technology and apply it to all those 0’s and 1’s that are flying across the Internet, and do assessments, to do personalization, what we know today as personalization.
Well, long story short, for the next 9 months, I would meet with Dr Kozmetsky and I’d say, “I’ve figured it out, I’ve figured out how we’re going to do this!” And Dr K would say, “No, my dear, you haven’t. Go back, try it again.”
“Dr K, I’ve figured it out!”
The end of 9 months, at that point, like my dad had put some resources behind the technologists, making sure we could keep them on board while I was figuring this out, and we were about to hit the wall, the company was going to close, and I was on the flight, going back to Austin, Texas from Tennessee, which is where the technology was based, and I literally did what I do all the time: as people who know me know I’m deep in meditation. And I went into meditation and I said, “God, I need this answer. I really need this answer. If you need me to channel this billion-dollar company just bring it to me now, because I need it.” Well, a lightning bolt, like literally I’m on that flight, it was like a lightning bolt struck my arm. Started scribbling — SARK was talking about that — started scribbling it out on the napkin. I knew the minute I scribbled it out that I had hit it. The plane landed, called Dr K, I said, “I figured it out!” He brought me over to his office right away. We started patents on it that day. That night, I get a call from one of the guys working with me who said I’ve got an investor who wants to hear about it. “Can you put this in a PowerPoint presentation, show it to him in the morning?” Of course. Did that.
Next morning, did the presentation with the investor. The investor sees it, shakes my hand, and leaves. And I said to Mike, the guy who introduced us, “What happened? This is the most awesome idea ever! Does he not see what the vision of this is?” Didn’t have an answer. He calls me later that day and he said, “Ingrid, Bill is not going to invest in the company. Bill wants to buy that napkin sketch for $2 million dollars.”
Now, looking back, I didn’t make any money on that company, it did well for a while, but I didn’t make any money on that company, should have taken it, but, thank you, but, long story short, what I learned, and in that process, I told Bill, I said, “If you want to participate, you come in as an investor.” He came back the next day, gave us $250,000, and that really kicked off that first company for me, and it also earned me my first patent.
What I realized in that process, though, was the second point, which is we have to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable.
So, I’m going to jump to the third point because I’m going to run out of time in a minute. And I practiced this, and I was like, “It’s not going to happen!” But, of course, it happens. Okay.
So, here’s the third point: because, back in August, this past August, so, as I’m meditating again, as I do every single day, and I was like, “Universe, if I’m going to help women understand, how do we like manifest? What’s the art of manifesting the impossible to the possible if we take the science out of it? If we have to think that we can believe in the possibility, and if we have to understand that we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, what’s the deal?”
It was like lightning struck again. And it was like the universe said, “Ingrid, think back to the biggest deals you’ve ever done in your life. When you did that deal with Dr Kozmetsky, how long did it take?” 9 months. How many moms are out here? Raise your arms. I’m not a mother, like I said. Someday I’ll adopt kids, or at least that’s the plan if my husband will let me. Or if he’ll buy into it, Glen, if you’re watching. Anyway.
9 months. Last year, after I sold my last company, and I was inspired with that idea of how am I going to reach a billion women by 2020, well, I knew then that I had to team up with some of the largest organizations out there that are actively involved with inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs, and how would technology be part of this to help us get there better, cheaper, faster.
9 months later, Dell hires me as their first entrepreneur in residence. My CNBC show? — I am not a trained television personality. I just knew that if I was going to reach millions of people around the globe, I had to host a television show. I had no idea how I was going to do that. From the time that that idea was born in my mind, 9 months later, actually on my birthday, that show was greenlit. One more idea, oh, my green company. From the time that the idea was incepted in my mind, 9 months later it sold. Even my own marriage. I thought my husband and I had been together 10 months, it was 9 months. And I was like, “Got it God!” Women of all types, we birth babies of all kinds, but I got it.
If women are the secret to empowering a billion women by 2020, we intuitively know how to do it. If we can believe that we can conceive, if we can believe in the possibility, if we can get comfortable with the uncomfortable of carrying these babies, and 9 months later we can birth them into being, we can make anything happen.
So, with that, I encourage you, I need you, we need you, as the women earlier today were saying: As women, we need you to step into what you intuitively and already know. You don’t even have to do that much work, because the natural law of birthing just that process alone, we understand how to make things happen. And that timepiece, keep it in mind, whether it’s 9 months or some other time for you, that’s critical too. And the reason that is critical is because if things — I believe in the law of attraction — but if things happened overnight, we’d never have to believe in the possibility because they’d just manifest. If time didn’t matter, we’d never have to learn how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. So, there’s time there.
And ladies, and guys too — I’m seeing some of the guys, and we love you, we adore you, and love working with you, oh, you’re fine — just love you. But ladies, it’s our time. Step up. Bring it. We need you. And if there’s anything I can do to help you, you just let me know what it is, because I’m here in service to you and in service to the world.