Kate Webster, a Forest Park resident, will be giving a TEDx Talk this Sunday afternoon, April 19, at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Webster’s talk is on “Quiet Power, Changing the Way You Communicate So You Can Change your World.”
Webster said her proposal was one of 16 chosen out of over 50, perhaps because it fits with the theme of this year’s TEDx conference, “Fusion.” She explained that Quiet Power, in fact, represents the fusion of unlikely parts.
“Twenty years ago,” she said, “I was a newly minted self-defense instructor at my first instructors conference. When I found out board-breaking would be the culminating event of the weekend, fears focused on what others would think about me filled my head. Every waking moment, I practiced my aggressive face and kick to make sure I’d succeed.”
But after trying three kicks, she still hadn’t broken the 1-inch-thick pine board.
“Just as I was about to give up, I looked out beyond the board and saw a colleague hold up the knife edge of her hand. I couldn’t believe she thought I could break the board with this seemingly less powerful part of the body. I had nothing left to lose. I took a deep breath in and, on the exhalation, my shoulders relaxed for the first time. I connected mind and body, believed in myself and the negative messages stopped swirling in my head. Without further thinking, I swung my arm and hand around — THWACK! — the board broke!”
Breaking that board was a transformative moment for Webster.
“While the passive fears in my head didn’t work, neither did my aggressive power. However, my Quiet Power did. By connecting my mind and body and believing in myself, I found the inner confidence and my Quiet Power to break through that board.”
That breakthrough, if you will, symbolizes for Webster how people can overcome fears that hold them back.
“We all have ‘boards’ in our lives,” she said, “but it is the choices we make around those ‘boards’ that either diminish or expand our potential. I let those fears determine my rigid routines, safe job choices, and unhealthy relationships — keeping my belief in myself at bay. To break a board, you must have an unshakeable belief in yourself — a capacity to quiet the negative messages in your head, suspend doubt, and know that you can do it.”
The approach Webster will outline in her TEDx Talk fuses the academic and the practical, mind and body, believing in yourself and the acquisition of skills which promote effective Mindful Communication and empower people to “speak up for themselves and effectively manage difficult people and situations.”
In a July, 2014 post on Blogs, Breaking Thru Barriers, Webster wrote, “The young woman walks into my self-defense class and exclaims: ‘I’m soooo psyched to learn strikes and punches to take out an attacker!’ By the time she leaves, though, she assuredly says: ‘Wow, I never knew I could stand up for myself by just saying one word: No. It’s so effective.'”
Webster, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in comparative education and teaches at DePaul and Dominican universities, quit teaching self-defense three years ago and last year started her own company, Breaking through Barriers (BtB), in which she reaches people in three different ways. One is through large group talks like the TEDx Talk she’ll give on Sunday. Another is through one-day workshops in which she presents her ideas but then breaks the participants down into small groups in which they do practical exercises. A third way is through a series of 4 one-on-one sessions which allow her to work with a person as a unique individual.
Webster described her approach to self-empowerment, which fuses belief in yourself with the acquisition of tools or skills, as “practical but not prescriptive.”
“Once people believe they are worth it,” she said, “then they use the practical skills I teach in Mindful Communication and Quiet Power, or they might start apply the skills and develop a sense worth from doing it that way.”
“A lot of books have a prescription,” she said. “I don’t say ‘do it this way or that way.’ You make it yours. That’s what makes it exciting and acceptable to men and women.”
The first TED (technology, entertainment, design) talk was held in Silicon Valley in 1984, with the slogan “ideas worth sharing.” The organizers at the time thought it would be a one-time event, but TED events are now held in North America, Europe and Asia every year and have had speakers like Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Bono, and Bill Gates. The 16 TEDx talks on Sunday will not be produced by TED — hence the “x” attached — but to be able to use the TED brand, the event must conform to TED’s standards and rules.
Webster’s talk will be streamed live on Sunday and can be accessed by going to IIT’s website. To contact her, go to firstname.lastname@example.org; www.breakingthrubarriers.com; or @DrKateBreakThru.