Phoenix College is proud to be hosting our first ever TEDx event on April 24. The event's theme is The Opportunity of Transformation. What happens when the world changes? What do we do as an ever evolving and shifting world finds the old way of doing things irrelevant, redundant, and no longer applicable? This TEDxPhoenixCollege event will explore, "The Opportunity of Transformation" when what used to work need to evolve, shift, and change - and how we use that urgency of now to do, create and move towards a better future.

One of the speakers for this event will be organizational consultant and author, Dr. Michael Zirulnik. Nicknamed “Z” since childhood (because his last name is a mouthful)—Dr. Zirulnik believes in living as if today were his last; planning as if he’ll go on forever. His robust experience often has clients guessing his age. Dr. Z is an author, thought leader, former athlete, professor, designer, past aircrew member, a retired member of the emergency medical service, former national security fellow, entrepreneur, artist, philanthropist, and lover of dogs. Dr. Z gets charged up about helping others improve the human condition. His unique training allows him to translate often complex, technical information in a manner that is both informative and entertaining for a general public. Dr. Z continues to engage with his academic training, conducting research, writing, and publishing in academic journals.

Here is a brief synopsis of Dr. Z's TEDxPhoenixCollege presentation "Transformation is a Long Game." 

The image of airline pilots in the US offers us a look into social transformation across America. The numbers of women and minorities in the profession indicate that social transformation is a long game, and requires longevity in our action. In this talk, Dr. Z proposes that we can incrementally expedite social transformation by educating youth, and adults about civics and public policy to navigate inequities, while cautioning, "It won't be easy. Transformation is a long game.


We caught up with Dr. Z to learn more about him and why this topic is so meaningful for him. 

Why is this topic important? 

The idea and the title of my talk, Transformation is a Long Game resonates with me for a host of reasons. First, it addresses the idea that while our lives are inundated with distractions, we still need to focus, put ourselves fully into a goal or a mission, and do the hard work that needs to get done, if we expect to achieve a goal, a change, or in the case of my talk, transform our social landscape. It happens one person at a time, and people add up to what we call, society. Secondly, I wanted to address the notion that while the tech boom is indeed important, and certainly exciting, our life's work needn't be just about computational processing speed, or becoming famous, or making a lot of money. Meaning is in the impact we have upon ourselves and others. I'm dedicated to uplifting others, including myself. That's why my company's tagline is, We make people better. And I mean that! 

Tell us a little about the journey to your current position? 

A potential client shared with me recently, a statement that seemed to sum up my journey to where I am today. "You come from a very diverse set of experiences and careers. Somehow, you've been able to put it all together and make it work for you" he said to me. That's exactly right. Thematically, my career and personal trajectory have focused on service. I believe in a mission of serving others. From my first job working in a small pet shop in New Jersey as an early teenager, to my next job as a secretary, followed by a career as an EMT, a flight attendant, a designer, an educator, and today, the executive director of a communication consultancy focused on high-risk, high-stakes industries such as aviation and healthcare, my time is spent helping and serving others. In turn, that enriches my life. I was once told that serving others is selfish, and I believe it to be true. It gives me a great deal of joy to serve and help others achieve their goals and turn dreams into reality. It's not always easy, but it's possible. Today, I work hard to help people free themselves from the chains of their own insecurities--often giving them the permission they need to hear. Those simple words often allow them to take a leap of faith in themselves. In the end, they fly--sometimes, quite literally.

Why does this topic speak to you?

I think I've addressed this to some extent above. To offer a bit more insight, I've had the experience to be both wealthy and poor at various points in my life. I've also seen what that looks like around the world, flying from city to city, and country to country for nearly a decade while working at a large international airline. Having had these experiences, I recognize that many of our limitations are self-imposed, while many others are structural in nature. We can set free the self-imposed limitations with some work. We can see this in just about every bookstore or online book catalog where there's an entire section dedicated to self-help. Where I want to focus our work more, and where my talk's topic is focused, is in advocating for and offering individuals a path that helps them navigate the structural inequities of society--the things that often keep great thinkers and doers from achieving their dreams. These are the laws and policies that are institutional and difficult to navigate. I want to continue advocating for us as educators to teach civics and public policy so that children and adults alike, can begin to successfully navigate these structural inequalities, and achieve their dreams, while the rest of us wait for society to catch up. 

To learn more about our speakers or TEDxPhoenix College, please contact Rowdy Duncan. 

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