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Tentanda Via - Attending TEDx At York University

Tentanda via means The way must be tried in Latin. It’s the motto of York University, one of my alma maters.

Last week I was able to spend a whole day at TEDx @ YorkU, an independently organized TED event with that very theme.

The way must be tried.

All the speakers and performers that day were accomplished individuals who have tried something new, something different at some point in their lives. And that something led them places. That something resulted in something remarkable, unique and awesome.

Talks from the chief planner for the City of Toronto, CEO of United Way, and English professor were interspersed with break dancing, gospel choir, and spoken word performances. I left with my head buzzing. Good feeling.

Every semester as part of teaching my Healthy Lifestyle Management college course, I assign my students a project that raises some eyebrows (well, at least until they receive their second project).

The assignment is to try something new and hand in a written report about the experience.

The rules are:

  • it has to be something you’ve never done before

  • it has to be done between the time I assign this in class, and the time it is due (I’m not interested in hearing what you did last summer, or what you are planning to do in the next year)

  • it has to be planned and carried out specifically for this assignment (not something that would occur any way)

  • it has to be legal and consensual (pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised)

  • it has to promote one or more areas of wellness (e.g. physical, emotional, creative, spiritual)

As I introduce this assignment, students are clearly divided in those who love it and those who hate it. I am especially interested in the latter group. After all, they are the ones who stand to benefit the most from this experience.

We throw around some ideas in class. They have two weeks. No time to ponder, no time to overanalyze.

The best part (for me) comes when the assignments are finally submitted. If you always thought that marking papers is boring, think again. This is a freaking blast.

Every semester certain themes arise.


Try sushi. Wasabi. Dim sum. Avocado. Green tea. Mussels. Dragon fruit. Durian. Snails.

Make paneer (cheese). Bake a cake. Bake apple pie from scratch. Cook butternut squash.

One student tries cooking for the very first time in his life. First, fried eggs. Success. Although it takes five eggs in order to cook two. No matter. Second – chocolate chip cookies. He eats half the dough, but the rest turns out ok.Success. He reports still preferring the dough.

One student decides to make lasagna – she is South Asian, and this is definitely outside of her comfort zone. The family loves it. “After tasting the lasagna my husband said to me that “I like if you get this kind of assignments every week so we can try something new every weekend”.”

However, it’s really not about the lasagna. “I felt that trying new things that you have never done before is not bad and not as hard as I thought. It was really fun and exciting.” Now, we are talking life lessons…

This is a durian!


Go to the gym. Learn how to deadlift. Learn how to ride a bike.

Try hot yoga. Indoor skydiving (what the heck is indoor skydiving?). Indoor rock climbing (ok, some clearly do not like the outdoors). Try Squash. Zumba.

A student includes a detailed diagram, depicting herself trying Zumba.

Join a kick ball league. Go hiking. Take a BoxFit class. Try Muay Thai. Tai Chi. Parasailing. Skiing. Snowboarding. Ice skating (yay, Canadian winters!).

Quote from student:

“When Ms. Kate, my cool and energetic teacher, asked us to try something we’ve never done in our life, few thoughts came to mind, such as skydiving, skinny dipping and ice skating. As you may know now is the middle of winter, and it’s not a good time for sky diving or skinny dipping, because I may get arrested while frozen. So I chose ice skating.”

Wise choice.


Start learning French. American Sign Language. Playing guitar.

Watch a curling game.Take public transit. Drive a car with manual transmission. Learn Majhong, a Chinese board game. Do a spell to lift negative energy. Operate a lawn mower. Teach a community class. Perform in front of a live audience. Read at a poetry festival. Volunteer to sing in church. Write a program in a new programming language. Watch a movie in 3D.

Start praying in the morning. Participate in Free Hugs campaign. Celebrate Valentine’s Day. A female student asks a guy out on a date. Another student decides to foster parent a cat.

Meditate. Donate blood. Get a tattoo. (Yes, really). Someone with fear of water enrolls in a swimming class. Someone with fear of heights climbs the CN tower.

One student does his own laundry for the very first time. A guy experiments with make-up. Another guy gets a pedicure. Another guy learns knitting. A woman learns how to change a tire on a car. Another woman fixes her own plumbing.

I love how there is a first for everything… You could try something new every day if you wanted to!

In 2010, I learned how to put on a sari (badly), and climbed the CN tower.

In 2011, I finished a race last. That was a first. It was an orienteering race, and I’m still immensely proud of that one.

In 2012, I made podium at a Spartan Race. And then… I made podium again. And again.

In 2013, I ran my first 30k road race. I announced starting my own business.

The coolest thing is that you never know where something new, no matter how small would take you.

I ran into a student few months ago. Her face looked familiar. I knew she took a course with me few years back, but did not remember her name. “Kate!”, she called out. We chat for few minutes. “Kate, do you remember that assignment you had us do? The try something new assignment?”. I nod. “I tried kickboxing for the first time. I’ve been kickboxing for two years now. I’m working on my green belt now.”

The funny thing was that I didn’t remember reading that particular assignment. I read hundreds of them since then. However, that assignment – small task, few written pages – brought this woman something that she enjoys in her life every day. A hobby. A passion.

And that is the coolest thing.

After all, few years back, I found this crazy-looking race called Warrior Dash and drove out to Chicago with my dad and my brother.

A little less than three years later, I have announced that I will be starting a life coaching business, with emphasis on obstacle racing.


[To my dad and brother – thank you, guys, for coming along on that crazy adventure. It still continues today!!!]

On my list of new things to try in 2013:

Parcour = a combination of street gymnastics and freerunning. Check out the wildest video here. These skills would definitely help with obstacle racing.

Capoeira = a Brazilian martial art that combines the moves with dance and music (what’s not to like?)

So… your turn. When was the last time you tried something new?

Signing off, SOLO


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