IN 2003, AT THE AGE OF 34, Tony Quan was at the top of his game.
Combining his creativity, keen understanding of social issues and urban culture, and possessing a multi-colored assortment of spray paints, Quan became a highly regarded graffiti artist in the gumbo of ethnicities that is East Los Angeles. And then …
Known on the streets as Tempt, TemptOne or Tempt1, Quan rose to star status among well-known artists who “tagged” buildings and facades throughout “East Los” and, to the community, Quan was a mouthpiece of sorts for social awareness and justice.
Out of nowhere, Tempt’s legs, arms and hands decided to step away from their roles. Increasingly, he stumbled and hobbled, dropped his spray paint cans, and struggled to sketch or even perform basic physical functions. Soon, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [ALS], more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and eventually his ability to verbally communicate disappeared. For six years, Tempt lay paralyzed in a healthcare facility, unable to create or produce any of his beloved street art. The East Los voice of social awareness and justice had been silenced.
By Chance, Happenstance
In a serendipitous occurrence, a successful American film, television and commercial producer and entrepreneur named Mick Ebeling attended a local fund-raising event and was seated across from Tempt’s father and brother. Their conversation that night eventually led to the difficulties Tempt and his family had communicating, family members working with a board filled with alphabetized letters and dragging their fingers across until Tempt blinked for the correct letter. It was a slow and arduous process of even the most basic communication.
Wanting to help, Ebeling thought, “Hey, why don’t I get one of those Steven Hawking [a famed physicist at England’s University of Cambridge and also an ALS patient] voice machines for Tempt and his family?”
But it was his next thought that changed the game for Tempt and potentially for millions of other ALS sufferers around the world: “And why stop there?”
He figured if eye movement had already been proven as a means of communicating [albeit in heretofore clunky fashion], why not apply that same function to the creation of art? But there was one problem: Ebeling had zero technical or engineering expertise.
Accordingly, he flew five of the brightest tech minds in the world to Southern California and put them up in his Venice Beach home. In the living room, the team began slinging ideas, building prototypes, returning to the drawing board time and again, and refining the device which eventually became known as the “EyeWriter”.
Amazingly, it took only weeks to come up with the low-cost device consisting of cheap sunglasses with lenses removed, a micro CCD camera and some copper wiring to create an eye-tracking system that allowed Tempt to return to his art. Once his eye-directed drawings are completed, they’re rendered into a 3D sculpture by a tight community of Tempt’s graffiti world peers and admirers. Even more amazing is the price tag. With computer source codes readily available online at no cost, the EyeWriter can be made at home for less than 50 bucks. By contrast, a similar, earlier-to-market device called My Tobii was being sold for $7,000.
Nothing Is Impossible
Ultimately, this solutions-based collaboration led to the formation of Not Impossible Labs, a SoCal-based think-tank and engineering consortium with the Mission: Create technology for the sake of humanity. The group focuses on a single person and works to solve their specific challenges, believing “if you help one person, you can help countless others with the same problem”.
The story of Tempt, Ebeling, and EyeWriter has been inspiringly told in a 10-minute documentary-style video [link: https://www.notimpossible.com/about]; been featured in a TedTalk entitled, The Invention that Unlocked a Locked-In Artist; and detailed in one of Ebeling’s books, Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done.
My wife, Mary, heard Ebeling share Tempt’s story live at a leadership conference in Orlando recently and said it was off-the-charts inspiring and I should check out the story. I did and it is incredible.
Who’s to say the seemingly impossible isn’t possible with the right combination of blood, sweat, tears and late-nights?
For those of us who host, design or execute corporate meetings and events, I wonder, does the sky really have a limit? Or do we?
If I told you 30 years ago about real-time audience polling devices, image-mapping on urban cityscapes, and laser light shows that rival fireworks, would you have believed me? I think not.
If I told you 20 years ago what today’s smart phones would be capable of doing, would you have believed me? I think not.
Don’t you know there were plenty of doubters back in 1962 when then-President John F. Kennedy told Rice University graduates America would put a man on the moon “by the end of the decade”. And we did … with five months to spare.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I love that attitude.
On a side note, a friend mentioned he’d recently bought a rechargeable, lightweight cordless vacuum cleaner. An accompanying pamphlet had a quote on the cover from James Dyson, Engineer and Founder, Dyson Ltd.: “Our mission is simple. Solve the problems others ignore.”
Many people say they’d like to change the world for the better but only the most determined do so. When you’re considering your next corporate meeting, event or incentive, imagine the possibilities if you take the attitude that you are going to do something extraordinary – something seemingly impossible – and leave an everlasting impression on your attendees because you delivered an experience unlike any other.
Speaking of Impossible …
It wasn’t too long ago, it seems, people were leaving the hospitality industry in droves. Lockdowns, agonizingly tedious and delicate preparation for corporate gatherings – the rare face-to-face back then along with online virtual events – placed an extraordinary burden on planners, other meeting-related professionals and hosts.
Well … “We’rrre baaa-ack.”
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics released June 2nd for the month of May 2023, there were 48,000 jobs added in the Leisure & Hospitality business sector, the fourth fastest-growing sector in the U.S. economy right now behind Healthcare, Professional Business Services, and Government.
Bizzabo also reports 97% of media marketers say in-person events are crucial. And Corporate meeting and event spend is expected to reach $1,552.9 billion annually by 2028, according to Allied Market Research.
After abysmal -9.1% annualized “growth” from 2016-2021, the M&E market grew by 4% in 2022, outpacing the economy at-large. The fastest growing areas of hospitality include corporate events, holiday parties, and professional social occasions.
What seemed impossible two short years ago when we wondered if F2F meetings and events were going away for good, is very much alive and well and trending in a strong direction.
Impossibly Demanding …
Earlier this week, Travel.com released its 2023 Room Service Report, including some of the most unusual requests made by hotel occupants. As M&E hosts and planners, we’re familiar with unusual requests, requests made at the 11th hour, and other demands that require a rabbit, a hat, and a rabbit’s foot, to boot.
Some of these made me laugh. Some made me scratch my head. And others left me in a “Huh …?” state of mind. Here’s the Top-10 List of impossibly Demanding Requests:
10. Eggless shakshuka [a spicy North African dish of poached eggs, tomatoes, olive oil, peppers and garlic]
9. Bison served rare
8. A specially prepared rice bowl … for a dog
7. No-egg-white omelet [think about that one]
6. Cockle popcorn [a shellfish meal native to coastal Scotland]
5. To cook a fish the guest brought with them.
4. Boiled bottled water.
3. Blowfish [if not prepared expertly, it can be deadly].
2. Melted ice cream [Will a milkshake do?]
1. Diet water [I kid you not.]
Let us know if you’d like us to put our best creative foot forward on your behalf and make the seemingly impossible possible at your next meeting, event or incentive.