The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Break The Junk Food Cycle: A New Keynote From Bryant Terry [VIDEO]

“One million dollars is spent every hour encouraging children to eat and drink the worst beverages and the worst food,” health speaker Bryant Terry tells the crowd in a new keynote. “We're talking foods and drinks that are high in salt, high in sugar, high in fat and low in desirable nutrients that they need.” These three ingredients are what Michael Moss calls “The Holy Trinity”—and the over-consumption of salt, sugar, and fat is contributing to a national health crisis. A problem that, as Moss mentions in his keynotes, has an economic cost approaching $300 billion a year.

Access to healthy food has become a real problem, Terry adds. It's also problematic that there's no mention of healthy, nutritional foods among the inundation of ads we see every day. This is especially dangerous for young, impressionable minds. “In my mind, it's almost a form of psychic violence,” he tells the crowd. Every day they are seeing ads and hearing jingles encouraging them to buy or eat certain foods. Terry argues that without improving access to nutritional food, young people aren't always aware that there are other options available besides the processed and fast foods they see on TV every day. Through his keynotes, and his program b-healthy! (Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth), Terry teaches us how to break away from a junk food cycle and embrace healthy eating habits that will contribute to an inspiring future in the food movement.

In keynotes like this one (check it out here, or embedded above), Bryant shows us shows us how to improve access to fresh food in our communities. As a food justice advocate and author of the books Vegan Soul Kitchen and Grub, Terry reflects on the connections between the food we eat and issues such as poverty, sustainability, and structural racism. He's also one of less than 100 chefs that's been inducted into the newly formed American Chef Corps. program to prepare culinary dishes promoting diplomatic exchanges. To book Bryant Terry as a speaker and find out how you can be a part of the food justice movement, contact The Lavin Agency.

The Rise & Fall of Mainstreamed Asperger’s: John Elder Robison in Vulture

John Elder Robison lived with Asperger's Syndrome before people knew what to make of it. Now—just as the disorder has become more widely known and understood—the American Psychiatric Association has rendered it non-existent. This makes Robison's Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's “diagnostically obsolete,” the author jokes in a post for Vulture. “Luckily,” he writes with a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek quip, “consumers don't know that!”

The change came just as mainstream media started to incorporate those with Asperger's-like characteristics into their programming. The tipping point, Robison argues, came with Sheldon Cooper in the Emmy-winning comedy The Big Bang Theory. Since then, many other shows have drafted characters that resemble those with the disorder (The Bridge's Sonya Cross, in particular). “In the span of just six years…Asperger’s has gone from being unknown to being ubiquitous,” Robison writes. “And I don't just mean on TV: Asperger diagnoses in the real world have skyrocketed in that same stretch of time.”

The uptick of Asperger diagnoses coupled with the increased prominence of those matching its characteristics on television caused a mild hysteria. People started to question if there was a connection: Did television cause Asperger's? Concerns escalated. And with that, the diagnoses disappeared almost as quickly as it had come into the mainstream. What's ironic, Robison concludes, is that characters like Sheldon didn't really represent what life with Asperger's was like. And while some characters were starting to come close, they were introduced at the very moment where the relation was clinically meaningless. Robison is a prominent voice on autism and was recently appointed to the U.S. Government's Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Darkly humorous, but brilliantly optimistic, he brings a fresh perspective to treating autism as a difference and not a disability. And, in his talks and bestselling books, he shows us all how we can lead meaningful and productive lives—even if we are just a little bit different.

Can Coffee Stunt Creativity? Maria Konnikova In The New Yorker

Maria Konnikova's recent New Yorker article may have some avid coffee-drinkers switching to decaf. Studies show that consuming caffeine certainly has benefits, including: Increased alertness, decreased fatigue, enhanced short-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and concentration. However, Konnikova, author of Mastermind, says these benefits come at a cost. In fact, too much coffee could actually hamper your ability to think creatively.

“Creative insights and imaginative solutions often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to something unrelated,” Konnikova explains. The ability think creatively “depends in part on the very thing that caffeine seeks to prevent: a wandering, unfocussed mind.” So althought coffee keeps us from falling asleep at our desks, it may actually cause us to focus too intently. “Caffeine prevents our focus from becoming too diffuse,” she continues, “it instead hones our attention in a hyper-vigilant fashion.” While it's sometimes beneficial to be extremely focused on a task, it's more difficult to complete higher reasoning and decision-making functions after consuming caffeine.

“It may be possible to reap the positive effects of caffeine without the creativity-diminishing side effects, however,” she notes. This is thanks to the placebo effect. A 2011 study at the University of East London showed improvement in accuracy and speed in those who had consumed decaffeinated coffee while believing they had consumed caffeinated coffee. If we think the caffeine has a certain effect on us, we may be able to attain those benefits even if the caffeine itself isn't causing them. In her compelling talk, Konnikova shows us how to think like Sherlock Holmes. Creative and deductive thinking are teachable, she asserts—we just have to train our brains to work that way. When it comes to coffee and creativity, Konnikova concludes that “an extremely caffeinated approach may be productive, as long as the mind is allowed to wander every now and again.”

Design-Inspired Health Care: John Maeda at TEDMED 2013 [VIDEO]

“Becoming a leader isn't about going up the mountain—it's about jumping off the mountain and asking the question, will you survive?” says John Maeda in his keynote at this year's TEDMED conference. Actually, as he later clarifies, leadership is not only asking if you'll survive jumping off the mountain—but whether you'll thrive doing so. This varies from many traditional theories about how to be an innovative leader. It's this kind of out of the box thinking and creativity that will help the medical professionals of tomorrow (and leaders in any industry) overcome the challenges associated with a rapidly changing industry.

“Creativity” probably isn't the first characteristic most people would associate with a doctor. After all, who wants their surgeon telling them that they'll be using “imaginative” thinking during a routine operation? However, there is room for creative thinking in the industry in other respects. As the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, Maeda sees art and design everywhere around him. Approaching common health care problems from an arts-based way of thinking, he believes, will play an instrumental role in fixing the flaws in the industry.

In his talk, Maeda combined personal anecdotes with sweeping explorations of the meaning and applications of design. Design is everywhere and can be found in everything, he says. That's why it is so critical that we apply that kind of thinking to every industry. Maeda has even advocated for implementing this kind of thinking at the educational level by incorporating the arts into traditional STEM courses (science, technology, engineering, math). Both accessible and applicable, Maeda shows audiences why art and design matter—and how they can be an invaluable asset for the leaders of tomorrow.

Local, Sustainable Eating Isn’t A Fad: Bryant Terry In The New Scion Ad

Chef and health speaker Bryant Terry is passionate about food. Considering the Scion iQ's tag line says it's a vehicle “made for people who are driven to follow their passions,” it's no wonder the car company chose Terry as the face of their new campaign. In the new ad, Terry is seen popping in and out of farmer's markets and gardens, signing copies of his critically-acclaimed cookbooks, and giving live presentations. All while using the pint-sized vehicle to get from stop to stop. These activities aren't just something he filmed for the commercial spot, though—Terry has been dedicated to building a more sustainable and just food system for the past decade.

People think that local, sustainable eating is a passing fad, Terry says in the short documentary Healthy Mission. But the food justice activist explains that his grandparents have been eating that way for decades. In the film (which is an accompaniment to the commercial) we see that promoting the value of eating fresh, local food isn't just part of Terry's day job. He lives and breathes sustainable eating. That's why his yard is predominantly taken up by a garden where we grows most of his own meals. “We don't need grass,” he jokes, “we need food!”

Terry wants everyone to have that same access to healthy, nutritious food. That's why he started working with young people in New York many years ago. “I was deeply concerned that many communities simply didn't have access to healthy, affordable, fresh food,” he says in Healthy Mission. “I wanted to really help them think about what they were eating, where their food came from, [and] how it's affecting their personal health and well-being.” Not only that, but he wants people to know that eating well can—and should—taste good. Terry is currently in the midst of cooking up another book (due out in 2014) and was recently inducted in the prestigious American Chef Corps. There's never a dull moment in his interactive talks, either, where Terry sings, cooks, and shares his vision for how we can eat better individually—and bring that opportunity to people all over the world.

Lifting The Stigma: Mental Health Speaker Michael Landsberg

“If you talk about mental illness in a dark, sombre message, no one is going to listen,” Michael Landsberg says in a recent interview. “I try to bring a sense of levity.” Landsberg is the host of the popular TSN sports talk show Off The Record. He is charismatic, bold, upbeat, and demands attention in front of the camera. He has also suffered from depression for most of his life, and now he is speaking out about his experiences to help reverse the stigma surrounding mental illness. People can be functioning members of society and struggle with mental illness, he says—and Landsberg's personal story is a testament to his message.

In the interview, he says that people who are suffering from a mental illness should not be afraid to admit it. Over time, he says he realized that his depression was “an illness, not a weakness,” and stopped worrying about what people thought. Since coming forward he says that 9/10 days are good days for him, and he hopes his message can help others get to a similar place. In his keynotes, he uses examples from his daily life—and those of other famous athletes who have also battled mental illness—to paint a more complete picture of mental illness than is typically discussed in public. He uses humour and an upbeat rapport to show audiences that overcoming obstacles is possible no matter how bleak the circumstances, and that mental illness awareness is something that needs to be taken seriously.

David Eagleman: Mental Illness Is Real—And It’s Important We Understand It

In the wake of the the tragic shootings that took place last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, trusted neuroscientist David Eagleman says that it is important that we, “prioritize our national discussion of mental illness,” now more than ever. “I suggest we take this tragedy as a wake-up call about how we want to address mental illness in our society,” he writes in a new blog entry. “A deeper understanding can fuel early detection, resources, prevention, rehabilitation, and cures.” While there is a massive debate erupting over whether lax gun control laws or a lack of mental health support systems is the root cause of the event, Eagleman says the fact that news coverage of the assailant's mental health is being so inaccurately portrayed is concerning all on its own.

In one particular two-sentence news report of the suspect's mental condition, four different diagnoses are strung together haphazardly, Eagleman says, creating a very problematic depiction of each of the disorders. He explains how, “two of [the terms used] are different degrees of the same disorder, one of which is wrapped in quotation marks, and most of which have no plausible bearing on the Sandy Hook shootings.” Eagleman says that the article leads readers to believe that Asperger Syndrome is some sort of combination of Autism and a personality disorder—which it is not—and that the use of quotation marks around personality disorder make the condition out to be a colloquialism rather than a legitimate classification of a biological disorder. Further, he says that none of the aforementioned disorders have a known relationship with violent behavior, and using the terminology in that context suggested otherwise.

It is problematic, he explains, that the information about such important mental health conditions is being so inaccurately portrayed in the media. It not only affects the public's perception of mental illness in relation to this particular event, but also their overall understanding of how brain function differs from person-to-person. As he explains at length in his book Incognito, a misunderstanding of a disease itself leads to a misunderstanding of how to treat it—which very rarely provides positive results. Eagleman, who is also Guggenheim Fellow and bestselling author, reminds readers that mental illness is real and more resources must be devoted to properly understanding how the brain works, and helping inform the public about mental health warning signs. A leading voice in the field, Eagleman stretches what we know about our mind and helps us understand why we do the things we do.