Change begins with us. That’s a core theme that resonated from two PhDs, a modern-day Renaissance man, an Unreasonable Fellow, a nationally ranked slam poet, and two nonprofit entrepreneurs who shared their stories of risk and reward at the inaugural TEDxMileHighSalon. Practical inspirations are not relegated to those who took to the TEDxMileHigh stage, they reside in each and every one of us.

So exactly how can we begin to manifest real change? It depends on whom you ask.

Should you consult Cesar Gonzalez, he’ll tell you that to achieve excellence and affect change, you should surround yourself with people who treat you like a Messiah. People who show you love and respect, expect the best from you and focus on your strengths. After all, what others think does matter. He believes that our performance is directly shaped by the high expectations of those around us. The great byproduct of this concept is that we amass a collection of unique, talented individuals, that when combined, can create impact in the world. Leveraging the power of voice is what Shannon Galpin says can incite positive change. She has spent years in Afghanistan, providing a voice to women and children who are oppressed. Consider the sheer volume of stories about atrocities and brutalities that occur in conflict zones. It has caused many of us to become desensitized and apathetic. But Shannon has found that using an individual’s story to highlight a greater problem gets people to listen and to understand. “Voice” changes lives, communities and countries from within. Her advice, “Look outside yourself and into your community and look to where you can perhaps speak for children, abused women, refugees, the homeless, because you see them—us—as catalysts for a better world.” Michael Huemer uses a political context to address change—or rather what holds us back from seeking change. He uses the concept of political irrationality versus political rationality to demonstrate his point. The assertion is that political rationality is costly since you don’t get to believe whatever you want to believe. If commit to rationality, then you put your belief system at risk. Because most of us are willing to accept risk only if the expected reward exceeds it, we will not become rational about political issues. According to Michael, “the worst social problem that we face is the problem of human irrationality because this is the problem that prevents us from solving the other problems.” After all, if you are going to solve a problem, you have to have accurate beliefs about it. This entails a continual pursuit for knowledge and a resolve to remain open-minded even when our belief system is being challenged. Rather than using politics, Todd Siler uses art and science to paint a vivid image of how we can save the world. As expressed by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, Todd points out that, “there is an art in science and a science in art and the two are not enemies, rather they are different aspects of the whole.” The takeaway is that we need the whole. We need to open our minds, challenge our curiosity and transform our ideas in order to transcend our compartmentalized way of viewing the world. He challenges each of us to identify an urgent problem in the world and how we would solve it. Then communicate your idea through art to make an impact. “Skipping stones” is the key to creating a ripple effect, according to Libby Birky, who believes that change begins with you and me—with us. It simply takes one person to take one action to create ripples that affect hundreds or even thousands of people. She uses the example of a woman who encouraged her officemates to volunteer at Libby’s nonprofit, SAME Café. This woman sent one email inviting people to donate their time at the restaurant. That one email resulted in 150 hours of volunteerism and 300 organic meals served. So take that next step, skip your stone and watch the ripple effect. Last but not least, Allen Lim delivered his own words of wisdom: “Just try.” After decades of coaching the best cyclists in the world, Allen took a risk, making a radical shift from the known to the unknown. He walked away from his sports psychologist job to launch a sports drink company. This wasn’t the path he intended to travel, and along the way he questioned everything—including his identity. “If you strip away all the crap about who you are supposed to be… who you want people to think you are, if you stop betting on false currency, the identity, the status and the appearance that you think fits the bill, then you really have nothing to lose… because no one can ever take away from you who you have always been and who you will always be—and that is perfect.” Go ahead, trust yourself and take the first step into the unknown. All of the changemakers mentioned above share one common ideal: Change does not happen by playing it safe. Change is about community, raising our expectations of ourselves and of those around us, and making connections. Some ideas have to be experienced and some experiences are magical. With that in mind, we’ll end with a bit of magic—check out Theo Wilson’s performance, Woman: An Ode to the Feminine. What role does risk play in your life? What encourages or prevents you from taking risks and why?