This week’s campus celebrity is Zac Taka Oshima, leader of TEDxWasedaU and a fitness advocate!
Department: SILS Year: Senior
Yuri Kusumoto: When did you first hear about TED?
Zac Taka Oshima: My high school teacher who taught psychology in literature class, Mr. Leppard! He was very inspirational and such a positive teacher, he eventually became the headmaster at my high school. You could say most of my initial exposure to TED talks came from when I was in highschool.
Yuri: Did you know you would join TEDxWasedaU before you entered Waseda?
Zac: Well at first, no. I used to be on the American Football team at Waseda, but I decided to leave the team because it took up a lot of my time and focusing on my studies was and still is very important. I had this period of time where I wasn’t doing much, so I decided to go to the TEDxWasedaU introduction event with my friend. I was surprised at the sheer amount of people who had shown up to the venue. The event changed my expectation towards TEDxWasedaU. At first, I thought it would be just sitting and listening, but it explained a lot about the organization and what’s put into an event such as sponsors, designing, promoting, etc. Even today, we get a lot of curious students asking to join thinking that we are about discussing and watching TED talks. Although I may have been a bit disappointed at the time, upon reflection, I’m definitely glad I stayed.
Yuri: It’s amazing how you have been involved with TEDx throughout all 4 years of your university life! Has your perspective towards TEDx changed over these years?
Zac: Yes, for example, when I first entered TEDxWasedaU, I was on the sponsor team and we had a lot of difficulties gathering sponsors. I used to think using personal connections and leverage wasn’t something I should be proud of. I have a competitive nature and at the time I thought of gathering sponsorship money like a form of competition. In that sense, I thought it was about how many sponsors I can gather in the given equal opportunity as if it was somehow unfair to use personal connections. Now I see it differently. I think it’s great to use and cultivate your network because “you are you”. Using our networks is what we will continue to do for the rest of our lives. It’s about creating a win-win situation!
Yuri: How did you feel when you were asked to become the new leader of the team?
Zac: JD, the previous leader, asked me over Skype, because I was in Australia studying abroad at the time, and I was really happy! Although, I don’t think I prepared myself appropriately for the work to come.
Yuri: How has it been leading TEDxWasedaU?
Zac: It was a lot more work than I expected, but my mum, dad, and my girlfriend, Michelle, are my support system.
Yuri: Last year’s TEDxWasedaU theme was “Unlimited”. What are some of the ideas in your mind for this year?
Zac: It’s actually a really hard thing to decide. I’ve been obsessed with this album “Forrest Hill Drive” by J Cole. It features a song called “Role Modelz” which gave me a few ideas surrounding our social interaction and projections towards each other. For 2016, TEDxWasedaU received over 50 applicants. We’ve finished recruiting and have started our preparation towards TEDxWasedaU 2016. So the theme is a secret for now!
Yuri: Can we look forward to the student speaker competition this year, as well?
Zac: Yes, in April. I don’t want to make the potential speakers think the theme limits the talks they can give. Even TED.com headquaters intructs us to make a theme that is vague and inclusive. For example, last year we had many student speakers from different backgrounds: a pole dancer, semantic philosopher, and future scientist raising issues on gender stereotypes towards STEM subjects. There was one student in particular who talked about the idea of collaborating an Uber-like service with cleaning innovation. On-demand cleaners?! I’m looking forward to this year’s student speakers!
Yuri: What do you do in your free time?
Zac: Going to the gym. I eventually want to establish a fitness service.
My girlfriend developed anorexia while she was in the United States. She was at a bad place and had to return to Japan, so all I wanted to do was turn that around. Now she is bulking up and has no trouble gaining or losing weight. I think she is more empowered now. Fitness can change your mind in a more positive way. I’m just happy that my girlfriend was able to get out of that bad place. Through that experience and how easy it is for me to share my passion towards exercising and training, I thought it would be irresponsible of me to stop at just helping my girlfriend, when in reality many many people suffer from similar conditions.
For that reason I developed an entrepreneurship dream. A lot of my old friends came back and criticized, but even more have reconnected with me saying that I gave them some motivation. The encouragement I received pushed me so much more than the criticism and if I did listen to the criticism, it only made me want to work harder to prove them wrong. So I live by what Abe Lincoln said “Mercy for all Malice for none”. I’ve reduced the amount of criticism I have towards others. It’s too easy to criticize someone.All of this came from a book called “ How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The title may sound a bit sneaky, but it’s more philosophical to me. One example the book suggests is to smile more. I’m bad at smiling, so I’m trying harder to smile around others.
Yuri: We interviewed your roomie, Joseph Rimawi, a few weeks ago! Where did you first meet him?
Zac: I met him at the school dorm and we reunited when I got back from my study abroad. Now I live with him and my girlfriend.
Yuri: Is it weird to be living with him and your girlfriend?
Zac: (laughs) A lot of people ask me that. Not really. Actually, we get along well, we all have different views, and we aren’t afraid to talk about it with each other. For example, we have a lot heated debates about social issues to politics or if almond butter is better than peanut butter!
Thank you Zac for all the amazing stories!
For those who are interested in TEDx talks, you might have the opportunity to become the speaker! Keep updated to the TEDxWasedaU page for the Student Speaker Competition coming up in April-May!
Link to TEDxWasedaU page:
Also for more fitness inspiration, follow Zac on instagram! @zakquro