Tatjana Brkic is a teacher and researcher at Red River College, specializing in applied business research and social innovation. She’s also one of the speakers who will be presenting at TEDx Winnipeg on June 6. We caught up with Tatjana to get to know her a little better before the big day.

What is your idea worth spreading?

Small business are the leaders of tomorrow. They can respond to social and environmental challenges in innovative ways that are more effective than planned action. Their survival is linked to the community so they understand how to address social issues efficiently.

Who inspires you, and why?

My students, my daughter and youth in general. There is so much positive energy that young people have these days. They respect diverse cultures, choices and opinions in a way that many of my baby boomer peers are unable to do. There is no hypocrisy or hidden agendas to overcome and it is a pleasure to see how easy is to motivate youth to engage in society in a way that leads to more tolerance and collaboration.

What would you most want to tell your 20-year-old self?

Nurture optimism and trust in people. As I changed countries, cities and professions I found joy in different career paths and discovered that I can make friends everywhere. I got good advice, help and positive energy from people I met on my journey. I had to rely a lot on acts of random kindness and support from people who I knew a very short time and I have been disappointed only three times. I have done so many wonderful things, seen beautiful places, met lovely people and had the privilege to watch my lovely daughter grow into a strong intelligent young woman. So I would say keep smiling and do what you can to walk in the sunshine in your life.

What’s the best gift anyone ever gave you?

Love.

The Movie or The Book?

The book always.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I do not want to grow up at all.

The last time you wanted to give up on something, what made you keep going?

There are too many people in this world who criticize others and talk about things that cannot be done or changed. Complex relationships like business involvement in environmental protection are often viewed as impossible to manage. We cannot be waiting for somebody else to make this world a better place and see ourselves powerless to improve our lives. This attitude is the reason why we face so many environmental and social challenges. I kept going because I needed to demonstrate that we can change most things if we take small can-do steps. Indeed staying motivated to persevere is not easy but an easy way out is rarely the right choice when we are addressing important problems.

What TED Talk do you think everyone should see?

Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math of coral. It helps us understand how secrets of the universe might be hidden in the most unlikely places. It also tells the story about collaboration and respect for all kinds of skills we bring to the table.