Nicole Dill of TEDxMileHigh on Listening, Failure, Vulnerability and Faith

I first met Nicole Dill when she was on staff at Mile High Vineyard Church.

To describe Nicole I have to use many nouns…or is it adjectives? Either way. There’s a lot of them.

Nicole is a wife, mom, photographer, event planner, and serves as Chief Operations Officer for TEDxMileHigh.

But beyond her roles and titles in family and work, lies a welcoming spirit with the ability to draw people out into safe places of being seen and known.

It was no surprise then to find out her involvement with TEDx, an organization that seeks dialogue and understanding at every turn. When I learned this, I quickly jumped at the chance to pick her brain on how Jesus is working within this community.

It’s my pleasure today to speak with Nicole Dill.

1) When I hear Terry Gross on Fresh Air or Guy Raz on the TED Radio Hour ask questions, I think, “dang, they seem to listen really well and from that stance of listening ask great questions. 

From your perspective, what does listening do to and for a person?

Wow, this is a great question.

In the context of those radio shows that you’re mentioning, listening creates a welcome for those who are being interviewed, as well as those who are listening in.

It’s a type of hospitality that creates space for people to deeply consider the impact of how they are responding, and the possibility of impact.

Last week, former President Obama was speaking in Chicago.

“Just a tip for all you young folks…listening to understand not listening to respond…that’ll save you a lot of heartache and grief.” He says he learned that in marriage, but it seems like that might be one of the most important things to learn no matter what stage of life you’re in.

That’s part of what I love about the TED community – we are truly trying to listen to each other for the best ideas and ways to implement them in the world.

2) It feels like there is this recipe when I listen to TED Talks. It’s this idea, “we thought we had it right or understood. but turns out maybe we didn’t have it all figured out.” Then add in some personal failure and a little transformation story, and listeners like me are hooked.

So drawing from my perspective of the TED formula, what personal failure to transformation story could you share with my readers? I know I know. We’re diving right in!


So, if you’re an Ennegram junkie, I’m a 3. Which means I don’t like failure, and if I experience one, I absolutely don’t want to share it unless there’s a clear redemptive conclusion.

As I became a wife and a mom in the last 3 years, my failures are way easier to spot, and seem to come at an alarming pace. Over the past 3 years, I did all the things that experts will tell you are some of the most stressful experiences in life.

I got married. Had a wonderful baby girl after 9 months of being extremely sick. Bought a house. And then, had another baby just 17 months later, with an equally difficult pregnancy.

During that time I also made some significant advancements in my career. Now, though I’m still thoroughly a 3, I’m way more comfortable with the fact that I fail… ALL the time (or at least feel like I do). When I’m with my family I feel like I should be working. And when I’m at work, I’m convinced that I’m failing my family.

I don’t look like a typical stay at home mom and I’ve come to terms with the fact I couldn’t ever do that full time. At the same time, I’m not a career driven 20-something who is single and can devote all my energy there either. Now with a two year old and six month old, a full time job, and still being early on in my marriage, I’m in no way an expert on how to manage it.

I would never stand on a TED stage with a great idea about this. But I’m committed to the process, and trying my best to be present in every room I’m in. It’s an ongoing story of failure and deep personal transformation, and I’m getting more comfortable sharing it.

3) Is it taboo to talk about Jesus in a TEDxMileHigh Talk platform geared toward technology, entertainment, and design?

Last week I was at TEDFest with 500+ TEDx organizers from over 60 countries. We had a chance to watch TED2017, and I was encouraged with the openness of the platform once again. TED is not affiliated with any religious belief, and while you won’t hear straight up sermons, I did hear a lot of things that were so encouraging about Jesus in one short event.

Here’s a few.

  • A pair of women who started a non profit to reduce obesity in African American women, who prayed to Jesus before they started their talk, giving Him glory for what they were about to do.
  • A lesbian Muslim woman who spoke highly of her interaction with a Jesus-loving-Southern-Baptist who influenced her toward working with refugees, which has now become her life calling.
  • And most notably, Pope Francis, who spoke openly about Jesus and told stories from the Bible.

With an eye for it – sometimes by name, sometimes by association – I think Jesus is all over the TED platform.

4) Why is vulnerability within our own stories important to becoming the kind of people we desire to be?

I’ve been known in the past for saying that ‘you have to fake it until you make it’ (in reference mostly to big challenges and career jumps).

In some regards I guess that’s true if it makes you brave. But I think what is far more valuable is being truly who you are in every room you show up in. When we are fighting to be different people in different spaces, it creates a painful dissonance in us. I think this wears at our ability to be fully known, and ultimately grow.

If we give in and share who we are – fully – it  will cut time and heartache out of relationships and growth.

5) The most formative TED Talk I ever heard was…

I happened to catch the Brene Brown talk on vulnerability before she hit it big time.

I remember making my parents and boyfriend (now husband) watch it with me. Then sharing it with every person I know. It was no surprise later to learn of her deep and growing faith. Now I read all her books and devour any article/interview I can find with her.

Her words brought voice to so much that I intuitively knew was true and needed to hear. I still refer back to her talk all the time!

6) How do you see your faith as an integrated part of what you do?

I loved my years working as a pastor, but I’m so excited about the ways Jesus is moving outside the church walls.

When I started working with TEDxMileHigh I was so impressed by the people all around our city who are doing kingdom work, without maybe even knowing it’s what Jesus would be up to if he lived here in Denver.

The TEDx community are passionate, brilliant people who are doing important things in our region. I’m so grateful to be a part of telling their stories.

7) What kind of story do you desire your life would tell?

One of grace.
Of risk.
Of presence.

And a lot of deep belly laughter.

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