I am fascinated by excellence. My love keeps growing for achievers and outstanding companies. I keep up with TED talks where achievers from all over the world summarize their wonderful experiences within twenty minutes. TED talks are free; this is amazing! I have at times spent money and effort to travel from one state to another to hear a lecture and attend workshops. In TED talks, you hear excellence free of charge. What I love about the people who deliver TED talks is that they succeeded in places where many people fail. They synthesized creativity mixed with hard work when everyone else saw what seemed to be insurmountable challenges that made most people quit. I ask myself this question each time after finishing watching or listening to a talk: what is so different about these people? Why did they not give up? Why did they decide not to complain and instead to march forward with precision and great focus. The speakers are of different colors, nationalities, fields of knowledge, as well as different religions.
I would love to invest more time studying the speakers of TED talks to decipher their secrets. Having said that, almost all TED talks have some general attributes. My personal observations include the following:
- Almost all of the speakers reveal great persistence, and they would never …ever give up.
- They all ask themselves difficult questions, and they spend a lot of time and energy trying to find the solutions.
- They all went through a difficult time or were lost in a metaphorical jungle during their lives.
- They all worked very hard to learn although they failed many times. Their brains were like sponges constantly absorbing new knowledge.
- They all were taught to present and summarize their experiences in 20 minutes — these twenty minutes which have the potential to change many people’s lives.
60 Minutes and other TV programs have conducted stories about Chris Anderson, the new founder of TED talks, trying to know how he selects the speakers. Anderson does not have a set criteria for choosing speakers. He selects people who he believes have interesting stories to tell. Anderson and his team spend many hours coaching them to tell a simple story. Anderson encourages the speakers to make the story personal and to share their weaknesses, so it can be delivered from the heart, making people react freely.
As I deliver many talks in my professional life, I try to veer away from the dryness and the monotone of science, staying away from “sleep-inducing talks” and make every talk a personal experience, making sure the audience will only know this by watching me deliver the talk versus reading about it.
Sometimes, when I listen to talks in my world, I wonder where the speaker lives. The talks are so lifeless and boring that we must all just endure the tedium. My frustration is usually doubled when the speaker goes overtime.
These are some my best TED talks:
- Pamela Ronald: the case for engineering our food. The speaker has spent almost all of her research life trying to improve our food and to make it safe and resistant to diseases. Ronald intertwines the story of science and her personal life story of trying to help feed many hungry people in different parts of the world.
- Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? This man is a really prolific thinker, one of the best in improving our education in the US. His ability to analyze the world of education is outstanding. Listening to him will allow you to hold on to hope that our schools will become better someday.
- Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. Cuddy’s talk as of today has had around 7 million viewers. Her talk is like a great symphony which can move you smoothly from a bad mood to an energized state. Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School who focuses on investigating how people judge and influence each other. Probably, Cuddy’s talk is my favorite and one which I have watched several times so far.
If you have not heard about TED talks, please start listening to them. If you know about TED talks, make it a habit to listen to 3-4 talks every month. They are well-worth your time.
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