Good morning. About three years ago my son turned me on to a video from a website that one of his professors used in a class. At the time I watched the first video I had no idea who much I would come to enjoy the website. It has taught me, broadened my insight and stretched my brain in many ways. I am very grateful!
The website is called “TED” (Technology, Entertainment and Design) and is a global effort owned by a private non-profit group called the Sapling Foundation. Its stated mission is to “disseminate ideas worth spreading” and the conference has been held annually since 1990. The events take place in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia and address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture.
Speakers at these conferences are given a maximum time of 20 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Each presentation is recorded and presented on the website for free soon after each conference. What is amazing about access to the videos being free is that it costs $6,000 to attend a conference and $500 to watch them streamed live! Those who wish to attend always out number those chosen. Basically one has to “apply” for consideration to attend. On the TED website is this explanation: “We’re looking for people who are likely, in our judgment, to be a strong contributor to the TED community and/or the ideas discussed at TED and/or the projects that come out of the conference”. So again I say, free access to this material is amazing.
Most of the time when I finish watching one of the TED videos, I feel like I have learned something really worthwhile. At times I have been deeply moved. I will say I don’t enjoy everything on the TED website and this is especially true of a good bit of the “Entertainment” material. Much of that content is just “too far out there” for me but occasionally I have found a jewel.
I remember well the first TED video my son sent me in 2008 that began my use of the site. The presenter was Jill Bolte Taylor who got the research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and as an expert watched her brain functions (motor, speech, self-awareness) shut down one by one and lived to tell about the experience. Her story and insights are astonishing, but the video is a little on the “deep” side.
A much better starting TED video would be one that is only about five minutes long and done by Ric Elias. He had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. He talks about what went through his mind as the plane went down, including his near certainty he was about to die. His talk is compelling and touching.
Another favorite video on the TED website is called “Stumbling on Happiness” by Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist. I believe he successfully challenges the idea that we need to get what we want to be happy. Good stuff!
Then there’s the video by Barry Schwartz that takes aim at freedom of choice. In this presentation on TED he states his belief that too many choices have made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. This presentation certainly made me stop and think.
And last, but certainly not least, is my most recent discovery (and favorite) of Brene’ Brown’s video titled “The Power of Vulnerability”. In the presentation I believe she makes the point successfully that often our inability to show feelings keeps us from a great deal of possible happiness and contentment. I have shared this video with more people than any other on the TED website.
I guess some will be wondering why the sales pitch for TED here in this blog. I honestly don’t intend what I write here to come across as selling something. Instead it is my intention to let other people know about a storehouse of material that has been very meaningful to me. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t go the the website and watch a video.
I am very grateful for the TED website, the people behind it and the speakers who share so openly. I have learned a lot, had my fixed way of looking at things challenged frequently and found reinforcement for some intuitive things I believed but had no backup for. Yes, most of the videos are 15-20 minutes long. But I guarantee that spending time with a TED video will be a lot more useful to your life than a “Two and a Half Men” rerun or the latest edition of “The Office”.
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. Chinese Proverb