TED TALKS TO GET AHEAD
Want a free pep talk from the stars of business and beyond? Step this way
They’ve launched hundreds of careers, landed unknowns lucrative book deals and notched up billions of views on YouTube. Ted Talks are a phenomenon: we started ‘leaning in’ thanks to Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders’, we upped our sleep game because of Arianna Huington’s rallying cry, and we know a good chunk of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ after Beyoncé sampled it on Flawless. But inding new talks can be tough – each one is supposed to be about an ‘idea worth spreading’, yet often it’s a trope you’ve heard before. We’ve waded through hours of footage to ind the talks that will actually inspire you.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
The idea Being the domino. Who Luvvie Ajayi, a writer and activist who calls herself a ‘professional shade thrower’, and whose fans include Bono and Shonda Rhimes. What Ajayi believes troublemakers can make real change – just by stating the controversial opinion. She talks about times in her life when she’s said something she assumed would be unpopular (like criticising a well-known author), only to realise others not only felt the same, but were thankful she’d started the conversation. Quote ‘For a line of dominoes to fall, one has to fall irst, which then leaves the others choiceless to do the same… Being the domino, for me, looks like speaking up and doing the things that are really diicult, especially when they are needed.’ Apply it Criticising an idea or process that everyone else seems okay with may not seem like it’s worth the trouble – but chances are others are thinking it’s a crappy idea, too. In these instances, Ajayi has three questions she asks herself: ‘One: do you mean it? Two: can you defend it? Three: are you saying it with love? If the answer is yes to all three, I say it and let the chips fall.’
FORGET THE PECKING ORDER AT WORK
The idea Super-locks. Who Margaret Heffernan, business author and former CEO of ive companies. What In a famous experiment, a biologist put together a lock of very productive chickens, thinking it’d produce a ‘super-lock’ and lots of eggs. It didn’t. Only three chickens survived – the rest were pecked to death. In comparison, an ‘average’ lock was thriving. Heffernan says this is like many offices – and instead of striving to hire the very best, we should work together to become the best team. Quote ‘No idea is born fully formed. It emerges a little bit as a child is born – messy and confused but full of possibilities – and it’s only through generous contribution, faith and challenge that they achieve their potential.’ Apply it Got an idea you think would work, but not quite sure how? Suggest a brainstorm with colleagues. Work alone? Ask your contacts’ opinion on projects – they might see things diffierently.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM 100 DAYS OF REJECTION
The idea Rejection resilience. Who Jia Jiang, author, blogger, entrepreneur and all-round charming man. What Jiang overcame his paralysing fear of rejection by forcing himself to confront it every day for 100 days. He began by asking a stranger for US$100 (er, no, dude) and eventually convinced a university professor to let him teach a course. He found the more he got used to the word ‘no’, the easier it was to say it – and to challenge it. Quote ‘People who really change the world, who change the way we live and think, are the people who were met with initial and often violent rejections.’ Apply it This is the basic premise of exposure therapy: confront yourself with things you’re afraid of. Scared of cold- calling clients? Do it every day. And next time you’re knocked back, instead of running home and diving headfirst into a tub of ice cream, force yourself to ask (nicely) why. At the very least, you’ll get useful feedback – and you could end up changing someone’s mind.
THE SURPRISING HABITS OF ORIGINAL THINKERS
The idea Vuja de. Who Adam Grant, psychology professor and author of The New York Times bestsellers Originals and Give And Take. He also co-wrote Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B. What Like the reverse of déjà vu, silly. ‘ Vuja de is when you look at something you’ve seen many times before and all of a sudden see it with fresh eyes,’ says Grant. According to him, it’s one of the most common habits of creative people. Encouraging doubt – not in yourself, but in an idea – is a good thing. Quote ‘It’s about being the kind of person who takes the initiative to doubt the default and look for a better option.’ Apply it Don’t accept the irst version of something. Try to leave yourself enough time to go back to a project, document or important e-mail – even if it’s just the next day. And if you suspect something can be done better, dig around to ind another way to do it.
HOW FRUSTRATION CAN MAKE US MORE CREATIVE
The idea Deliberate disruption. Who Tim Harford, inancial journalist and author of the book Messy: The Power Of Disorder To Transform Our Lives. What We all like it when things happen easily, right? Except for Harford, who argues that the more awkward and messy the process, the better the outcome. He cites how students who were given hand- outs in ‘difficult’ fonts, such as italicised Comic Sans (our bleeding eyes!), did better in tests because it forced them to slow down and work harder. Quote ‘The ugly font, the awkward stranger, the random move… These disruptions help us solve problems. They help us become more creative.’ Apply it Find a way to challenge your normal routine. Think you’re best in the morning? Start a project at night. Write out a proposal by hand instead of typing it irst. Basically, mess around with things a bit.