TED TALKS TO GET AHEAD

Want a free pep talk from the stars of busi­ness and be­yond? Step this way

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - WORK - BY CLARE THORP

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 Huin­g­ton’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 diicult, 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 Heff˜er­nan, 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. Heff˜er­nan says this is like many offšices – 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 headf—irst 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 ‘diffšicult’ 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.

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