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Opinion Editorials

Why you should stop watching TED Talks

(Editorial) TED Talks are amazing. Wonderful. Inspiring. But you should reconsider how much time you spend on them and how you let them impact your life.

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TED Talks: great stories that can transform you

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who personally experienced a massive stroke.
Simon Sinek challenges business leaders to start with their why.
Sir Ken Robinson teaches us how schools kill creativity.
Elizabeth Gilbert of the famed ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ contemplates a life where her greatest moment is behind her.
David Blaine stays underwater for about 16 minutes longer than I’m capable of doing.

Each of these powerful stories are available to you by simply visiting TED.com. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you this. TED.com has built an empire of fascinating content, and millions have responded by watching speech after speech.

TED Talks tell the stories of many of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. They spotlight injustices, tackle life’s perplexing questions, reveal ways we can improve performance, offer hidden clues into the psychology of happiness, and teach us about human potential. Great stories, told well, have the unique power to create real cultural transformation.

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My advice? Stop watching them. Un-bookmark the tab. Consider doing other things with the 10 to 20 minutes it takes to ingest a TED talk. That’s right. And this is coming from the last person who should suggest such a tactic. I own a company that helps people create powerful presentations. I have a division that sources TED speakers for live events. I speak professionally for a living.

And you know, TED is GREAT for business. They are living examples of the power of presentation. A reminder that your CEO is not the best choice for the closing keynote at your annual retreat (he isn’t… at least not without training (from me)). I should love TED Talks. I do love TED Talks.

At the same time, there are hidden costs to ingesting the specific types of stories that TED offers.

First: The Hero Complex

While reminders of our potential as humans can inspire, too much of it will leave us setting the proverbial bar too high. We are saturated by the most heroic examples of life at every turn. We’re over-successed and under-accomplished as a society. It’s no surprise that we get depressed and feel like we’re not contributing anything significant when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the outliers and the elites of the elite.

In the book I’m currently writing, one of the chapters is titled ‘Less Superman, More Clark Kent.’ The mundane of life is where life takes place. There’s something beautiful about having a job, a family, friends, a community. But that has never felt less satisfying for so many of us.

TED is not the only problem. Facebook is filled with happy babies, picturesque vacations, and delicious meals. And in a survey of over 500 people, 61% admitted that their mood was noticeably altered to the negative based on a simple check-in on Facebook. But TED is Facebook on steroids in this particular category.

Second: The Knowledge Rabbit Hole

Do you know the key indicators of deception in body language? You should. How about the psychology of what will REALLY make you happy? You are probably doing it incorrectly (according to Harvard!). Have you listened to the speech about the dangers of story? If you haven’t, you are setting yourself up to be manipulated.

We crave greater unique insights and understanding. TED offers it in droves. How quickly we find ourselves falling into the endless rabbit hole of interesting factoids. And each video serves as another reminder of our ignorance on yet another critical subject. While we are aware that we can’t know all things, it certainly feels like others must be living with some key ingredient that our laziness and comparably low intelligence keeps us from benefiting from.

This is a new problem that we are not well-equipped to deal with. In 1900, a well-educated person could still grasp all existing knowledge in almost every field of science and the arts. This was the whole point of a college education! (Tom Davenport, Attention Economy)

Today, our problem is not information. It’s not ideas. It’s too many choices, unrealistic expectations, and unfair comparisons. My church choral director growing up often reminded us that comparison is the thief of joy. TED Talks subtly remind many of us of what we have not done with our lives. So, let’s turn off the new inspiring TED video, and get to work without the weight of ‘how does my job compare to the guy who just walked across Africa.’

And if you don’t believe me, watch this TED Talk by Barry Schwartz. It’s a MUST SEE.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tinu

    July 8, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    See I’m not even slightly tempted to click that last link for the TED Talk you suggested. I don’t watch any videos of any kind during the day with two exceptions.

    1- It’s critical to a business task I have to complete.
    2- It’s less than 2 minutes.

    The number one reason for me? You can’t skim video. I can see a paragraph as a chunk of text and consume it faster with the same level of enjoyment. I can speed up an audio. A video I must completely engage in.

    During my workday? This somebody has no time for that.

  2. Virginia Attaway

    July 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you Curt! Loved this, and identify with it all; even the bit in your bio about life with ADD and ‘flipping the script’ on it to embrace and claim a small portion of the new media-saturated world as my/our own.

    • Curt Steinhorst

      July 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Virginia! I really appreciate hearing that you identify with the message. It’s my passion to help others learn to deal with the craziness of our digitally saturated culture.

  3. Max

    May 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I completely disagree with your article. Why should anyone bar themselves from taking in amazing stories and information because it makes them feel bad? Maybe these people need to take a serious introspective look and see that you don’t have to BE like these people in order to be successful or happy. A true consumer of TEDtalks would revel in the opportunity to hear these awesome speakers and maybe learn a thing or two about the world.

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Opinion Editorials

How to turn your complaint mindset into constructive actions

(EDITORIAL) Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not.

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Everybody knows someone who complains too much. While being open is important for mental health, constant bellyaching is not, so here are a few tips on turning your complaints into constructive actions.

It’s important to understand the difference between “complaining” and “addressing.” Talking about problems which mandate discussion, bringing up issues slated to cause larger issues down the line, and letting your boss know that you have the sniffles all fall into the latter category due to necessity; complaining is volitional, self-serving, and completely unnecessary in most contexts.

Complaining also puts you in an excessively bad mood, which may prevent you from acknowledging all the reasons you have not to complain.

Another point to keep in mind is that complaining occasionally (and briefly) isn’t usually cause for ostracization. Constant or extensive complaining, however, can lead others to view you as a largely negative, self-centered person — you know, the kind of person literally no one actively seeks out — which is why you should focus more on redirecting that negative energy rather than using it to remind your barista why they gave up their dream of becoming a therapist.

Complaining stems from two main sources: the need to be validated—for example, for others to know what you’re going through—and the need to be comforted. Addressing a chronic complaint mindset, then, is largely about validating and comforting yourself. This is a simple solution which nevertheless can take years to manifest properly, but you can start by doing a couple of things differently.

“Focus on the positive” is perhaps the hokiest advice you’ll get from anyone, but it works. In virtually any situation, you can find a positive aspect—be it an eventual outcome or an auxiliary side-effect—on which you can concentrate. Think about the positive enough, and you’ll talk yourself out of complaining before you’ve even started.

It’s also good to remember that no one, no matter how much they care about you, can handle constant negativity. If you find yourself constantly hitting people with bad news or tragic personal updates, try mixing up the dialogue with some positive stuff. That’s not to say that you can’t be honest with people—friends, family, and colleagues all deserve to know what’s going on in your life—but make sure that you aren’t oversaturating your listeners with sadness.

Lastly, keep your complaining off of social media. It’s all too easy to post a long Facebook rant about being served cold pizza (no one likes cold pizza on day one), but this just results in your loding a complaint reaching a larger number of people than vocalization ever could. If you have to complain about something in earnest, avoid doing it anywhere on the Internet—your future self will thank you.

Being honest about how you feel is never a bad thing, but constant negativity will bring down you and everyone around you. If you can avoid a complaint mindset as a general rule, you’ll one day find that you have significantly less to complain about.

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Opinion Editorials

What Musk’s tweets say about toxicity of modern work culture

(EDITORIAL) Musk is an inspiring figure, but his recent tweets speak volumes of what’s wrong with work culture, especially in tech.

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Oh, Elon. Haven’t you learned yet? No? Your beautiful, sweet, brilliant mind. I don’t know whether you need a hug or a stern talking to — maybe both — after your crazy, erratic tweets, but Elon Musk’s Crazy Tweet of the Week™ shows a huge problem growing in the tech industry and modern work culture.

In case if you missed it, here’s what went down:

1. On Sunday, the WSJ wrote that Tesla is the “hot spot” of young job seekers and engineers, in spite of or even because of Musk.

2. Par for the course, Musk responded on Twitter with the following comments:

3. Twitter exploded with replies such as these:

If anything, this opens a discussion on a toxic tech — and honestly, American — work culture. But we’ve written about that. It seems like we’re slowly learning that 40 hour workweeks are often okay, and here’s why:

Elon isn’t normal and we shouldn’t compare ourselves.

The thing is, Musk does get more done in the average workweek than a normal person. But this is because he’s brilliant and has figured out ways to beat the system, and he has a million different ideas that other people are implementing. Elon shouldn’t compare himself to the average person, because, well, he isn’t. It’s clear he’s brilliant (and knows it), so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to him, either.

Something we can take from him: learning to automate the remedial tasks and spending our time to maximize efficiency and not waste time. And for the average person, that probably means getting a good night’s sleep or eating well (that means not just drinking Soylent. Looking at you, developers!) so you can actually be effective the next day at work or with your loved ones.

Improve your efficiency.

Are there productivity tools that you haven’t been using that you can? Are you tracking your time and how you’re spending it? If you’re an entrepreneur, or better yet, solopreneur, are there small tasks that take a lot of time that you can do better, faster, stronger? If you need some ideas, check out the years of tips accumulated here on AG.

Elon knows where his strengths don’t lie, and he has a lot of people doing those jobs. So take some of the things he does, but take it with a grain of salt. But unlike Musk, treat your employees well, don’t burn them out, and empower them to do the tasks you don’t do as well.

Most “average” humans have normal responsibilities: families, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (this means sleeping well, eating well, and exercising), and maintaining balance with other interests that make us better employees, bosses, and entrepreneurs. Remember: you’re a human being, not just a worker bee. Don’t let Elon’s Tweetstorms lead you astray.

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Opinion Editorials

How to crush your next remote job interview

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Working remotely is becoming more and more popular. Learn how to excel during a remote job interview.

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As the career landscape continues to change, so does the way in which we interview. With an increase in remote workers, there is also an increase in video interviews.

What immediately comes to mind for me was three years ago when I had a video interview with the fabulous COO of The American Genius. Since the company is based out of Austin, and I’m in Chicago, we had a video chat to see if I’d be a good fit for the company.

While it took some of the pressure off being able to be in my own home for the interview, there was definitely the con of…being in my own home for the interview. Fear of any noise or interruption posed as a slight distraction.

Like an in person interview, there are some pressures that go along with a video interview. The main one being that you need to sell yourself as an extremely responsible individual who can handle the freedoms and rigors of remote work.

Employers are looking for accountability in their remote workers. You must be able to execute your tasks in with a heightened amount of self-discipline.

This can be done through use of time trackers and proactive reporting. Keeping track of each task you do, and the time spent doing it, will provide something tangible for your employer. Be sure to explain during the interview that this is something you will provide to the employer.

Next, because there is a change in environment, and arguably a change in responsibility level, the questions asked during the interview may be different from your standard interview.

A few questions that may pop up to keep in mind: what hours will you be working? What is your remote experience like? Is this something you’re seeking for supplemental work, or trying to do full-time? What is your home workspace like? What tools do you use to keep yourself on task? What is your preferred method of payment?

In turn, there are some questions you should be prepared to ask, as in any other interview. For example: What would a typical day look like if we were working together in-house? Do you offer advancement opportunities? How many of your team members work remotely and how do we all stay in contact?

Working remotely can be a whole different beast in terms of proving yourself to your employer. Having yourself fully prepared for an interview can help start you off on the right foot.

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