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TED 2014: 10 Ideas You Need Now

This year was TED’s 30th anniversary. I’ve been fortunate to have attended almost half of them. While I attended this one online, it was still amazing! Here are ten ideas from TED 2014 that are crucial to working smarter right now.

1. Big Ideas Really Matter

TED is about ideas worth spreading. TED’s Chris AndersonThe number one impact of TEDTalks: People
who watch them regularly shift 
from being laid-back victims of the future to
daring to want to write the 
future.” Takeaway: Seeking out new ideas changes your beliefs. Change your beliefs… Leads to changing what you do.

2. Even Shorter is Even Better
To make room for some of the amazing past speakers, TED ran sidebar All-Star sessions. These returning stars of past TEDs were given only four to eight minutes, and most worked hard to still be great in that timeframe. (Those that ran longer, shoulda been cut down!) Takeaway: Get to the frickin’ point! Shorter is usually better!

3. Unknowns Matter
The main stage was filled with amazing people. But so was the pre-event TED Fellows, a network of up-and-coming trailblazers. Shubhendu Sharma: Reforestation expert from India talked about how cars can teach forests to grow. Aziz Abu SarahMiddle-Eastern-American peace activist put “enemies” together at the same dinner table, only to realize they’re not that different after all. Takeaway: “Unknowns” are making a real difference. Is that you?

4. Your Power is in Your Network
TED Fellow Eric Berlow, an ecological networks scientist, nailed it when he said the Fellows network consisted of “unexpected mismatches made in heaven.” He also quoted fellow Fellow Camilo Rodriguez-Beltran, who is a self avowed: “cross-disciplinary collaboration slut” Takeaway: See headline, above!!

5. Your Failures/Struggles Matter
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) may get lots of views for her talk: “You have to find your way home again. Home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.” But I believe musician Jason Webley was even more profound… He spoke of stopping music for several years because he didn’t know why he was doing it: “I haven’t figured out the answer. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I guess I have learned: This world is made of magic. It’s a miracle that we exist. I know that whatever it is I do with my time on this planet, I want to feel like I’m conspiring with that magic.” Takeaway: If you can find your way home, your failures/struggles will lead you to the magic.

6. Everyone Can Do Deep Thinking
John Hunter, Inventor of World Peace Game, spoke about 9 year-olds holding their own with top Pentagon brass. Impressing four-star generals and others with their problem-solving. Takeaway: Everyone can think big if you organize the discussion and the tools from their perspective. And gaming helps you do that!

7. Which Virtues Matter Most to You?
New York Times columnist David Brooks gave a poignant talk on how we focus most of our efforts on the wrong virtues: “Resume virtues are built by building on your strengths.” But “Eulogy virtues are built by fighting your weaknesses. You find your signature sin, and you wrestle with that sin. Out of that wrestling, a depth of character is constructed.”  Takeaway: What do you want written on your tombstone?

8. The World Needs Hackers
That was the direct message from hacker Keren Elazari, and love-him-or-hate-him Edward Snowden certainly echoed that. But beyond the digital forms of hacking, most every TED speaker is a White Hat Hacker: creating workarounds for things that just don’t work, or could be a lot better. Takeaway: Go create a workaround…Now!

9. Be Yourself, Be Likable, Be Funny
The most fawned-over speaker may have been Sir Ken Robinson. The audience of elite’s elites reacted to him like the girl batting “love you” eyelids at Indiana Jones. And it was well deserved! His message was Gandhi-like: “Change YOUR world, and if enough people change their worlds, we change THE world.”… Equally important, his droll humor could melt or disarm anyone. He’s a mix of Batman’s Michael Caine and Louis C.K. Takeaway: Be likable: You’ll get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

10. Move Beyond Your Past, Honoring What Was Good
Avi Reichental is a 3-D Printer. His grandfather was a cobbler who died in the Holocaust. Wearing his 3-D printed shoes: “I am honoring my past, while manufacturing the future.” Zak Ebrahim‘s father assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Jewish Defense League, and was also involved in the 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center. While young Zak was taught bigotry and hatred, he is now a peace activist. “I hope that someone, someday, who is compelled to use violence may hear my story and realize there is better way. I do it for the for the victims of terrorism, and their loved ones. The son does not have to follow the ways of the father. I am not my father.”  Takeaway: Your past will always be a part of you, but it does not define you. Go. Be. You. Now. 

About a dozen of this year’s talks are already online. See TED.com for those and more.

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