This is the second installment of suggested TED talks that will completely change your thinking, but this edition is for those who are new to TED. The following talks are all five minutes or less and just as interesting and unique as a twenty minute talk. As a writer, I love a good thirty minute TED talk on something obscure like ‘Metaphysical daydreams’ but it isn’t always necessary to endure such lengthy presentations to experience the best TED has to offer. If you’re just starting out, check out these three talks that are short enough to watch on your coffee break!
1. Derek Sivers: Keep Your Goals To Yourself
“Telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.” It’s easy to get excited after watching TED talks and want to set new goals for yourself after “seeing the light,” so to speak; however, according to Sivers, you need to keep that light to yourself and shut up about it. Sivers’ three minute talk is a refreshing reminder to take a minute and think before spouting out your next moves to everyone you know. Sivers explores the scientific fact that your mind often mistakes talking for doing and the intense pride you feel from the social acknowledgement of your goals can be confused with actual success, making you less likely to complete your goal. The best thing you can do when you realize a goal you’d like to set for your self is make an active plan to complete the steps needed and begin your journey before sharing with family and friends.
2. Ze Frank: Are You Human?
“Have you ever misplaced your TED badge and then immediately started imagining what a three day Vancouver vacation might look like?” If so, then congratulations! You are human! In his hilariously poignant and sobering four minute talk, Ze Frank takes the time to explore the age-old concept of what makes us human. How is humanity defined? Through experiences or emotions? Although incredibly humorous, Frank’s talk is also incredibly enlightening and creates a space that demands deep reflection of its audience by transforming a few minutes into meaningful moments.
Presentation is everything in this talk, consisting of a small podium, standing microphone, dim lighting and a light introspective violin melody playing throughout the speech. His physical presentation of the speech is comparable to a dramatic performance piece as well. Frank begins by administering an oral test called the ‘human test’ consisting of a series of “yes or no” questions, which if all completed, confirm your humanity. Frank adopts a dramatic attitude and tone, playing a character that is a cross between an earnest Dr. Frankenstein and a standardized test proctor. He poses questions like, “Have you ever ended a text with a period as a sign of aggression?” or “Have you ever had a nagging feeling that one day you will be discovered as a fraud?” and “Have you ever tried to guess someone else’s password so many times that it locked their account?” with responses to the crowd like “good” and “it’s ok it’s safe here.” We have all done at least one of the questions posed above, and the idea that they equate to humanity is both funny and a little unfortunate.
The most successful attribute of the test is that it is not only a string of hilariously true questions about social behaviors and interpersonal relationships, but also about sobering truths that demand thinking from the audience. Even if the questions do not generate a response on their own, they stand as thought-provoking statements. The last minute of the talk delves into the more sobering questions such as, “Have you ever woken up blissfully and suddenly been flooded by the awful remembrance that someone had left you?” and “Have you ever lost the ability to imagine a future without a person that is no longer in your life?” These questions are additionally meaningful because they are offset by the initial humorous questions. He implements a presentation strategy of ordering the questions in a particular pattern to create a relaxed, jovial environment to gain attention and interest before introducing questions that truly define humanity.
3. Clint Smith: How to Raise a Black Son in America
“I want to live in a world where my son is not presumed guilty the moment he is born.” In this five minute presentation, Clint Smith defines and explores the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement through thoughtful and careful analysis of public events and personal experiences. Smith compares the way his parents raised him as a young black man in America with the way he knows he must raise his son, contrasting them with known national histories and supporting them through personal social tragedies.
Smith very eloquently discusses how one must act as a black person to ensure survival as well as a fully thriving life in America. Through personal tales of the difference between how he could play as a young black boy and how his non-black friends could are incredibly poignant and wonderfully accurate. Wonderfully accurate in the sense that such truth isn’t seen as valid by society, but Smith takes this opportunity to share and validate his truth and the truth of so many others.
Smiths’ overall statement and concluding claim is to share the realities of a group of people so rarely represented, to share how they fight it, how they are raised to live past it, and how they are taught to avoid letting it define them. Smith’s presentation style is most unique as he pairs traditional speech practices with elements of spoken word poetry. Throughout the talk, his phrasing is very poetic and rhythmic, until the last minute becomes a commanding and exciting spoken word piece that thrills the audience.
TED talks are often seen by those who aren’t familiar with them as long dry speeches that may be a tad pretentious. The talks above, however, are some of the shortest I’ve seen and still fall within some of the most thought-provoking. Their unique topics and styles all represent what TED is truly about: fresh, authentic content that inspires new ideas and modes of thinking. So if you’re new to TED, you can experience that in five minutes or less without the commitment of a lengthier talk. Check these out and work your way up to the obscure ‘Metaphysical daydreams!’