Days I don’t feel like reading, I spend my time listening to TED talk. Over the years, I’ve been able to listen to many experts share their ideas on the round red carpet. Each and every speaker has something amazing to share. And when they are on the stage, they give nothing short of amazing, insightful and memorable speeches that are able to get you mesmerized.
Matters of life, death, and human aspirations have been covered extensively in various TED talk. Below are some of the talks I watched that struck an unusual chord within me and got me thinking about life, death, and human aspirations differently.
BJ Miller: What really matters at the end of life
“There are mountains of sorrow that cannot move, and one way or another, we will all kneel there. Rather, I am asking that we make space — physical, psychic room, to allow life to play itself all the way out — so that rather than just getting out of the way, aging and dying can become a process of crescendo through to the end.”
BJ Miller is a hospice and palliative medicine doctor. In this moving Ted talk, he spoke about the night he lost his arm and feet as a result of electrical current passing through his watch while standing on top of a parked commuter train. According to him, “that night began his formal relationship with his own death.” As someone who had come close to death himself and also working with people on the verge of dying, he had come to understand that “for most people, the scariest thing about death isn’t being dead, it’s dying, suffering.” As such, he used his 19 minutes TED talk to identify the most clever ways “to bring intention and creativity to the experience of dying.” He asked; “The need for food has birthed cuisine. The need for shelter has given rise to architecture. The need for cover, fashion. And for being subjected to the clock, well, we invented music. So, since dying is a necessary part of life, what might we create with this fact?
Jia Jiang: What I learned from 100 days of rejection
Everyone wants to belong. We want to belong to where we feel safe and where we know we identify with certain people and certain ideologies. We simply want to be part of something, that’s why it hurts so much when we are rejected. Most times, our feeling of rejection come when we had asked for something and we’ve been told No! Jia Jiang was told no by investors and his work came crashing down. Then he decided to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection by going through 100 days of rejection. In this 100 days, he made a lot of crazy and bizarre request from strangers in a bid of receiving rejections. He asked for things like being the announcer in a plane and asking a restaurant to allow him to cook his own food in their kitchen. In the end, he noted that though he made a lot of bizarre request from people, mostly those requests were met. If we are able to get over our fears and ask for the things that we want, we’ll be surprised the kind of things people will say yes to.
Sam Berns: My Philosophy for a Happy Life
“Now, it’s not that I ignore when I’m feeling badly, I kind of accept it, I let it in, so that I can acknowledge it, and do what I need to do to move past it.”
Sam was seventeen years and suffering from Progeria, a disease that later ended his young life when he delivered this talk. A boy who had been made almost weightless by a disease that he knew will eventually kill him had a reason to live a happy life regardless of his condition and his impending death. And he had a reason to share this philosophy with the world before he took a bow. In his almost thirteen minutes TED talk, Sam outlined 3 aspects of his philosophy for a happy life. He said, “I’m okay with what I ultimately can’t do because there is so much I can do.” Sam made it a point that he wasn’t going to think of the things he couldn’t do. Of course, he had progeria and that puts some limitations on his life but he wasn’t going to live thinking about those limitations but rather focus on what he could do and do them. If he could not do it and had to make adjustments to be able to to do it, he went for it. This mindset made it possible for him to achieve his dream of playing snare drum in his High School Marching Band. In the end, he admonished the audience to strive to live a happy life regardless of their obstacle.
Zain Asher: Trust Your Struggle
“Trust your struggle. And that means no matter what the hardships you’re going through in life, have faith that it will all end up being for the greater good.”
Zain Asher is an anchor at CNN International. She spoke about her the struggle she had to go through to get to where she currently is from being a reception. She believed working hard was all that it took to get to the top. But somewhere, it occurred to her that hard work only won’t cut it. She’d seen a lot of hard working people who fail to make it in their career. She had to ask “if it’s not always hard work, what then determines whether you are going to be successful?” She then spent the rest of the talk on her stories and what she had had to go through to get to the top. And also weaving her personal philosophies into the speech to make her point clear. She said “I honestly do not believe in competition…I believe in creating what I want.” The advice from the corporate world is to compete with one another to get to the top. But Zain said; “In order for me to be successful, I don’t believe that I need to take anything away from anyone else.” That point got me thinking about competition in a different light.
Caroline McHugh: The art of Being Yourself
“When you look in a regular mirror you look for reassurance. You look for reassurance that you’re beautiful, or you’re young, or you’re tidy, or your bum doesn’t look big in that. But when you look in a True Mirror you don’t look at yourself, you look for yourself.”
Most often than not, I’m advised by peers and well wishers to be myself. Most often, I don’t even understand what they mean by that. I usually ask them what they mean and their explanation does nothing than confuse me the more. The subject of “self” is something that I’ve always been interested in. Who am I? What am I here to accomplish? Why am I feeling sad? What can I do to be happy? I…I…I but what is this I we almost always refer to when talking about ourselves? Caroline tackled this subject more perfectly than I’ve come to know. I’ve listened to this awesome talk more than ten times and each time, it sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. Take a listen. There’s so much wisdom in there than I could put out there. But then, A chord within me was struck when she said, “When you figure out how to be yourself it’s an incredibly liberating, untragic way to go through life. So you don’t develop an identity that’s predicated on being a patchwork personality. You’re not a composite, an amalgam, of all your experience and influences. You’re not just somebody’s boss, or somebody’s mum, or anybody’s anything. You’re yourself.”
“Who I was on my business card mattered to me. But it didn’t matter down in that tunnel.”
Gill survived the London terrorist bombing in 2005. She lived to tell her side of the story of what happened that day in the tunnel in this TED talk. Gill takes us through the events leading to the bombing and imagined standing close to the 19-year-old terrorist. She told a chilling story of after the bombing and how she was rescued and compared the mindset of the bomber and that of the rescuers. Talking about the bomber, she said, “He didn’t set out to kill or maim me, Gill Hicks. I mean he didn’t know me. No. Instead, he gave me an unwanted label. I had become the enemy.” But her rescuers rescued her not because of anything but for the fact that she was human. Take a watch.
Brian Miller: How to Magically Connect with Anyone
“See, magic isn’t about the technical skill, magic isn’t about a trick or even the secret. Magic is about connecting. Life is about connecting. And connecting is about taking on other points of view.”
This is one Ted talk that gave me the real meaning of connecting to people. At a point, I saw myself in Brian because he faced a problem I’ve been facing till today; “How to maintain a relationship.” I saw a piece of me in him when he said “I never had trouble meeting new people, making friends, getting into relationships. But I always struggled to maintain them. Eventually, the communication would break down, people would leave, and I would be alone.” That’s me right there. But then, When he told the story of how he connected with the blind man and made magic from the blind’s perspective, I knew exactly what I have to do next time to keep and maintain relationships.
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