The value of TED in a distracted workplace

The sold-out TED Conference began yesterday in Vancouver. If your invite was lost in the mail, for $500 you can follow the entire conference on the live stream.

This year’s theme, ‘Truth and Dare’ challenges attendees to join a “quest to magnify the world as it might be. We will seek to challenge and reshape our core beliefs about today’s reality, but also to celebrate the thinkers, dreamers and mavericks who offer bold new alternatives.”

For critics who have likened TED to a revival meeting complete with evangelical speakers, this statement of purpose does seem to support their observations.

Before TED I thought ‘curators’ worked in museums and ‘thought leaders’ guided religious cults. But now my view has been broadened and I realize almost any experience worthwhile is ‘curated’ and ‘thought leaders’ are just folks whose publicists were more aggressive than the competition.

Criticism aside, TED provides a snapshot of where we are as a global culture, shining a spotlight on global issues in technology, entertainment and design. In 18 minute presentations, experts communicate an issue, suggest a solution and issue a call to action. Each video is professionally produced, with each speaker receiving coaching on image and delivery. Has the life been produced out of the presenters? Possibly.

For me, I view TED as a platform for online learning, a place to start research before delving more deeply into a topic.

It’s the rare employer who provides professional development programming in-house today. TED offers an introduction to important topics in ‘sound bursts’ that fit neatly into a workplace of distraction. This is where you can maintain your currency with trends and events. The TED Talks are one source to supplement your ability to talk for five minutes on a topic as you engage in conversations with colleagues and clients.

Here are three of my favorites:

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, failure and the drive to keep creating.

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts


Job vs. Calling – Work to Live or Live to Work?

Do you work to live or live to work? That is the question. Or are you currently residing somewhere in the gray area in-between?

I have been thinking about this idea of differentiation between job and calling since the day I contacted a colleague at home and she asked me to hold while she covered the phone and yelled “It’s my job”. I was struck that this person who was so committed to her work, used the term ‘job’ vs. any other label in the English language. And I realized my bias, thinking ‘job’ was less than calling.

I think it has something to do with where our true passions lie. A job, to many, is a means to an end, while a calling is that nagging dream that disrupts any attempt to take a career detour.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ and ‘The Signature of All Things‘ described better than most what a calling looks like in her TED Talk last year, referring to her work as her ‘home’.

“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself…your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”

“The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.”

Maybe we’re a bit reluctant to describe our aspirations as a ‘calling’. Maybe it’s more humble to have a ‘job’. I would not use caution in describing your life’s work.