My Dad asked me yesterday about doing a TED talk. “Have you thought about giving one? And what would you speak about?“
I appreciated his attempt to reach out and provide encouragement, but…ugh. What for?
I get asked about doing some kind of TED presentation pretty often. Probably once a week or so these days. Years ago it was for performing, now its more often for speaking. Either way, my response is usually to acknowledge it as a compliment, and to ask what they’d like to hear from me and what they’d do differently as a result.
When people say “you should do a TED talk” I hear it the same way they say “you should be on TV” or “you should be on the radio” or “you should be famous”. I’ve heard comments like this my whole life. It’s awkward for me.
My first memory of this was when I was a cute kid in a grocery store line with my mom, and some agent came up and told my her she should bring me to an audition next week and gave his card with the time and date on the back. We didn’t go.
While Ive grown up around fame (my father himself is kinda famous), and been around tons of famous people my whole life, Ive always struggled with the idea of becoming one of them. I don’t really want to be famous, because I know how much that costs. Long ago, I decided I would be willing to go there but only if I thought it could do some good.
If I could accomplish something that would make the world a better place as a result of more people knowing who I was, I’d do that in a heartbeat. And I have tried a time or two with this in mind. It didnt work out, and I suspect its because of my approach. I try to hard for reasons that people don’t understand or trust. If I was just another ego-maniac seeking validation, I’d be more predictable and manipulatable and trustworthy. I’m not that way though, never went through that stage.
So yeah, I have skills that Ive worked hard to develop. People continue to call me talented and creative as they always have. I present pretty well in most any context, from stage to screen, from audio to video to text, from one person to thousands of them. I don’t have an egoic need to dominate or be the center of attention. I want the change we want to make to be the focus. I just want to help that happen.
So here’s what I do need in order to help: an outcome worth generating for people worth serving.
People worth serving are those that are consciously and kindly making things better in some way. I don’t care how, I’m not picky about that part. Socially, environmentally, technically, governmentally, creatively…whatever. But something to move towards, not just shuffle around.
An outcome worth generating is something that I can directly influence and know if it worked or not. Something that will leave a lasting impact, not just a fleeting feeling. I don’t know how that happens with a talk, and this is why Ive stopped pursuing giving keynotes.
You want inspiration? Great. Go get some. And…then what will you DO with it?
You want entertainment? Fine. Go get that. And…what’s it for?
You want knowledge? Lovely! It’s everywhere, help yourself. And…how will you put it to good use?
Pleasure and promise feel good. I like things that feel good too, nothing wrong with it. It’s just not important enough to warrant the work it takes to put something together, that’s all. I need more, I need a better reason.
Yes, I do like TED talks, always have. But I can’t say that Ive ever changed my life over any of them. Many of the talks call for specific changes. Have any of them actually helped change the world around us in any measurable way outside of the popularity or marketing engine of the speaker?
So why would I make one? That’s a real question there, which I ask openly and honestly. I’d love your answer. Please use the comments below.
Give me something I can use, and I might finally work up a talk or a performance (or a hybrid of both) and shop it around.