Review: How to live before you die

Speaker: Steve Jobs
Stanford University
Date: June 2005
Location: Stanford University

Description from TED website:
TED Editor’s note: This video is a TED “Best of the Web” pick, featuring a remarkable idea freely available on the internet.

At his Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO, and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, urges us to pursue our dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks — including death itself.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

I know, I know… I’ve missed a few weeks of doing these reviews… but this is a great one to pick back up with!

In this graduation speech, Steve Jobs focused on three life stories that brought out three specific “points” that he wanted to leave the graduates with to ponder.

#1 – Connecting the Dots

While he didn’t graduate from college, he did benefit immensely from his college experiences. He talks about taking a calligraphy course that taught him about serif and sans serif fonts, and how that knowledge became useful 10 years later when developing the Mac.

Looking back on my past 20 years of work experience, I can also see how earlier experiences have connected to put me in a place to be successful in my own career.

As he states in this talk, you can only see how the dots connect when you look back. This means as you move forward in life, you have to trust that you are making decisions that will have meaning and “connect” in the future … even if the future you think will occur isn’t what actually occurs (as in my own case).

Your turn to reflect: Looking back on your life, what dots do you see that have connected to place you where you are now?

#2 – Love & Loss

Steve talks about how he was fired from Apple, and that while that seems like a horrendous loss… it was actually a blessing in disguise. Because he was no longer burdened by the pressures that weighed on him in the leadership position at Apple, he was able to enter a new phase. This new phase allowed him time to “start over” … remembering what it was like, the ups and downs, and so on. He got to be creative again and was able to establish other companies! The best part of it all was that he found his wife through the process.

As he talks, he reiterates the fact that he was focused on doing what he loved … not settling for anything less. He says that this will help you be truly satisfied, doing what you believe is great work.

Personally, I can say that I love the job that I started in September 2020. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I feel like I’m doing great work! And I love how he says that, as with any relationship, it will get better and better as the years go by… and while it’s only been a year, I can say that is definitely getting better and more enjoyable.

Your turn to reflect: Do you love what you do? Have you settled in your career? What do you believe is great work? If you aren’t doing it now, start making a plan to get yourself to where you want to be!

#3 – Death

A bit of a morbid topic, and one that we often try to avoid, Steve Jobs brings it to the forefront and suggests that keeping death in mind all the time is one of the best ways to help you live your best and fullest life. He talks about his experience with pancreatic cancer and how that it made him think about death even more so than prior. Looking into the mirror each morning, he would ask himself something like “Is what I’m about to do what I want to be doing if this were my last day alive?”

It’s a powerful thought. It’s an interesting way to help you put your “to-dos” into perspective.

Our turn to reflect: Think about the priority items that you’re rushing to do, then ask yourself, “If this were my last day on earth, is this really a priority?” If you re-evaluate your priorities in such a way, how much of a change would it make in your day-to-day life? If you did this for a month, what type of change would you see at the end of that month?

There is a lot to unpack from his less than fifteen-minute speech. I believe that I only scratched the surface. I certainly believe that this is a video everyone should watch and reflect upon. It would be great for high schoolers to do as they prepare to venture out into adulthood. It would be great for new college students as they prepare to begin their higher ed academic career. What do you think? How might you incorporate this video into your curriculum to engage and inspire students?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

Speaker: Louie Schwartzberg
Date: June 2011
Location: San Francisco, California

Description from TED website:
Nature’s beauty can be fleeting — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

This is an extremely moving talk… not that he talks all that much. He showcases a project he’s working on that really makes you stop and think. We are all in a hurry all the time. We fill our days with “busy” and don’t have time to stop and look at the beauty around us … let alone be grateful or thankful for it.

This is certainly a great talk to watch and reflect on for people who are rushed…busy…constantly on the go. I think it’s also a good video for young college students to watch and consider how they are going to conduct themselves in the future. Do they want to be so busy that they can’t enjoy life?

None of us are promised tomorrow.

We don’t want to rush through life and then get to the end and regret that we rushed.

I can certainly see this video being used in the classroom with incoming college students. I can also see it being used with psychology and social work fields of study, as it could be beneficial for them to have to use it with those they will work with. I think it would also work well in a “mental health” or “self-care” module inside any program that is geared towards high-stress careers.

While a discussion forum is one use for this video, I think the most powerful use of this video would be to have students watch it and then reflect on their own lives. Provide them with some prompts, such as:

  • How important is it to you to take the time to be grateful for each day?
  • What type of habit would you establish in your daily life to cultivate gratefulness in your everyday life?
  • What type of impact do you think such a habit would have on your life?
  • What type of impact do you think such a habit would have on the lives of those around you?
  • How do you think your view on these will change throughout your life?

These are just a few examples… ideas that popped into my head. If you have other prompt ideas, please share! And if you have other ideas for how this video could be used, share that as well!

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: The biology of our best and worst selves

Speaker: Robert Sapolsky
Date: April 2017
Location: Vancouver, BC

Description from TED website:
How can humans be so compassionate and altruistic — and also so brutal and violent? To understand why we do what we do, neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky looks at extreme context, examining actions on timescales from seconds to millions of years before they occurred. In this fascinating talk, he shares his cutting-edge research into the biology that drives our worst and best behaviors.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

A very interesting talk indeed! He goes into some interesting detail about the brain, hormones, development, etc. He basically shows us that a decision we make here and now is not random. It is fashioned and formed by events that happened days, weeks, or even decades ago.

I’m curious as to how this train of thought might affect our legal system. So based on that, I think this would be a very interesting talk for students of legal studies to watch. The professor could give them a case and ask them questions such as: If the defense attorney had used this information to inform his defense of his client, what would the case have looked like? Would the outcome have been different? How might the jury have responded differently? Might the prosecutor have changed the charges? Might the judge have ruled differently or given different sentencing?

Similarly, this talk could be used in any field that studies human behavior such as psychology and sociology… possibly even anthropology.

What do you think? How could this talk be used in your environment? What types of assignments might you pair with this talk to engage the students?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: The art of asking

Speaker: Amanda Palmer
Date: February 2013
Location: Long Beach, California

Description from TED website:
Don’t make people pay for music, says Amanda Palmer: Let them. In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride!), she examines the new relationship between artist and fan.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

This was not the first time I watched this TED Talk, but I still think it is an excellent talk and good to review from time to time. The human connection is important and we often forget that there is more than one way to connect to others.

I think this would be an excellent talk to start off an instructional session teaching about thinking outside of the box. A good assignment or activity for high school students, college students, and even continuing education opportunities out in the workforce. For engagement purposes, I’d probably use it as an activity.

In a face-to-face setting, I’d show the video first, then have the participates break out into groups of 3-4 and talk about the video, most likely with a handout with some prompts for them to discuss. I’d probably focus the discussion portion around a current problem that is being faced in the world, nation, state, or even just the local community or business. Ask them to discuss various points that she brought up in the talk and how they could leverage that mentality to potentially find a solution to the issue at hand.

For an online setting, I would set it up similarly, however, they would have more time to work on the discussion (especially if it’s asynchronous). So, I’d probably require that they do some additional research to back up their ideas and/or theories.

What do you think? Might this be a video you could use in your setting? How would you utilize the video and encourage engagement with the content?

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

Review: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

Speaker: Lawrence Lessig
Date: February 2013
Location: Long Beach, California

Description from TED website:
There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That’s the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

Being a Political Science major (from my undergrad years), I have to say that I love this talk! I think it’s an excellent talk for high school and college-level courses in the area of history, political science, legal studies, or even social work. I think that it is imperative that we teach our young people about our government, its history, why our founding fathers made some of the decisions they made. And it needs to be placed in context. Too many of us take a fact out of context and have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. It’s just a fact of our humanity…we all do it! That is why it’s important for students to watch such talks and engage in thought-provoking assignments around such material.

Of course, you know I’ll always say that discussions are a great way to encourage students to engage after watching such a talk. Another way to get students to engage would be to pair this talk with a quiz. Or use it to start a paper assignment. What about a debate? That might be interesting.

I would love to hear some ideas from others about ways they would get students to engage with the content from this talk! So feel free to reach out or leave a note with your reflections!

Until next time … live long, life-learner!

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