Review: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Speaker: Alain de Botton
TEDGlobal 2009
Date: July 2009
Location: Oxford, England

Description from TED website:
Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure — and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

Is your concept of success actually yours? Or is it something you’ve unknowingly taken on because of outside sources?

These are the questions that have lingered in my mind since watching this video.

Alain talks about how we are surrounded by “snobs” – which he defines as a global phenomenon and is “anybody who takes a small part of you, and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.” He goes on to state that the most common type of snobbery we see is job snobbery – where people ask “what do you do?” and come to a conclusion about who you are.

He also provides the audience with the definition of the opposite of a snob, which he says is the “ideal mother” or someone “who doesn’t care about your achievements.” In other words, someone who has love – in the most general sense of the word – or respect for you.

Since most people we know will fall into the first category, we can understand why people care so much about their careers and what they possess. He states that “we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It’s not the material goods we want; it’s the rewards we want.”

The next time you see somebody driving a Ferrari, don't think, “This is somebody who's greedy.” Think, “This is somebody who is incredibly vulnerable and in need of love.” Feel sympathy, rather than contempt.

He continues on to discuss the issue of equality and envy – which he believes are is linked to one another. It’s hard to be envious of someone who is extremely different from you, however, the closer you are in age, background, etc. to someone, the easier it is to become envious of that person. Based on this, he states that “none of you should ever go to a school reunion.”

Unfortunately, society tells us that anyone of us can succeed in life and that anything is possible. This creates a breeding ground for envy. Alain points out that you can go into a bookstore and see the results of these issues in society, just by going to the self-help section. There are two categories of self-help that he points out to the audience. The first is the self-help book that tells its readers that anything is possible. The second is how to deal with low self-esteem (which is a result of not being able to do ‘everything’).

“It’s a sin to judge any man by his post.”

St. Augustine in “The City of God”

Alain says that a way to translate this quote is to “hold your horses when you’re coming to judge people.” After all, how can we know from someone’s job or action, what their true value or worth is?

He goes on to talk about how we need to learn from tragic art – i.e., plays from ancient Greece. Where people in the stories make bad decisions, and conger up feelings of sympathy from the audience. In contrast, if someone in real life made those decisions they would face ridicule and scorn. In other words, he is saying that we need to be more sympathetic to those around us, those that make bad decisions. We don’t always know the whole story, we need to keep an open mind and don’t judge them based on one wrong choice or action.

But when you sum up all Alain has to say (which is more than I’ve covered here), you start to question your own concept of what “success” is to you. Is your idea or definition of success actually yours? Or has society dictated it to you?

With everything going on in society today, with high levels of stress and anxiety, perhaps it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate our own beliefs when it comes to success and failure. Are we jumping to judging others without knowing what their backstory is? Just because society says to believe one way, doesn’t mean you have to – nor should you.

Take some time, take a step back, and thoughtfully evaluate the emotions, actions, etc. surrounding the situation before you respond.

Photographer: MILKOVÍ | Source: Unsplash

If you haven’t had a chance, please go and watch the video. There is much more there (including humor) that was not covered in my recap.

Continue to evaluate, research, and learn!

Review: How to find work you love

Speaker: Scott Dinsmore
TEDxGoldenGatePark 2012
Date: October 2012
Location: San Francisco, California

Description from TED website:
Scott Dinsmore quit a job that made him miserable and spent the next four years wondering how to find work that was joyful and meaningful. He shares what he learned in this deceptively simple talk about finding out what matters to you — and then getting started doing it.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

Over 80% of the people around don’t enjoy their work.

That quote made me go “Wow” … he’s right, and it makes you think that you should have known that. It feels like common sense, but perhaps we are too focused on ourselves and our discontent to notice the others around us who are struggling.

Scott really dug into the topic to find out the formula for finding work that you love. He states that he interviewed people who do inspiring work and read 300 books on purpose and career – that’s a lot of books!

Through this process, he managed to distill the information down into three steps to form a “framework”. He states that the first part is to become a “self-expert” – in that you need to understand yourself.

If we don’t know what we’re looking for, we’re never going to find it.

So, in order to become a self-expert, we need to find out what our unique strengths are – and he recommended StrengthsFinder 2.0 (both the book and the online tool). The second step is to determine what are your values, and the third step is our experiences. These steps certainly require reflection, possibly through the use of journaling. Scott mentions that he spends time every day, week, and month to reflect “on what went right, what went wrong, and what … to repeat, and what [to] apply more to [his] life.”

Photographer: Zoltan Tasi | Source: Unsplash

I don’t want to spoil the video for you though, so please go watch it and hear all that Scott has to say. There is a lot more to glean from the talk!

However, just in case you don’t have the time to watch the 18 minute video, I do want to reiterate the question he left his audience with:

What is the work that you can’t not do?

I hope you all have a great day, and keep learning!

Review: The happy secret to better work

Speaker: Shawn Achor
Date: May 2011
Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Description from TED website:
We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but could we be thinking about things backwards? In this fast-moving and very funny talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that, actually, happiness inspires us to be more productive.

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

First, I just have to say … this guy is hilarious. And since they say laughter is the best medicine, I highly recommend this video just based on that alone!

“Normal is merely average.”

If you’ve ever taken a statistics course, the weight of that statement can really hit home for you. Why should I be normal? I don’t want to be average!

Shawn gets into the meat of his presentation at around 9-minute mark of the video. He talks about how the “absence of disease is not health” – and when you think about it, that is very accurate. Just because I am physically well, doesn’t mean that I am healthy. It doesn’t account for mental or emotional status.

He goes on to say that we need to reverse the formula that we, as a society, have for happiness and success. The formula he is referring to is:

“If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.”

Then he tells us what’s wrong with that formula … and that’s the fact that once we get to that goal-post of success … it gets moved!

That is when I think about how I’ve been this past year. My goal post for success for so long was to “complete my doctorate.” That was a little over a year ago, and since then I have felt like I was wandering aimlessly … after all, where do you replant your goal-post after that? So obviously, happiness upon completing that degree was not found.

His solution? Start by becoming positive in the present.

Bonus: Once we start being positive, our brains work even better … and our work improves – dramatically!

So how do you become more positive? It’s not like you can just flip a switch, it is something you have to work at.

His suggestion only takes 2-minutes of time, and within 21 days you can become more optimistic. That trick is to write down three new things you are grateful for each day (for 21 days).

He also mentioned that meditation can be helpful, and focusing on one task at a time – no more multitasking! Also, performing random acts of kindness is extremely helpful.

Photographer: Helena Lopes | Source: Unsplash

Thank you for taking the time to read and if you haven’t already, please go watch the video – you won’t regret it!

Also … I hope that this message is one you will spread – share the happiness!

Review: 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace

Speaker: Melinda Epler
TEDSalon: Brightline Initiative
Date: June 2018
Location: New York, NY

Description from TED website:
We’re taught to believe that hard work and dedication will lead to success, but that’s not always the case. Gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation are among the many factors that affect our chances, says writer and advocate Melinda Epler, and it’s up to each of us to be allies for those who face discrimination. In this actionable talk, Epler shares three ways to support people who are underrepresented in the workplace. “There’s no magic wand for correcting diversity and inclusion,” she says. “Change happens one person at a time, one act at a time, one word at a time.”

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My Review / Notes / Thoughts

She mentions “Microaggressions” which occur in the workplace and often in toxic work environments. The description she provides of microaggressions is “everyday slights, insults, negative verbal and nonverbal messages – whether intentional or not – that impede your ability to do your work well.”

“Change happens one person at a time, one act a time, one word at a time.”

Her message is short but powerful. If you’ve ever worked in a job where you were belittled, ignored, talked over, or had to deal with microaggressions, her message is worth listening to…possibly more than once!

“Allyship is about understanding that imbalance in opportunity and working to correct it.”

Her three points on how to be a better ally are excellent starting points, and as she mentions in her speech when allyship flourishes in the company, the diversity and inclusion programs are strengthened. And it has been shown through numerous studies, that teams that are diverse and inclusive are smarter and more innovative than those that are not.

Three ways (per the video) on how to be a better ally:

  1. Start by doing no harm.
    – give people full attention
    – don’t interrupt
    – echo & attribute
    – learn the language
    – listen & learn
  2. Advocate for underrepresented people in small ways.
    – intervene
    – invite to speak
    – refer & encourage
    – normalize allyship
  3. Change someone’s life significantly.
    – Education, Hiring, Promotion, Leadership (the “Glass Ceiling”)
    – mentor or sponsor
    – volunteer
    – transform your team & your company

If you are not sure about how to engage in any of these areas, go watch the video for yourself. She mentions various ideas on how to implement these concepts. Of course, spreading the word and helping to educate others around you is always a good start.

“[W]hen we’re there for each other, when we support one another, we thrive together. And when we thrive, we build better teams, better products and better companies.”

Thank you for taking the time to read (and hopefully watch the video), and I hope that this message is one you will spread.

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