Let me be your TEDdy bear

I’ve fallen in love with TED.

The first TED conference was in 1984. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. Since then, TED has grown in scope. The mission? Spreading ideas.

The official TED website says, “Today, TED is best thought of as a global community. It’s a community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.”

I’d seen a few TED videos here and there and always enjoyed them. Then I got an iPod as a bonus at work.

After learning how to work the thing, I discovered that I could use iTunes to automatically get podcasts and have them transferred to my iPod. Once there, I could listen to them any time I wanted, even without wifi.

I quickly loaded up that sucker with all sorts of podcasts like a kid in a candy store. Here’s a list of audio-only content that I’ve signed up for so far:

  • American Public Media: The Story
  • Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips
  • NPR: All Songs Considered
  • NPR: Fresh Air Podcast
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Rob Cesternino has a Podcast
  • TEDTalks (audio version)
  • This American Life

I also signed up for video podcasts like College Humor, Lifehacker, Science Friday and TEDTalks.

Maybe you can already see the problem? I don’t have enough time! Every time I plug in my iPod to charge it, iTunes opens an automatically “syncs” more stuff. There’s no way I can ever watch it all. I’ve heard that every minute something like 18 hours worth of video gets uploaded to YouTube. It would be hard to watch it all.

I guess at some point you have to start making choices.

So now I’m listening to TED on my “ear buds” every chance I get. Mostly when driving to and from work, which is only about 20 minutes a day. But also in other places like the grocery store or waiting in the restaurant to get my food to go. Suddenly I’m not so irritated by having to wait.

The shortage of time to listen is frustrating. The other night I wanted to listen more, so I skipped dinner, slipped on the ear buds and went for a walk. I listened to NPR and heard a story about Seattle Slew, a famous racehorse that won the Triple Crown. (Which I formerly thought was three shots of whiskey.)

By the way, walking is a fantastic negativity activity. Every 20 feet or so is an intersection or driveway. And at every single one of these you’ll encounter something known as a car. These are highly impatient things that try to run over you at these locations. It adds a lot of fun, excitement and challenge to walking.

My goal is to listen to all of the TEDTalks on audio. Not all of them are topics I’d normally find interesting, but I listen just the same. (Like the trials and tribulations of some new parents and their baby. Bah!) But the talks are compelling even when the material is not normally something I’d ever click on. I hit play and get them in no apparent order. I never know what will come next.

During this experience, I’ve also been learning what it is to really listen. I’m constantly amazing myself with my mind’s ability to drift. I’ll catch myself again and again and realize I haven’t really heard the content. I wasn’t paying attention. This is disturbing to say the least. I wonder how often this happens to all of us in all sorts of situations. Life should not be lived on autopilot.

So I decided to work on my active listening skills. If I’m going to play audio, I don’t just want it to be background noise. I want to absorb what’s being said. I have to actively focus and pay proactive attention. This means I can’t listen during certain activities, like work. I can do it when I’m driving but it requires concentration. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do nothing but sit and listen. That’s why walking is such a great idea. Perhaps working on my fitness while listening to TED is enough “multitasking” for me.

I did try sitting down and listen a few times. Amazingly I’d still find my mind wandering and not paying attention. This takes a bit of effort and discipline. But I do think it is something I’m improving on.

Lastly, to close out this post, I’ve decided that I am going to give a talk at a TED conference someday. Yes, me. I’ve noticed that most of the speakers at TED conferences appear to be “experts” on their subjects, so I’m approaching the goal from that angle. In other words, “What am I expert at?” The obvious answer is “nothing” and I am a “nobody.” Thus, that’s how the topic for my TED talk was born. I’m going to speak about how to be a nobody and do nothing in our modern civilization. I’m a real nowhere man.

If TED permits this, then we’ll truly know if they welcome people from every discipline. 🙂

4 responses

  1. There is a subtle difference to your posts when something, or someone, impresses you. I read this entire post but kept getting distracted by one particular phrase:

    “Then I got an iPod as a bonus at work.”

    Excuse me…bonus? How, exactly, did that happen? No, don’t tell me. I have a feeling I’ve just given you a blog post idea.

    PS — I like TED, too.


    1. My new boss is a pretty nice guy. He tries. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t irritate the living fuck shit out of me.

      Challenge accepted. The story shall be told.


  2. I’m not one of those people who DRIVE and use a mobile phone. If you look closely, most cunts on the road and talking on the phone. Sometimes they drive like drunks, swerving. Most times, they don’t use a turn signal, cut you off (slamming on brakes is the only thing that saves you ALL and they don’t even notice to thank you), tailgate and then run off the road IF they notice they’re about to hit somebody. Other times, they just drive 35mph on the highway. Whatever it is, it’s usually somebody on the phone.

    I, unlike everybody else in the world, apparently, understand that I can barely not kill us all when I’m sober, rested and have my hands at 10 and 2. I do not use the mobile.

    Problem is, this extends to listening to audiobooks or podcasts. It would seem, if I’m REALLY listening (whether a convo, interview or story arc), I’m not aware of my surroundings–at least as well as I should be to DRIVE.

    So, that’s out for me as well. Oddly, music is fine. Perhaps not so odd cos it’s like stroke victims who can’t talk can sing. It accesses a different pathway or something up there.

    Because of this, I stopped listening to podcast, too. 😦


    1. I don’t think music requires the same level of attention as the spoken word. It’s an interesting subject. Most of us think nothing about having a conversation with someone in the car. Some listen to audio books.

      In my town, talking on a cell phone has been outlawed. I think it will get you a fine of over $100 and the police have been giving out those tickets. And I still see dumb asses who text while driving.

      When I drive I try to consciously go proactive with my awareness. It’s something you have to think about. It starts the moment I get in the car. I try to visualize a grizzly car wreck. Yep, I do this every time. That puts me in the proper frame of mind for running the gauntlet of death to and from work. If you’re not on your toes you’ll quickly be eliminated.

      I don’t seldom leave this small town, and the little computer in my car says my average speed is 17 miles per hour. There’s one stretch of road on the way to work where I can sometimes wind my car up to 40 mph but that’s one-way, so the risk of anything head on is low. Those factors mean, even though there are plenty of idiots on the road, the probability of a driving fatality is extremely small.

      Yes, I do listen to podcasts in the car, but I don’t believe they affect my driving awareness. And I don’t fiddle with the bloody thing when the car is in motion. Thankfully it will play them in rotation, so I don’t even have to touch it – it just automatically plays the next one. If I do want to skip a song or something I’ll only do it at a red light.

      I’m still experimenting with the listening thing. It takes concentration to listen, even if I’m at home and sitting in a chair and giving it all of my attention. Doing it in the car presents an extra challenge. But, then again, I think listening in all of its forms is quickly becoming a lost art. Soon it will be completely forgotten, and even if there were still any teachers left in the art, there would be no one left who could listen and it would die.

      We’re approaching the point when we will become a transmit-only civilization.


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