Since I wrote the last post on books, it seems like everywhere I turned the past two days I heard people talking about how important books were to their fundamental growth, as well as serving as a kind of smart retreat for their mind (and spirit). In some cases people were talking about rediscovering books after spending so many years filling their brains with information (from everywhere except books) and focusing hard on "the race" called work. It's funny, then, that the latest TED talk posted on the TED website features a really nice talk by the man in charge of taking care of TED, Chris Anderson. This was recorded in 2002, just a few months after 9-11 and with the dust of the dot-com bust still in the air. At that time people were not sure if TED would even survive. From the TED site: "This was Anderson's attempt to persuade TEDsters that the conference had a future, and that the transition from a for-profit event, to one owned by a nonprofit, could work."
Anderson tells of making it in business and then surviving the fall...and of changing his life. This is what caught my attention:
"I started to do something I had forgotten about [because of] my business focus—I started to read again."
— Chris Anderson
It was during this time of reading that Anderson says he realized that while he'd been busy working hard and focusing intensely on business all those years, there had been a revolution of sorts in many different fields. What was most exciting, says Anderson, is that "all this stuff is connected." Anderson goes on to give an example of how one single aspect of life is so connected to — and can be examined through — a variety of disciplines. He introduces the idea in a way that makes the audience erupt in laughter as well. If you are an avid follower of TED like I am, then hearing Anderson's vision for TED in this short talk (from six years ago) will be of great interest to you.
When you're the leader, it is often best to present sans slides, technology, and formality, elements which may act as a barrier. Sometimes you just have to pull up a chair close to the audience, lean forward, and speak from your gut and from your heart. It does not have to be pretty, perfect or slick—in fact, it's better if it isn't. I liked this talk by Chris Anderson. It had story, vision, humility, and brevity. Four important ingredients indeed.
UPDATE (May 9, 2016)
I read this article today by Chris Anderson where he says he did not much like his performance in this 2002 talk. "I look back at that talk now and cringe — a lot. If I were critiquing it today," Anderson says, "there are a hundred things I would change." Yes, but as he also says in the article (and in his new book) he prepared well and had a clear idea what he wanted to say and why. By any measure his talk was effective. It worked. I highly recommend Anderson's book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.