I am quite allergic to the broad idea of coaching. I feel like my generation became some kind of seminar junkies – we need motivational talks to eat well, to work out well, to do our jobs well or to create relationships with others. We need other people, who motivate us to live our lives and to fulfil ourselves. We are running from one conference to another, from the therapist to the personal trainer. We switch from watching youtubers telling us the only secret of life to reading populist psychologists preaching what should make us happy. We look up uncritically at the ones who are more self-confident and fancy, somewhere in between completely losing our self-sufficiency and the ability to draw conclusions from our own experiences.
What usually doctors recommend, and what I try to follow, is to keep distance from what makes you allergic. Therefore I am not a person, who you can find at the gathering like ‘Ten easy steps to eternal happiness’. The only exception I make from the rule are TED conferences, getting lately more and more popular, widespread and diverse. Citing from ted.com:
‘TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design — three broad subject areas that are collectively shaping our world. But a TED conference is broader still, showcasing important ideas from any discipline, and exploring how they all connect.‘
Most of the conferences, which can be attended by an average human being like me, have an ‘x’ addition, giving as a result a TEDx – a conference licenced by the TED organisation, but independently organised.
The only reason I make that exception is the fact I believe TEDx events have added value. At least for me, they have some important features, which make it worth to come and take the risk of exposure to some motivational talking. What are they, you’ll ask? Let me point them out:
- The break is here, go out there and mingle!
The break is the crucial moment, when the stage-audience division disappears, when the coach-student attitude melts and when you finally can mingle. What a posh, ridiculous word – ‘mingling’. It perfectly describes what I mean, though. The moment, when you can approach whoever you want, ask questions, compare ideas and even… criticise! This is the moment when, at least from my point of view, the learning actually happens: when the monologue turns into the dialogue. The need to respond, the need to show your interest and ask the right question and, finally, the need to construct, contrast and defend your own opinion is the situation in which our world-views are shaped, not the moment when you sit staring up to the person in the light spot, absorbing every world she/he says. This is as well the point at which the greatest conclusions are drawn. And the great advantage of TEDs is the fact that during the breaks the distinction between participants and guests of honours disappear, everybody is open to strangers, unpretentious and ready to discuss.
- You have a great vision, but you lack the great people to bring it to life? This is your chance.
I strongly believe that the people factor is everything. Not only are they irreplaceable in our self-development process, but also they are necessary for everything we try to reach in the professional career. Their creativity, talents and devotion are the biggest propulsion of every project. At the same time, the challenge of finding people, who would share our values, goals and who would possess the knowledge and predisposition needed, is the biggest one we face. Especially, if it is not about the money, but – phrasing it only partly metaphorically – about changing the world. So if you think you know how to fight the world hunger, how to defeat radicalism or how to make the world safer place for minorities, it will not be easy to find people willing and capable of helping you in the pub around the corner. This is the point when you hop on that stage with red, circular carpet and share you idea. It is in the end an ‘idea worth spreading’, especially among people who are like-minded and ready to take actions. Or the other way around – you feel you have a lot of energy, expertise and willingness to make the world to a better place, but you just need to define your path? Watch closely which speaker to approach during the break.
I want to avoid giving an incomplete picture of the situation, so let me set a few things clear. First of all, I believe that TED talks, especially ones selected and published online, are often a worthy source of information about unconventional issues. However, at the same time, this source is usually quite superficial and tendentious, aimed at sparking the interest and helping realise the existence of problems or facts, while not really supplying you with the knowledge. Secondly, there are of course other benefits for the speakers – if we want to skip the prestige matters, we can point out different awards or grants admitted. But those are neither the main goal of the organisation, nor are they comparable with the human aspect.
Summing up, I believe that TED or TEDx conferences are a great opportunity and they reach the goal they had been set for. But it happens only when we go there with the attitude for giving of ourselves, not getting something out of it, whether we attend to listen or to speak. Some may go there to passively get ‘stoned’ with free motivation, but I do not recommend it, as it does not last for long. Go there, get engaged into discussions, meet people who will give you opportunities for action or, even better, go and initiate actions yourself. In the end, seeing results of what you do is what motivates for real.