A few months ago, my friend and fellow writer Suzanne Costigan, posted a blog on her Living Lunacy website that changed the way I view exercise. Rather than simply walking on her treadmill – a mind-numbing experience at best – Suzanne discovered a way to challenge her brain while still making the minutes fly. She tapped into TED Talks as she exercised.
I’ve been following Suzanne’s lead ever since. With every workout at the gym, I tune into one or more topics of interest. There are over a thousand TED Talks online that are available for free listening or viewing on computers, tablets or cell phones, so the choices are many. The TED app keeps track of my favourites, recommends others, and logs my viewing history – a handy reference tool.
TED stands for Technology-Entertainment-Design. Ideas are TED’s currency so it’s no surprise that its slogan is “ideas worth spreading”. Each TED Talk is carefully crafted and presented by a skilled authority. Most start with a captivating story. Most are 18 minutes or less long, perfect for brisk workouts. All aim to weave together insightful facts that inspire, challenge and inform.
So far I’ve listened to a few dozen TED Talks on topics that range from cartooning and robots to library design and the plight of migrant workers. I’ve explored many subjects that are new to me. For those that aren’t entirely new, I often discover fresh angles that I hadn’t considered before – grist for the writing mill or at the very least, a way to keep current.
Not everyone is a fan of TED. Some critics have labelled it elitist and claim that the content is shallow and one-dimensional. I think they might be missing the point. A TED talk is just one person’s take on a subject, served in a bite-sized package. Like most things controversial or new, it’s up to the listener to maintain a critical outlook.
If you decide to hop on to TED bandwagon, no doubt you’d find your own favourites. But to get you started, here are 3 that I’d highly recommend:
Dannielle Feinberg – The magic ingredient that brings Pixar movies to life
Go behind the scenes of Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Brave, WALL-E and more, and discover how Pixar interweaves art and science to create fantastic worlds where the things you imagine can become real.
Anne Lamott – 12 truths I learned from life and writing
A few days before she turned 61, writer Anne Lamott decided to write down everything she knew for sure. She dives into the nuances of being a human who lives in a confusing, beautiful, emotional world, offering her characteristic life-affirming wisdom and humor on family, writing, the meaning of God, death and more.
Marc Railbert – Meet Spot, the robot dog that can run, hop and open doors
That science fiction future where robots can do what people and animals do may be closer than you think. Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics, demonstrates advanced robots that can gallop like a cheetah, negotiate 10 inches of snow, walk upright on two legs and even open doors and deliver packages.