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Watching a TED Talk I Disagree With

Let me begin by saying that I love TED. TED stands for technology, entertainment, design and is a nonprofit media organization focused on “ideas worth spreading.” They are most known for the influential, informative, and inspiring speeches given on topics ranging from biology to ethics to social change.

I watched my first TED Talk in high school and was hooked. I’d spend hours engaging with their videos, soaking up not just the content, but the presentation style itself. When I used to commute 5 days a week, the TED podcast was one of my most frequently played. Because of all this, I almost assume that anything they do I will love.

But the other day, I watched a TEDx Talk (Note: TEDx can be run by anyone who gets an approved license from TED but they are independent events.) and I hated it.

It was a talk about the nonprofit industry—the place I’ve spent the last decade of my life living, working, studying, and exploring. I was excited to hear this speaker’s perspective and think about how it might apply to my own work.

Within five minutes of the ~20 minute video, I found myself frowning. I really didn’t agree with what was being said or the way the information was presented. So much so that even with my whole “completion complex,” I considered turning it off.

But as I was about to switch to a video that might teach me something new or a song that might infuse a little pep into my afternoon sluggishness, I decided to keep the video on instead and to mentally debate the points the speaker was making.

I thought about why I didn’t agree and I thought about what I might say if I could sit down and have a conversation with them. I thought about my industry deeply and reflectively and in a way I might not have had I been watching someone who was echoing back my own thoughts.

More than anything, though, I was shocked at how the video made me want to write. Conversely to a “learning something new video” where I find myself taking notes or scribbling things to look up later or book recommendations, this video made me want to write about what I do know and what I do believe.

By showing me what I didn’t agree with about something I am passionate about, I found myself wanting to lean into my own experiences and my own ideas. It shifted something for my brain that has been toiling with a creative slump and reminded me that I do care and I do have ideas and I do believe in what can be done to change the world for the better.

Perhaps inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places if we are willing to listen.


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