I saw this book, Do Share Inspire: The Year I Changed My Life Through TED Talks by Kylie Dunn, at a local bookshop and was intrigued. On the back cover Kylie describes herself as “a recovering judgemental, perfectionist control freak”. With that description, I felt like I could relate to her straight away.
The book is a collection of blog posts Kylie wrote in 2011 and 2012 about her project My Year of TED, in which she spent a year applying the ideas from some of the TED talks she had listened to over recent years. (I’ll confess right here that, although I’ve heard a number of TED talks, I didn’t know what the acronym meant until I read this book, so in case you’re like me and don’t know, it stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and you can find the talks on YouTube and on www.ted.com)
For Kylie’s project she planned to “apply the advice, insights and concepts of a number of the TED talks into [her] life – undertaking each for 30 days”. She planned 23 activities based on her selected talks, and she started a new activity on the 1st and 15th of each month, doing each one for 30 days. So apart from the first two weeks, at any one time she’d be doing two activities at a time.
I was fascinated with this idea, and wanted to learn more, so I borrowed the book from the library. It was cool finding out that Kylie lives in Tasmania and knowing some of the places she mentions in the book. It struck me that the 30 days idea is vaguely similar to the work Gretchen Rubin has done in her Happiness Project work, where she focuses on a single area of her life for 30 days. In fact, one of the 11 talks that Kylie considers to be part of the underlying concept of her project rather than being about specific activities is called Try something new for 30 days*by Matt Cutts, which suggests that a 30-day commitment is long enough to try something to see if it’s a habit you want to stick with, but not so long you can’t stick it out.
(I just listened to that talk. It’s great. It’s here. It’s only 3 minutes long. Possibly the most important message is that when Matt made small changes, he was able to keep doing them after 30 days, but the “big crazy challenges”, which while being fun, were less likely to stick after the 30 days was up.)
Kylie selected a diverse range of activities for her project, including dietary changes, writing letters, introducing simplicity, better listening, challenging preconceptions and being more compassionate. I think she did a great job of getting through most of what she’d set out to do, especially given some of the other things going on in her life at the same time. Circumstances change over a 12-month period, and activities are easier or harder to do than you start out thinking they will be, so what Kylie ended up doing wasn’t exactly the same as she’d planned. Nonetheless what she did was amazing, and she also managed to keep blogging about her progress regularly. As a lapsed regular blogger I know how difficult this is!
As it’s a collection of chronological blog posts, I found the book to be a bit disjointed to read. What I mean is I found it difficult to focus on what was happening when I was reading about one activity, then another, then back to the first. But, of course, this is the nature of collecting blog posts in this way. There isn’t one logical progression of thought, but several separate ideas running simultaneously. It would have been different if I’d been following Kylie’s blog in real time. I noticed that Kylie says she’s working on a book that will bring together her main learnings from all the activities, so that will obviously be structured completely differently to this book.
This is a collection of blog posts and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It is what it is.
I found Kylie’s choice of projects interesting, and felt like I’d benefit from doing just about any one of them. Although our backgrounds and life circumstances are different, I could relate to a lot of what she was writing about.
I kept finding things she said during her year that resonated really strongly:
“I refer to all of the roles in my career as jobs . . . I have also known that’s nothing I’ve been doing has hit the spot. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed many of the roles I’ve had in my working life so far, it’s just that I’ve always felt like something was missing . . . like I should be doing something more, that I haven’t been living up to my potential.”
“We are constantly bombarded with information, and I know that I can often feel like I’m not consciously participating in my life; I’m just being swept along in the tide of activity.”
“I have to learn to overcome this reaction to constructive criticism and feedback. I know my work is not perfect, I know that it could always be improved with another set of eyes reading it; so why do I feel insulted when they come back with changes*? Why do I feel the need for everything I do to be perfect even when I know it isn’t? Why do I feel like a basic suggestion to include something I missed or reword a sentence is a commentary on the worth of the entire document?”
The book wraps up with some posts that Kylie wrote after the project had finished. This includes an opportunity to speak at TEDxHobart in 2014, and some of the things she’s done as a result of her project. I can’t imagine that at the start of the project Kylie would have had any idea where it might lead her, and the fact that she has made such huge changes to become “authentic Kylie” is really inspiring.
In making the project public, Kylie has demonstrated two traits discussed at length by Brené Brown: courage and vulnerability – courage in the sense that Brené uses it, as per one of its earlier definitions, being derived from the Latin word for heart *cor* – “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart” – rather than in the sense it’s used commonly to mean heroism or bravery. That’s not to say that I don’t think she was brave not only to do this project in the first place, and deal with the demons she faced along the way, but also to record it so publicly; she was!
I’ve bookmarked heaps of pages in this book to make a note of some of the ideas I want to think about further, and I really love the concept of trying something new for 30 days. It’s simply never occurred to me to actually do it myself. Now I feel inspired, and I have a few things in mind I’d like to try in the same way. Maybe they’ll end up as blog posts, maybe they won’t.
This book came at a very relevant time of my life, and I’m glad I discovered it. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up.
* Except people who change paragraph formatting from 12 point after to 6 point before and 6 point after. That’s not constructive right?