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TEDx for the Lazies

Whether you’re a slacker like me or a straight-A student, a little bit of motivation often turns out to be the most pressing need. All of us probably have some long-term goal we’re trying to achieve, or some driving force, some incident in our lives that drives us forward. However, such sources of inspiration often fall short of inspiring us consistently. It is at such junctures, that we turn outwards, to look for a story, or a speech, or maybe even a song, that could help us shred our sudden lethargy (or, as in my case, prolonged) and push us ahead, just to get some productivity out of an otherwise terribly non-productive day.

I have often found myself passively browsing through various apps, looking for some movie clip, or some inspirational speech, that deeply resonates within me. It was on one such uninspiring mornings that I came across some videos of the TEDx programme. On first glance it looked like one of those needlessly glamorous and carefully curated motivational videos where the speakers spew out almost impossible to achieve advices in deep booming voices and the audience cheers to a cue. To be completely honest, I just mindlessly watched the first video, totally judging the speaker, on his audacity to think that I, a viewer, hadn’t already tried implementing his advice and failed. But, the depth of the speech kept me going and I went through a few more. And I was hooked.

“There is no perfection, only beautiful versions of brokenness.” ― Shannon L. Alder

I have always personally struggled to get past the habit of giving up on activities that I felt I wasn’t performing to perfection. So, when I came across Thomas Curran’s speech – “Our dangerous obsession with perfectionism is getting worse”, I knew I would be coming back to it a lot more than once. Without giving away any spoilers, or worse, abusing copyrighted content, I must say that this video, even though not a motivational speech per se, made me rethink how I approached my daily tasks. It was a simple and informative video from a professional in the field of psychology, without any of the theatricals often associated with the inspirational videos online with Sia’s Invincible playing in the background and ripped athletes performing sick feats that my sickly body can only ever dream of performing. But, it introduced me to the idea of perfectionism.

Over the years since then, I have gone back to it more than once, read related articles and often checked myself whenever I was about to give up on something abruptly, frustrated that I wasn’t doing it well enough, or even when I have found myself stuck on the same task for days, despite being only a beginner in the field. I remember studying for a very famous banking entrance and about a month later, deciding not to sit for the exam. I had no background in one of the subjects that was a part of the exam and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep up with all the new terminology associated. But, I kept going just for the sake of proving to myself that I could master that subject, and then, I remembered. I realized that there were other exams and that my desperation for succeeding in all the major bank entrances had blinded me from seeing that I simply could invest too much time on preparations for a single exam.

“It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.” -Albert Einstein

Another TEDx speech I keep going back to, is Josh Kaufman’s “The first 20 hours – how to learn anything”. I must say I haven’t always stuck to the 20 hours, because quite humbly I’m not that fast at picking up on new things. But I can vouch that over the last few years, every time I have started a new activity, be it studying a new subject, or learning to play a new game, I have tried my best to put in a significant number of hours to understand what it entails and to learn its basics.

BJ Fogg’s “Forget big change, start with a tiny habit” also struck a chord with me. I remember some years ago I had simultaneously enrolled for guitar and cricket lessons, a programming course and was putting in almost 4 hours a day towards gaming to prepare for an upcoming tech fest. And I was only two months away from my next semester exams. Needless to say, I performed horribly at some of those. But, since then I have tried my best not to multitask under pressure or not to rush when picking up a new skill. I have found it easiest to learn a new activity or develop a new routine by giving myself some time to ease into the habit by not planning my day to the very last hour. It gives me some leeway when it comes to the very real unwillingness that sometimes creeps in and also keeps me relaxed mentally.

“Success is the sum of small efforts - repeated day in and day out.” -Robert Collier

Needless to say, such motivational videos can only work when there isn’t an underlying mental disorder that requires professional help, in which case it’s best not to wait around, as a lot of such disorders can be treated easily at an early stage and being cured of them automatically provides a significant motivational boost.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

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