Pico Iyer on Home, Travel, and Stillness (plus, Have You Seen the TED Commandments?)

161335960_3c30374d20_nPico Iyer, best-selling author on the topic of crossing cultures, finds the concept of “home” difficult to describe. It’s no wonder. His parents are Indian. He was born in England. At the age of eight he moved with his family to California. And currently, between his many travels, he lives with his Japanese wife in Japan.

In a TED Talk from 3 months ago, Iyer “meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.”

Some great writers are not great speakers, but Iyer expresses his thoughts with eloquence in both forms. Here are a few of those thoughts:

On multi-cultural children:
“[T[heir whole life will be spent taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained-glass whole.”

On traveling:
“The real voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust famously said, consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes, even the old sights, even your home become something different.”

On the concept of home:
“[H]ome, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born. It’s the place where you become yourself.”

On collecting 1 million miles on a frequent-flyer program:
“You all know that crazy system, six days in hell, you get the seventh day free.”

And on spending three days in silence at a monastery:
“I began to think that something in me had really been crying out for stillness, but of course I couldn’t hear it because I was running around so much.”

Following the TED Commandments

I’ve watched several TED Talks, and I’m always impressed with how the speakers seem to present their thoughts articulately and effortlessly. I’ve always wondered if they use teleprompters. I found my answer at Jimmy Guterman’s blog. Guterman, a TED Talk presenter, wrote that the TED Talk stage includes “confidence monitors.” These floor-mounted monitors show the slides used in the presentation, to which presenter notes can be added. He added these notes, but regretted it later, as he was distracted by the monitors and felt that he looked down at them too often.

Guterman goes on to list the “TED Commandments” that TED sends to every speaker. It’s a great list of advice, and most of it applies to even casual conversations:

I. Thou shalt not steal time.
II. Thou shalt not sell from the stage.
III. Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego.
IV. Thou shalt not commit obfuscation.
V. Thou shalt not murder PowerPoint.
VI. Thou shalt shine a light.
VII. Thou shalt tell a story.
VIII. Thou shalt honor emotion.
IX. Thou shalt bravely bare thy soul.
X. Thou shalt prepare for impact.

To this, Guterman adds a number eleven: Trust thyself. (In other words, Don’t use monitors.)

If you’re thinking about brushing up your public-speaking skills and want to imitate that TED Talk style, you might want to take a look at this “Onion Talk,” produced by the folks at The Onion. It’s called “Ducks Go Quack, Chickens Say Cluck” . . . sort of a lesson on cross-cultural communication.

(Jimmy Guterman, “How to Give a TED Talk (and How Not To),” Jimmy Guterman’s blog, March 12, 2002)

[photo: “Loneliness,” by David Jakes, used under a Creative Commons license]


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