The TED Thread
This week on Find the Red Thread, you have some homework to do. Take a look at “My Stroke of Insight,” a TED Talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, and find the four statements she makes that capture key pieces of the Red Thread.
In her talk, Taylor, a neuroanatomist, discovers something as a result of suffering from a stroke. She starts with a question that most people in the audience want to know more about, the goal: how can I connect my dreams to reality?
By looking at clips of different segments of the talk, we can break down how Taylor strings together the elements of the goal, the problem, the idea, and the action, and revisits them at key moments in her talk to move her audience to action.
Let’s practice finding the Red Thread. How? By finding a TED thread. By finding how a Red Thread weaves its way through Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk, “My Stroke of Insight.” I’m Tamsen Webster, from tamsenwebster.com, and this is Find the Red Thread.
One of the best ways to get better at something is to do it and then get immediate feedback on it. So here’s what I want you to do this week. Go watch, listen, or read Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk, My Stroke of Insight. And find within it, the four statements that she makes that capture four of the key pieces of the Red Thread.
Which pieces? They’re going to show up in this order. Number one, the goal, she’s going to say something in the first 30 seconds that captures something that the audience would readily agree they want, that the talk will help them get. Number two, a statement of the problem, something that describes the underlying reason why we can’t achieve the goal. Three, an idea, in this case it’s a realization, a discovery of something that explains why the problem is such a problem, and sets the stage for us to accept the change that she’s asking us to make. And that’s the fourth thing, the change. There’s going to be a clear statement of what she wants people to do or to think differently as a result of the talk.
So if you’re going to go test yourself, go do that now, otherwise let’s explore those pieces of the Red Thread in this talk. Now remember for anybody who hasn’t seen this, this talk is all about how Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, someone who studies the brain, discovered something as a result of suffering from a stroke— a hemorrhage in her brain. The way she opens the talk is with a very clear statement of the goal. But she frames it as a question, and as a question she asks. Let’s take a listen:
I wanted to understand why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true.
So this statement about connecting dreams to reality, is something that most people in the audience would want to know more about. How can I go from here to there? How can I make what I want to have happen, happen? After that she explains how she pursued that from a scientific standpoint, and that leads into an explanation of the brain and how it works. And that serves as a set up for the problem, because there’s a very specific thing that the left side of the brain does that creates the chief barrier between us and creating that connection between reality and dreams.
And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me, “I am,” I become separate, I become a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around me, and separate from you.
See how she’s done that? The minute that the left hemisphere has this very specific function, it explains why there’s not this connection. If this is separate, if the left hemisphere creates us as separate, then that’s going to serve as the chief reason why we can’t connect the reality that we experience with something greater. Then she continues to explain the process of experiencing this stroke, while weaving in how the brain works, ultimately to land on the idea. As I said before, it’s a realization, it’s an experience that she has. And about eight minutes in, she describes this.
And because I could not longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.
It’s this realization that something greater is going on than just the reality that she’s experienced day to day. And it’s such an important statement, that she actually repeats it again after she’s spent some time really explaining and justifying and validating that idea. Listen for the, its recap later in the talk.
Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive.
So now you see how she’s set this up. If our goal is to connect our dreams to reality, and the problem is that our left hemisphere anchors ourself and separates us from that reality, but there’s this other reality that’s always sitting there. There’s this expansiveness, this thing that represents dreams is always available to us, and this is the thing that she realized, now we’re set up for the change. And she says this so powerfully and so earnestly, right near the end of the talk.
And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres. And find this peace.
Now I know if you had heard that on its own, you’d say this is kind of crazy, but I think you would agree that anyone who’s seen this whole talk, by the time you get there, this doesn’t seem like a strange change to ask of us at all. She’s asking us to consciously choose which side of our brain that we exist on. And by doing that, we can then connect to the goal. We can connect our dreams and reality. Now one thing I love about this talk is that she goes and then goes back to the goal, but now elevates it. Take a listen to this.
So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe. With manual dexterity, and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose moment by moment who and how we want to be in the world.
So she’s taken this initial goal of connecting dreams and reality, and has elevated it now to this next level of saying we are everything that we want to be. It’s not even how do I go do this thing, it’s something that is within my power right now. The final way of practice, and something to look for when you’re practicing finding the Red Thread, is take a listen or take a look at someone’s conclusion. A lot of times they’re going to, if it’s constructed well, they’re going to put those key ideas back in, and finish it off with a call to action. And so listen to how she sums up some of those key ideas at the end of her talk.
These are the “we” inside of “me.” Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when?
What I love about that, you know she’s landed it. Because when she asks that first question, you can hear multiple people in the audience react. Man, she does such a great job with this. Because she’s been able to string together those key pieces of the idea that move people from what I think would be a very skeptical position when they begin, to completely accepting not only the idea, but her as a credible source for it.
So, what’s the Red Thread of this talk? Well you extract from those pieces what the ultimate message is. You take the change in this case, and marry it to the goal to say that the Red Thread of this talk, what this talk is all about, is how, when we choose to operate between both sides of the hemispheres of our brains, we find the path to connecting our dreams to reality.
Now that is a pretty powerful Red Thread, and I hope you had fun finding it with me. If you ever have trouble, find more at tamsenwebster.com, or reach out. See you next time.