TED – 31 Days of Ideas

A few weeks ago, I was invited to write for a special year-end newsletter from TED where they ask TED speakers to write about their favorite talks. That recommendation would then be sent out to several million people who are on the mailing list. What an cool opportunity! There are so many great talks that I would love to share, I hope they invite me back next year!

After a good bit of thought, I decided to write about Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll’s “How I learned to read — and trade stocks — from prison.” To borrow from Good Will Hunting, it will blow your hair back.

31DaysOfIdeas - Curtis Wall Street Carroll

31 Days of Ideas – Cultivate your Superpowers


Cultivate your Superpowers
Recommended by David Lee

It won’t take but a few seconds to realize that there’s something different about Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll’s TED Talk. It might be that he’s holding a microphone in his hand. Or maybe it’s the very plain blue shirt he’s wearing. Or perhaps it’s his cadence of speaking. Once you notice it, you start to wonder why this talk looks different from most. When your eye catches “Recorded at TEDxSanQuentin,” it becomes clear. Wall Street is giving this talk from within the walls of one of America’s most storied prisons, where he’s serving a 54-to-life sentence for robbery and murder.

There’s so much insight packed into this talk, I’m begging you to watch it. Wall Street artfully reveals glimpses of living inside a state prison — and the life circumstances that put him there. His powerful views on the dangers of financial illiteracy and emotional relationships with money are wise even when measured against the high standards of financial professionals. In a world starving for role models, Wall Street demonstrates what happens when we’re given a chance to cultivate the superpowers that live inside us.

We commonly see the TED stage as a place where brilliant, powerful and accomplished people share ideas that will play a role in shaping the future. Wall Street’s talk is a powerful reminder that ideas worth spreading can come from all walks of life. As we think about him and his fellow inmates, we’re invited to remember that the future will affect everyone — and that the ideas that will shape it can come from anywhere.

Why the Jobs of the Future Won’t Feel Like Work

Well, truth be told… I lost my place a few times on stage.  But the editing team at TED really made this talk look so much better than it really was.  I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to speak on the TED@UPS stage this year — and honored that the team at TED felt it was worth curating to the main website.  It’s humbling and exciting to see these ideas being incorporated into such an exulted collection.  I hope the world likes it!


Discovering your Saturday-Self

With the talk coming out this week, my hope is that the idea of your “Saturday-self” will become a more common idea that people talk about and think about. The concept is presented in terms of days of the week.  But, for me, it was a discovery process that took several years to figure out. The origins of the idea came from 2008, when the financial crisis gave me an opportunity to gracefully leave Bank of America and spend some time thinking about who I was and how I wanted to contribute in my professional life.

I was in my mid-thirties… and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have anyone telling me what I was supposed to be good at. There were no promotions to chase, no assignments from managers, and no deal-oriented work to stay late and finish. It was a chance to really dig deep and think about what types of problems were the most interesting to me – and types of work would be fulfilling to me in the long run.

Over the next three years, I got to explore a number of projects in technology, non-profit, and community involvement. During this time, I also went to business school — which, in the wise words of Ryan Kasprzak, is “the most socially acceptable way to be unemployed.”

For me, that time away from corporate America was extremely refreshing. It helped me discover the difference between leadership and management. It helped me understand the mechanics that lead to people not being able to bring more of themselves to work. I constantly asked my classmates, “If so many executive leaders have been exposed to all of the same ideas that we are learning in school, then why does working still suck for so many people?”

Well, after more investigation, the answer became clear. In fact, the people who went to business school in the decades before us, were exposed to different kinds of ideas. They were asked to prioritize quality, profitability, and growth. The idea of “empathy” as a management technique was not something commonly taught in years past. But I truly believe that we are in the early years of a broad movement that says that the companies who empathize the best will win. Whoever understands what customers and employees really want will win the battle for both over the next few decades. When you look at how customers flock to Apple and Amazon, while employees flock to Google and Facebook – it should be obvious that this movement is well underway.

My hope is that in the next evolution of empathetic management is one that is focused on enabling people to bring more of themselves to work. As Harry Davis says, “finding professional happiness is about finding environments where you don’t have to leave too much of yourself in the trunk of your car.” We all have hobbies in our free time. We are researchers, shoppers, craft makers, carpenters, artists, and bakers. Each of these personal passions have economic value (because some people do them professionally). It’s incumbent on us to find more pathways to take these talents to our day-to-day work and make our core work better… even if it seems miles away. Because if we can bring the talents we use on Saturday into the office on Monday – the work and our human spirit will be so much stronger for it.

Revisiting Johnny’s TED Talk

As I anxiously await the release of my talk, it’s a great occasion to revisit the amazing talk that my brother Johnny gave in 2008.  That talk what would become one of the most watched TED talks over the next five years.  He talks about inventive uses of the Nintendo Wii controller that go way beyond playing Mario.

Over the next ten years he went on to be a principle contributor to the Microsoft Kinect and then started a research effort that would grow to become Google Tango.  It was clear that he was brilliant at 10 years old and it’s still clear today.