TED Talks tell the stories of many of our greatest accomplishments. They spotlight injustices, reveal ways we can improve performance, offer hidden clues into the psychology of happiness, and teach us about human potential.  TED Talks are living examples of the power of presentation.  Great stories, told well, have the unique power to create real cultural transformation. I should love TED Talks.  I do love TED Talks. 

At the same time, TED Talks add to the noise. Not just any noise, a very specific, costly noise.  We are saturated by the most heroic examples of life at every turn.  And while reminders of our potential as humans can inspire, too much of it will leave us setting the proverbial bar too high.  We're over-successed and under-accomplished as a society.  It's no surprise that we get depressed and feel like we're not contributing anything significant when we're constantly comparing ourselves to the outliers and the elites of the elite.

In the book I'm writing, one of the chapters is titled 'Less Superman, More Clark Kent.'  The mundane of life is where life takes place.  There's something beautiful about having a job, a family, friends, a community. But that has never felt less satisfying for so many of us.  

TED is not the only problem. Facebook is filled with happy babies, picturesque vacations, and delicious meals.  And in a survey of over 500 people, 61% admitted that their mood was noticeably altered to the negative based on a simple check in on Facebook.  But TED is Facebook on steroids in this particular category. 

My church choral director growing up, Tracy DePue, often reminded us that comparison is the thief of joy.  TED Talks subtly remind many of us of what we have not done with our lives.  And that makes us depressed (particularly Gen Y).   So, let’s turn off the new inspiring TED video, and get to work without the weight of ‘how does my job compare to the guy who just walked across Africa.'

And if you don’t believe me, watch this TED Talk by Barry Schwartz. 

*Special Thanks to Andy Luten for the concept. Visit his awesome blog on travel here

Photo Credit: Urban_Data

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