Make time for big ideas: Twenty minutes

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I interview two or three people a week for the various columns that I write. One thing I have learned from this is that people can tell you the major ideas they have in about twenty minutes. After twenty minutes you end up getting into the details of the ideas — probably more than you need to know.

So it was not surprising to me that the TED conference limits speakers to about that amount of time. What was surprising to me was how much I enjoyed watching the videos of lectures from the conference.

Before I go on, though, let me just say that TED is totally elitist, and the selection of speakers is absurdly imbalanced among men and women. But when it comes to your career, you should take advantage of all opportunities to converse with very smart, interesting people. I have noticed that I learn an incredible amount from interviewing interesting people — more than when I just read an article about them. Getting a chance to see the lectures at TED, (for free!) is not a conversation, but it’s better than reading about it.

So, each night or so I am watching one video. I don’t have the attention span to just watch, so maybe it’s good that I didn’t go to the conference. I answered email during Tony Robbins, but still, you can’t say he’s not inspiring. I was riveted during the Majora Carter video. She’s a great speaker (I shed a tear) and she talks about the politics of green space in urban areas. I didn’t know anything about this topic and I can honestly say she showed me a different way to look at things.

I found out about the TED videos from Guy Kawasaki’s blog. I check his blog out a lot because he writes about big ideas. There is so much to read online, but it’s easy to surf and surf and never get to a big idea. Force yourself to find them — that’s how you’ll grow.