What I Hated About My TEDx Talk

“Don’t teach them anything.  Just hypnotize them.”

This was the message I got from the very worthy committee of volunteers who were organizing this year’s TEDx event.  But wait a second… I thought TED is all about “ideas worth spreading.”  I had spent three months developing the idea I had proposed—the idea that they accepted—and now I was being asked to NOT teach my idea.

There I was, with less than three weeks to go before my big debut, and they were telling me to change what I had worked on for three months.  I responded by doing what I know how to do: I took the lemons and made lemonade.  Actually, I scrapped everything I had prepared, completely cleared the board, and started from scratch.  I worked over night, and by dawn I had the whole thing sketched out entirely.  The music that you hear in the video is what I created that night using a synthesizer and drum sequencer.  All I needed at that point was refinement, and I used all of the remaining days and weeks to accomplish that.

It’s not that I hate being told what to do (maybe there’s a little of that); it’s that my idea is original, it’s worth spreading, and I really wanted to take it out for a spin and show it off to the world.  My idea is something that other hypnotists missed.  According to every professional hypnotist and entertainer I consulted, no one has done this before.  Let’s face it: I wanted to be impressive.  That is always the case, and I have no one to blame other than my own ego.

The thing that bothered me the most—and I acknowledged this immediately—is that I was unable to convince the committee that my idea is compelling just as I presented it.  My idea has complexity and is not for an average audience.  I would need to begin with simple information that is easy to grasp and then take them on a journey of thought, then circle back to the entirely familiar experience of listening to music and then demonstrate WHY music is hypnotic.  I wanted to teach my Idea Worth Spreading.

Therein lies the crux of my problem.  Most people in the world don’t understand Hypnosis and are not willing to sit through an explanation.  What most people are fascinated by are their own, preconceived notions, and they have a hard time reconciling new information with their ingrained ideas about “making” people do outlandish things.  People prefer to have the razzle-dazzle, instantly impressive, just-make-me-bark-like-a-chicken, laughing hypnosis.

I don’t know why I thought it would be different when I proposed my Idea Worth Spreading to a highly intelligent group of TED people.  Surely they would want to peek under the hood of Hypnosis to see how it works.  They are so sharp and so discerning, I thought I had finally found my audience.  Not.

The real problem is that humans are extremely limited in the way we understand things, and we become more limited as a result of more education and experience.  We get locked into seeing the world as we think it is, and less likely to see the world in an unlimited way, full of possibilities, which it truly is.  Hypnosis and magic and deception are fascinating, and we get fooled into thinking that the surface effects are the most interesting thing.  They’re not.  The interesting thing is the way the mind works—filtering, deciphering, and creating.  The most interesting thing is the way you create the world every day in your mind, and then you walk around thinking that what’s out there is the same thing you created in your mind.  The funny part is that you walk around every day without a thought of appreciation for the amazing structure and potential of your own brain.

The bottom line for me, and the thing that took almost a year for me to get clear about, is that I’m a scholar.  I won’t be happy as an entertainer who does nothing else in terms of work and energy.  I want to uncover as many secrets as I can, practice with them, and teach what I know.

I also learned that with my TEDx talk, I compromised my integrity.  I was so eager to get on that stage that I went along with their requests and I didn’t hold out for what would have been really great and revolutionary.  I failed in my attempt to explain my idea which is way more fascinating and entertaining than simple group hypnosis—and demonstrating the effects of hypnosis on a group is very, very simple. 

Oh, one more thing: I am entirely grateful to have appeared on that stage.  Everyone involved was wonderful, friendly, and supportive and it was a terrific experience.  And I now have my first TEDx talk under my belt.  I didn’t present what I set out to do, but I am very pleased with the result.

It’s on video, right here on YouTube:


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