I recently watched Matt Cutts’ TED talk entitled “Try something new for 30 days“. I’ve included it below so you can watch it (It’s 3:27 long):

There are four months with 30 days. Perfect time for a 30-day challenge every couple months. Or if you find you’re coming up on a 31-day month and want to participate, step up your game and watch the extra video.

On its own, I think this is an amazing idea. I think you should absolutely try this. But I have a bit of a twist to this challenge. It has two parts.

First, for 30 days, I challenge you to watch one new TED talk every day (and if you don’t want to search for a new TED Talk every day, I’ve created a playlist already on YouTube). You’re learning about a new subject. Some professions require continued education to stay licensed, and yet, most professions only require it in order to get to the next level. That means if you aren’t looking for that next level, you’re just…hanging out really. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with just hanging out in life.

Just kidding. The best thing you can do for yourself is grow an allergy to your comfort zone.

But watching a TED talk video isn’t enough. You probably watch 10-20 nonsense videos every time you fall into a YouTube hole on the weekend (or while you’re at work). You have to combine that TED talk with a conversation.

Here’s the second part of the challenge. You can have the conversation with anyone, but remember, this is about stretching yourself. If you don’t talk to people much, start out to those closest to you and strike up a conversation, then gradually work to total strangers. Or if you’re like me and you’ve never met a stranger, then I would suggest you always find someone brand new and share what you learned in that video with them. Now, of course you’re not an expert in the material but that doesn’t matter. You are starting a conversation with a person over a topic you just briefly learned.

The important part of the challenge are your benefits. Here are four benefits you’ll get from this challenge:

  1. Connect through knowledge. Ever stand in an elevator with a stranger? Feel like you should say something to break the silence? “This weather, huh?”…“Yeah, crazy.”…”Forgot my umbrella, so I got soa-“…“This is my floor, bye!” Well, now you have something to discuss. Wherever you encounter a new person, share the knowledge. If you’ve done your 30-day challenge homework, you have a TED talk subject to discuss. As you get more comfortable, share with more people. See how many people you can talk about that subject with during the day. You never know where it will go.
  2. Network. This isn’t the networking you think of where they serve drinks in small cups in hotel conference rooms. You’re investing time in people that isn’t forced. You’re sharing something with them and finding out what they know about it. They might remember you as the person who started talking about a mushroom burial suit, but more likely, they’ll remember that interesting person they met and would happily talk to again. Also, don’t forget to introduce yourself at some point.
  3. Learn to learn. Invariably, as you take in new subject matter every day for 30 days, then go push that knowledge into the universe, you will encounter obstacles and gaps in your learning style. You’re going to come face-to-face with metacognition. Knowing about knowing. You’ll get better at learning by learning what presentation methods during which you learned the best. Additionally, as you progress, you’ll gradually determine how to explain things to others that better connects the ideas in your mind. It’s teaching yourself how to fish.
  4. Solidify knowledge. When you learn something, it goes into your working memory. If you don’t think about it anymore, it just fades away. However, if you teach it to someone else (assuming you aren’t reading it to them), you have to explain it in your own words. By explaining it to someone else (teaching it, essentially), you are recreating the ideas and concepts in your mind and giving them meaning. This is called the protégé effect. It’s real, and it can work for you.

“When we teach, we learn.” -Seneca


Want a pre-made playlist of TED Talks to watch for the 30-day challenge? 

Check out my playlist on Youtube

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