Dr. Shimi Kang: What One Skill = An Awesome Life? at TEDxKelowna (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Dr. Shimi Kang’s TEDx Talk: What One Skill = An Awesome Life? at TEDxKelowna Conference. Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard-trained child and adult psychiatrist and expert in human motivation. She is the author of the book: The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Self-Motivated Kids. Read her full bio here.


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Dr. Shimi Kang – Psychiatrist and expert in human motivation

Good afternoon.

We humans are in trouble! I’ve been a medical doctor for 17 years, and I’ve researched the science of human motivation. I’ve worked with thousands of people from all walks of life. And I believe that we humans are in trouble. Now why would I say such a thing?

When I look at the lifestyle of my patients, of myself, or even your lifestyles, we have — we are in a state of bizarre paradox, a place of negative evolution. We have made sleep deprivation a symbol of ambition and rested a symbol of laziness. We have made being too busy a symbol of importance. And never before in human history have we had such conveniences and such knowledge, yet never before have our lives been so stressed and unhealthy? So, yes, I do believe that we humans are in trouble.

But at the same time I have seen a group of humans who are better than ever, individuals who have passion and purpose and meaning and joy in their lives. And I’ve wondered: what is the difference between these two groups? What does one group have that the other doesn’t?

So what do you think: is it passion? Passion is a good one but we all know passionate artists and entrepreneurs who are stuck in a rut, unable to move forward. Could it be, if we add hard work and now we have grit, is that it? Well, grit is great but we all know, all of us know hard-working gritty people who have no joy or meaning in their lives.

And when I became is a psychiatrist, I thought it must be how you grow up. But increasingly, I’m seeing people from good childhood with serious anxiety, depression and addiction. So what is it? What is this one thing?

And it wasn’t until I was in my most challenging role, when I became a mother of three beautiful kids who are out there somewhere, that I went and found out. You see, when I became a parent, this is what happened to me. I became overwhelmed — overwhelmed with everything I had to teach my kids and do or was told I should do. And I couldn’t understand how I, a Harvard-trained expert, a medical director of child and youth mental health for a whole city, was having such a hard time raising my three kids, when my mother who grew up in a village and never had a chance to go to school, not even grade one, successfully raised five. And I turned out OK.

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So what was it? What is that one thing? And I searched and they knew there was something more natural and simpler and more powerful than what I was doing. And I searched through the neuroscience, the biology, the psychology and the reality of success. And when I say “success”, I don’t mean money or status. I mean success in all aspects of that word: health, passion, purpose, security, meaning and joy. That’s what I wanted for my kids and myself.

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