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Home » How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Transcript)

How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Transcript)

Following is the full transcript of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s talk titled “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative” at TED conference. In a refreshingly honest talk, he explores how the attention-driven model of big tech companies impacts our creativity — and shares a more powerful feeling than getting attention: paying attention.


First of all, thank you for your attention.

There’s nothing quite like being in a room full of people like this, where all of you are giving your attention to me. It’s a powerful feeling, to get attention.

I’m an actor, so I’m a bit of an expert on, well, nothing, really. But I do know what it feels like to get attention — I’ve been lucky in my life to get a lot more than my fair share of attention. And I’m grateful for that, because like I said, it’s a powerful feeling.

But there’s another powerful feeling that I’ve also been lucky to experience a lot as an actor. And it’s funny, it’s sort of the opposite feeling, because it doesn’t come from getting attention. It comes from paying attention.

When I’m acting, I get so focused that I’m only paying attention to one thing. Like when I’m on set and we’re about to shoot and the first AD calls out “Rolling!” And then I hear “speed,” “marker,” “set,” and then the director calls “Action!”

I’ve heard that sequence so many times, like, it’s become this Pavlovian magic spell for me. “Rolling,” “speed,” “marker,” “set” and “action.”

Something happens to me, I can’t even help it. My attention… narrows. And everything else in the world, anything else that might be bothering me or might grab my attention, it all goes away, and I’m just there.

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