Ryder Carroll: How to Lead an Intentional Life at TEDxYale (Transcript)

Ryder Carroll

Here is the full transcript of Bullet Journal creator Ryder Carroll’s TEDx Talk: How to Lead an Intentional Life at TEDxYale conference. This event took place on October 15, 2016 at New Haven, Connecticut.

Listen to the MP3 audio: How to Lead an Intentional Life by Ryder Carroll at TEDxYale


I believe that we are responsible for creating the moments of joy in our own lives. We can’t take credit for a beautiful sunrise, but we can take credit for being there to see it.

We can take credit for the decisions that we made that allowed us to experience that moment. You decided to leave house early. You decided to go for a hike. But making good decisions is really hard. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life.

When I was young, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. At the time, there was not a lot known about the condition, and there were no resources, not to mention that there was no Internet. So the few tools that I could find were either too rigid or too complicated. They didn’t work the way that my mind worked.

A big misconception about ADD is that we can’t focus. In my experience, I could focus. I was just focusing on too many things at the same time.

So, over the next 25 years, I silently made it my mission to design my own resources. Over time, I actually outgrew my ADD, but I found the methodologies I’d developed remained relevant, incredibly helpful, so I shared them with a couple of my friends. I was really surprised to find out that they too found it helpful.

Who knew? I designed it for myself, I’d never assumed that it would work for other people. But with that in mind, about three years ago, I built a website and shot some videos to teach the system to others, in hopes that it might help them the way that it helped me. I called the system “The Bullet Journal”.

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If you search for the Bullet Journal on YouTube or Instagram today, you will find hundreds of thousands of examples of how people have adopted the Bullet Journal to help them deal with challenges in their own lives. Those tutorial videos have been seen over 5 million times. It’s incredible.

I just wished that I’d had this knowledge when I was that young struggling kid. That’s why I’m very excited to be here today to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

We’re going to talk about how to declutter your mind, how to cultivate your curiosity, and how to remain focused over time. These practices will help you close the gap from leading a distracted life to leading one of intention. And it all begins with reflection.

You see, studies suggest that we have over 500,000 thoughts every single day. Remember, as a kid, my biggest problem was I was focusing on way too many things at the same time. Doesn’t that sound familiar though? As an adult, that’s just known as being busy. But being busy doesn’t mean that you’re being productive, right? A lot of time, being busy just means you’re in a state of being functionally-overwhelmed.

And a lot of this is due to the overwhelming amount of choices that we have to make in our modern life. Freedom of choice is absolutely your privilege, but it’s a privilege that comes at a cost, because for every one of these choices that we make, we have to make a decision. And every decision requires us to focus. And focus costs us our two most valuable resources: our energy and our time.

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