Here is the full transcript of Staffan Ehde’s TEDx Talk: Who Decides What You Think? Not You… at TEDxYouth@Helsingborg conference. This event occurred on May 14, 2016.
Staffan Ehde: So how many of you want to conquer the world for the better? All right. Good. Why don’t we say it? You want to…
[Audience: Conquer the world]
World for the better, yes. You know what? When I was at your age, I thought that old people were boring, to be honest. They had a job and they complained. They had a family and they complained. To me, it looked like they had everything, and yet they complained. So I decided, when I was going to grow old, I was not going to be like them.
But the sad news is that most of us in this room are going to end up being just that boring. So how come that some young people that are resourceful, they have everything, accomplish nothing, and some people that are sourceful and have nothing, can change the world? That’s what we are going to look at today.
And I’m not talking to you from an old man’s perspective, I’m talking to you from somebody who just sailed for three years. And it was not my wife’s idea. No, it was not my idea, it was my wife’s idea.
So she promoted me to my own incompetence by deciding that I was going to be the skipper. And you know, the skipper is the guy who takes all the important decisions, and then my wife decides what is important. So, when you’re out there sitting in the cockpit and the waves are about four meters high, and the wind is blowing through the rig with the 40 knots strength, and it’s really whistling, and you’re sitting there by yourself, because the other ones are sleeping, then you suddenly hear a voice. A voice of fear. And I got really interested in what is that voice.
Who is it that is trying to call me back to my comfort zone? Why is it so hard to make something different with this voice coming from within, doing actual damage to me? Let’s start from the beginning.
I have my son, he’s three years old, he’s standing next to me by a hill. You can think San Francisco, a really steep hill with a gravel road that goes. One second he stands next to me, the next second he’s running like crazy down that road. His legs are like drumsticks, you know, a small three-year-old.
And of course, I start to shout, “Stop it! You’re going to kill yourself!” And of course, he takes off, he starts to fly like a bird. For a second. And then he crashes, I scoop him up, I try to comfort him, but by some reason, women are better at that, so my wife takes over. And she tells me to get some water and some napkins so we can clean his wounds. So I walk away, I get some water and napkins, come back.
And then I go down on my knees. Now he’s just sobbing, he’s not crying anymore. And we start to clean. And what do you think I’m saying? What do you think I’m going to say to him? No guesses “I told you “. Exactly “I told you!” And what am I actually saying to him? I’m saying, “Take no risks, it’s going to hurt”. That’s the message.
Now, if that wasn’t enough, we had a few more messages for our kids. This must be the dream PowerPoint. And I’m going to read everything for you. No, I’m not. The one that I love the most is, “You are just like your father”. What’s wrong with that?
Anyway, the next question you should ask yourself is: how many times do we give that message to our kids? Actually, there is a research group in Australia who measured a thousand “normal” families to see how many negative messages do we give our kids. And they came to an average that says that we’re serving our kids with 23 negative messages per day for the first 18 years, which makes it a total of 148,000. 148,000 negative lines. So, how is that? This little kid is actually my first daughter. She’s just one hour old.
And the only programming she has in her brain now is the genetic code which is: eat, fight, and if it doesn’t work, run, and reproduce yourself. Those are the four only codes that we are born with. If there is anything I want you to remember from this speech is that your brain is neutral. Your brain doesn’t know what’s right or wrong. This is something that we program as parents to our kids, because something that is okay here is not okay in China, so it’s all cultural.
So of course, I can tell my kid, “Don’t pick your nose and eat it.” Not the nose. But maybe I don’t have to do it all the time. And maybe I shouldn’t call my kid an idiot, for instance. Think of these lines as 148,000 lines of code that you would feed into a computer to create a great software that is gong to conquer the world.
You start off with 148,000 lines of “don’t”. That’s going to be hard, isn’t it? And it’s not only that, the brain wants to confirm all these lines. So if I’m told that I’m clumsy as a kid, every time I drop something or I’m about to fall, I’m going to say, “Oh, I’m so clumsy”. Do you recognize this? So the line of code that was programmed to you turns to an inner dialogue. It’s quite interesting.
And that inner dialogue serves as an autopilot. I’m going to try something here. I’m going to ask one of you to sing for us. It’s funny to see how you all look away, like, “Not me, not me”. Do you feel what kind of line they’ve come up with? Well, it was one of those.
And one of them is, “I can’t sing”. Do you recognize this? I was told, when I was ten years old, by a teacher, “Just move your lips when we’re singing. Don’t ruin the song.” And should that be the truth for the rest of my life? Should that be that line of code that goes with me to the rest of my life? Unfortunately, yes. This is what happens to most of us.
And what happened now when I was reaching for the microphone, was that that line of code, or that inner dialogue, became louder. Could you notice that? It sort of came up, “I can’t sing”. And this is what happens in a cockpit in a boat when you are doing something different and you are scared. When you’re outside the comfort zone, this line of code gets louder. It’s kind of interesting.