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.
And of course, your self-esteem is a result of how loud that line of code is. And of course, some people, they think that that inner dialogue is so loud, so they need to use drugs to keep it quiet. And that is a problem, of course. How many of you have ever given a promise on New Year’s Eve? Give me a hand. Yes.
Almost everybody. Can anybody stand up here and say, “I could keep my promise for a whole year”? Nobody. All right. So there is something wrong with giving a promise, wanting to change something, and actually make it. So we can prove that the will is not helping us to change anything in our life.
Are you with me on that? This is a picture of that one hour old kid now getting married. This is my daughter. When she’s getting married, I want to deliver a great speech. I’m her father, so I’m expected to deliver a great speech. I make my small cue cards, and I prepare everything, and I put them inside my inner pocket, and after church we go for dinner, and there they are – hundred people, friends and family, all waiting for this great speech.
And that’s when I start to feel that my mouth is getting dry, my hands are shaking. It’s terrible I mean, I want to deliver a great speech. What is going on? What’s wrong? Something takes over. The autopilot takes over.
So when I’m reaching for the cue cards, and I cling the glass, because that’s what you do in Sweden before you give a speech, and I stand up, I start saying exactly what the inner dialogue says, “I’m not a speaker”. That doesn’t say on my cue cards, but it’s exactly what many people start with when they start giving a speech. Do you recognize it?
And everybody sitting there goes, “Oh my God, this is so terrible”. Because we can all emphatically feel what it feels like to be there. They made a research where they’ve found that 85% of all the people you ask would rather walk on charcoal, that is on fire, than give a speech.
And I say the 15% that don’t mind, they are lying. How can we reprogram? How can we stop this autopilot? How can we get out of this and change our lives?
There is an interesting thing that happened here. It was an university, this is just six months old. A university where they divided the kids so half of the group, when they were exposed to candy, were supposed to say to themselves, “I shall not eat candy”. So exactly like a New Year’s Eve promise, all right? And the other group was told to say, “I do not eat candy”.
They put out stations with candy and they had observers so they could measure how many people stay away from it, and they’ve found this result – 39% could stay away from the candy if they said, “I shall not”, and 64% could stay away from the candy just by saying, “I do not eat candy”.
So obviously, the brain’s programming works in presence. So if you say, “I shall not eat candy”, the brain goes, “Oh, in the future”. But now, you deserve some candy. You had a hard day, of course you can eat some candy.
So the voting is already done, unless you tell your brain, “I do not eat candy”. This is not new. We have a professor in Sweden called [inaudible] who’s been doing research for 30 years about how we reprogram our brain, and that has been used a lot, for instance, with athletes. Because if you have two athletes that are equally strong, the one with the better software is going to win. And they actually have used this a lot with treatment of cancer.
Because they have measured that, if I tell somebody that you have cancer, just by telling you, the brain starts the whole programming sequence, which is terrible. And I’m not talking about positive thinking, I’m talking about how you envision the outcome. That’s what makes the difference.
So how do we reprogram our brains now, do you want to learn that? All right. This is an example of how I did it. When you’re out sailing – this is our boat Salsa – it’s a wonder of technicalities. You have satellite communication, you have water maker that magically makes salt water into fresh water, you have a refrigerator, you have a toilet that flushes, everything is great. For only one thing – everything breaks.
The challenge today, when you’re sailing over the Atlantic, is not to find your way over the Atlantic. You have GPS and computers for that. The challenge is to have everything working and having enough power to have it working. So I went to a school and learned how to take apart a diesel engine, how to work with electricity and all that, because I really don’t care, I’m really not interested in technical matters. But I knew that in the Tuamotus in the French Polynesian, the Pacific, there is nobody that’s going to help me. Because they know even less than I do.
The problem was that, even though I learned all these things, I had a tendency to swear. So when I was fixing something, I would always go mad. And I was, “Oh, shi” Oh, sorry. So I was saying all kinds of words, and finally my wife said to me, “You know what? You are so bad that we don’t even dare to tell you that something has gone broke. Because you have such a temper with that, we can’t stand it. Can you be quiet?”
I said, “Sure, I can be quiet. I’m quiet.”
And the steam was coming out of the toilet because I was fixing a marine toilet when I decided, “No, this doesn’t work. I have to reprogram my brain.” So I wrote a script. This is the script I wrote “I only focus on things I can change”, which is a good start, because most people focus on things they cannot change.
We have a tendency to discuss the weather, how other people behave, how bad that is, but those are all things that have to do with somebody else. You should always focus only on things that you can change – on yourself. That means, how you are triggered.
The next thing I’m saying is, “I’m good at solving problems. I like challenges. Problems are my teachers, they help me to grow”, and so on and so forth. And this is how I go about. What do you think I do with this script? Any guess? Toss it away? No I read it. And I read it once in my phone.
We all have phones, so that way you can record stuff. And then, when I’m done with that, I play this every day. And I usually do it together with something else that I do every day, like brushing my teeth or something like that. So you should always connect the reading with something that you already do every day, otherwise you’re going to do it two days and then you’re going to forget it, and then you think, “Okay, it doesn’t matter”. So you’re going to lose it.
So, record it, and then you listen to it every day. Now, your brain is not only neutral, your brain is honest. So the first days, your brain is going to laugh its head off. It’s like, “Oh yeah, sure, problems are no problems! You must be kidding me!” But don’t worry. And it’s really hard to write this text because you have to write it in present.
You cannot write, “I shall be better at solving problems.” You have to write, “I’m good at solving problems.” Because this is what you’re programming your brain. And after ten days of laughing, your brain will actually give up and shut up. And after 20 days, you’re going to read along.
Because now you know it by heart. And after 30 days, you’re just going to see that there is a change. You know what my wife said? “You are even singing now when you change it”. She said, “This is absolutely amazing, how it works.” So if you do this for yourself, first of all, find things that you have a problem with yourself.
Write a list of things that you think that you’re not good at. Now, if you don’t find anything that you’re not good at, then you can forget this exercise totally, because then you are a narcissist. Nothing is going to change. But most of us will probably write about ten things that we don’t like about ourselves. Write them down and then you prioritize, so you find the first three.
And on your list, it might say, “I cannot prioritize”. Then you have to ask somebody else to help you. Once you prioritize, write the script and record it. Now, do you want to conquer the world for the better? Do you want to conquer the world for the better?
Okay? Let’s say it together! We are conquering the world for the better.
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