Blockages: The Tony Vlachos Story #Survivor
There are two things I like. The reality TV show Survivor and the reality social show Twitter. These are a few of my favorite things.
Survivor is a delight as a little microcosm of humanity. An animated diorama world of greed and bad behavior inside the magic box. What’s not to like?
Twitter, with its 140-character limit, is a short and sweet. In the right hands it can be art form. In the wrong hands? “I’m on the can” or “I’m drinking a smoothie.” Often in the very same tweet.
I’ve been religiously watching Survivor since day one when Richard Hatch won the inaugural season in Borneo. I never miss an episode.
Earlier this year, when Survivor Cagayan, the 28th season, was announced, I did something new. I used Twitter to interact with some contestants on the show. The worlds of Survivor and Twitter collided like chocolate in my peanut butter.
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Let me be your TEDdy bear
The first TED conference was in 1984. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. Since then, TED has grown in scope. The mission? Spreading ideas.
The official TED website says, “Today, TED is best thought of as a global community. It’s a community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.”
I’d seen a few TED videos here and there and always enjoyed them. Then I got an iPod as a bonus at work.
After learning how to work the thing, I discovered that I could use iTunes to automatically get podcasts and have them transferred to my iPod. Once there, I could listen to them any time I wanted, even without wifi.
I quickly loaded up that sucker with all sorts of podcasts like a kid in a candy store. Here’s a list of audio-only content that I’ve signed up for so far:
- American Public Media: The Story
- Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips
- NPR: All Songs Considered
- NPR: Fresh Air Podcast
- Real Time with Bill Maher
- Rob Cesternino has a Podcast
- TEDTalks (audio version)
- This American Life
I also signed up for video podcasts like College Humor, Lifehacker, Science Friday and TEDTalks.
Maybe you can already see the problem? I don’t have enough time! Every time I plug in my iPod to charge it, iTunes opens an automatically “syncs” more stuff. There’s no way I can ever watch it all. I’ve heard that every minute something like 18 hours worth of video gets uploaded to YouTube. It would be hard to watch it all.
I guess at some point you have to start making choices.
So now I’m listening to TED on my “ear buds” every chance I get. Mostly when driving to and from work, which is only about 20 minutes a day. But also in other places like the grocery store or waiting in the restaurant to get my food to go. Suddenly I’m not so irritated by having to wait.
The shortage of time to listen is frustrating. The other night I wanted to listen more, so I skipped dinner, slipped on the ear buds and went for a walk. I listened to NPR and heard a story about Seattle Slew, a famous racehorse that won the Triple Crown. (Which I formerly thought was three shots of whiskey.)
By the way, walking is a fantastic negativity activity. Every 20 feet or so is an intersection or driveway. And at every single one of these you’ll encounter something known as a car. These are highly impatient things that try to run over you at these locations. It adds a lot of fun, excitement and challenge to walking.
My goal is to listen to all of the TEDTalks on audio. Not all of them are topics I’d normally find interesting, but I listen just the same. (Like the trials and tribulations of some new parents and their baby. Bah!) But the talks are compelling even when the material is not normally something I’d ever click on. I hit play and get them in no apparent order. I never know what will come next.
During this experience, I’ve also been learning what it is to really listen. I’m constantly amazing myself with my mind’s ability to drift. I’ll catch myself again and again and realize I haven’t really heard the content. I wasn’t paying attention. This is disturbing to say the least. I wonder how often this happens to all of us in all sorts of situations. Life should not be lived on autopilot.
So I decided to work on my active listening skills. If I’m going to play audio, I don’t just want it to be background noise. I want to absorb what’s being said. I have to actively focus and pay proactive attention. This means I can’t listen during certain activities, like work. I can do it when I’m driving but it requires concentration. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do nothing but sit and listen. That’s why walking is such a great idea. Perhaps working on my fitness while listening to TED is enough “multitasking” for me.
I did try sitting down and listen a few times. Amazingly I’d still find my mind wandering and not paying attention. This takes a bit of effort and discipline. But I do think it is something I’m improving on.
Lastly, to close out this post, I’ve decided that I am going to give a talk at a TED conference someday. Yes, me. I’ve noticed that most of the speakers at TED conferences appear to be “experts” on their subjects, so I’m approaching the goal from that angle. In other words, “What am I expert at?” The obvious answer is “nothing” and I am a “nobody.” Thus, that’s how the topic for my TED talk was born. I’m going to speak about how to be a nobody and do nothing in our modern civilization. I’m a real nowhere man.
If TED permits this, then we’ll truly know if they welcome people from every discipline. 🙂