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TED@IBM

Kare Anderson: Be an opportunity maker

Filmed:

We all want to use our talents to create something meaningful with our lives. But how to get started? (And ... what if you're shy?) Writer Kare Anderson shares her own story of chronic shyness, and how she opened up her world by helping other people use their own talents and passions.

- Writer
A columnist for Forbes, Kare Anderson writes on behavioral research-based ways to become more deeply connected. Full bio

I grew up
00:13
diagnosed as phobically shy,
00:15
and, like at least 20 other people
00:20
in a room of this size,
00:22
I was a stutterer.
00:25
Do you dare raise your hand?
00:26
And it sticks with us. It really does stick with us,
00:29
because when we are treated that way,
00:33
we feel invisible sometimes,
00:38
or talked around and at.
00:41
And as I started to look at people,
00:44
which is mostly all I did,
00:46
I noticed that some people
00:49
really wanted attention and recognition.
00:51
Remember, I was young then.
00:57
So what did they do?
00:59
What we still do perhaps too often.
01:00
We talk about ourselves.
01:03
And yet there are other people I observed
01:05
who had what I called a mutuality mindset.
01:08
In each situation, they found a way to talk about us
01:11
and create that "us" idea.
01:15
So my idea to reimagine the world
01:17
is to see it one where we all become
01:19
greater opportunity-makers with and for others.
01:22
There's no greater opportunity
01:27
or call for action for us now
01:29
than to become opportunity-makers
01:33
who use best talents together more often
01:35
for the greater good
01:38
and accomplish things we
couldn't have done on our own.
01:39
And I want to talk to you about that,
01:42
because even more than giving,
01:44
even more than giving,
01:47
is the capacity for us to do something smarter
01:51
together for the greater good
01:55
that lifts us both up
01:58
and that can scale.
02:00
That's why I'm sitting here.
02:02
But I also want to point something else out:
02:04
Each one of you
02:07
is better than anybody else at something.
02:10
That disproves that popular notion
02:14
that if you're the smartest person in the room,
02:17
you're in the wrong room.
02:20
(Laughter)
02:22
So let me tell you about
02:25
a Hollywood party I went to a couple years back,
02:27
and I met this up-and-coming actress,
02:29
and we were soon talking about something
02:32
that we both felt passionately about: public art.
02:34
And she had the fervent belief
02:37
that every new building in Los Angeles
02:39
should have public art in it.
02:42
She wanted a regulation for it,
02:44
and she fervently started —
02:45
who is here from Chicago? —
02:47
she fervently started talking about
02:49
these bean-shaped reflective sculptures
02:51
in Millennium Park,
02:54
and people would walk up to it
02:56
and they'd smile in the reflection of it,
02:58
and they'd pose and they'd vamp
03:00
and they'd take selfies together,
03:02
and they'd laugh.
03:04
And as she was talking, a
thought came to my mind.
03:08
I said, "I know someone you ought to meet.
03:10
He's getting out of San Quentin
in a couple of weeks" —
03:13
(Laughter) —
03:16
"and he shares your fervent desire
03:18
that art should engage and
enable people to connect."
03:20
He spent five years in solitary,
03:24
and I met him because I gave
a speech at San Quentin,
03:28
and he's articulate
03:31
and he's rather easy on
the eyes because he's buff.
03:33
He had workout regime he did every day.
03:37
(Laughter)
03:39
I think she was following me at that point.
03:41
I said, "He'd be an unexpected ally."
03:43
And not just that. There's James. He's an architect
03:46
and he's a professor, and he loves place-making,
03:48
and place-making is when you have
03:52
those mini-plazas and those urban walkways
03:53
and where they're dotted with art,
03:57
where people draw and
come up and talk sometimes.
03:59
I think they'd make good allies.
04:03
And indeed they were.
04:05
They met together. They prepared.
04:08
They spoke in front of the
Los Angeles City Council.
04:11
And the council members not
only passed the regulation,
04:14
half of them came down and asked
to pose with them afterwards.
04:17
They were startling,
compelling and credible.
04:21
You can't buy that.
04:26
What I'm asking you to consider
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is what kind of opportunity-
makers we might become,
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because more than wealth
04:35
or fancy titles
04:38
or a lot of contacts, it's our capacity to connect
04:42
around each other's
better side and bring it out.
04:46
And I'm not saying this is easy,
04:48
and I'm sure many of you have
made the wrong moves too
04:50
about who you wanted to connect with,
04:53
but what I want to suggest is,
04:56
this is an opportunity.
04:58
I started thinking about it
05:02
way back when I was a
Wall Street Journal reporter
05:04
and I was in Europe and I was
supposed to cover trends
05:06
and trends that transcended business
05:09
or politics or lifestyle.
05:11
So I had to have contacts
05:14
in different worlds very different than mine,
05:16
because otherwise you couldn't spot the trends.
05:18
And third, I had to write the story
05:20
in a way stepping into the reader's shoes,
05:23
so they could see how these
trends could affect their lives.
05:25
That's what opportunity-makers do.
05:29
And here's a strange thing:
05:33
Unlike an increasing number of Americans
05:36
who are working and living
and playing with people
05:40
who think exactly like them
05:43
because we then become more rigid and extreme,
05:45
opportunity-makers are actively seeking situations
05:48
with people unlike them,
05:52
and they're building relationships,
05:54
and because they do that,
05:56
they have trusted relationships
05:58
where they can bring the right team in
06:00
and recruit them to solve a
problem better and faster
06:02
and seize more opportunities.
06:06
They're not affronted by differences,
06:07
they're fascinated by them,
06:15
and that is a huge shift in mindset,
06:17
and once you feel it, you
want it to happen a lot more.
06:20
This world is calling out for us
to have a collective mindset,
06:23
and I believe in doing that.
06:28
It's especially important now.
06:31
Why is it important now?
06:33
Because things can be devised like drones
06:36
and drugs and data collection,
06:40
and they can be devised by more people
06:44
and cheaper ways for beneficial purposes
06:46
and then, as we know from the news every day,
06:50
they can be used for dangerous ones.
06:53
It calls on us, each of us,
06:55
to a higher calling.
06:58
But here's the icing on the cake:
07:01
It's not just the first opportunity
07:04
that you do with somebody else
07:06
that's probably your greatest,
07:08
as an institution or an individual.
07:10
It's after you've had that experience
07:12
and you trust each other.
07:15
It's the unexpected things
07:17
that you devise later on
07:18
you never could have predicted.
07:20
For example, Marty is the husband
of that actress I mentioned,
07:22
and he watched them
when they were practicing,
07:28
and he was soon talking to Wally,
07:30
my friend the ex-con,
07:32
about that exercise regime.
07:33
And he thought,
07:36
I have a set of racquetball courts.
07:37
That guy could teach it.
07:39
A lot of people who work there
are members at my courts.
07:41
They're frequent travelers.
07:44
They could practice in their hotel room,
07:46
no equipment provided.
07:48
That's how Wally got hired.
07:50
Not only that, years later
07:52
he was also teaching racquetball.
07:54
Years after that,
07:56
he was teaching the racquetball teachers.
07:57
What I'm suggesting is, when
you connect with people
08:00
around a shared interest and action,
08:05
you're accustomed to serendipitous
08:09
things happening into the future,
08:12
and I think that's what we're looking at.
08:14
We open ourselves up to those opportunities,
08:16
and in this room
are key players in technology,
08:19
key players who are uniquely positioned to do this,
08:23
to scale systems and projects together.
08:26
So here's what I'm calling for you to do.
08:30
Remember the three traits of opportunity-makers.
08:32
Opportunity-makers keep honing their top strength
08:36
and they become pattern seekers.
08:41
They get involved in different
worlds than their worlds
08:44
so they're trusted and they
can see those patterns,
08:49
and they communicate to connect
08:51
around sweet spots of shared interest.
08:53
So what I'm asking you is,
08:56
the world is hungry.
08:59
I truly believe, in my firsthand experience,
09:01
the world is hungry for us
09:04
to unite together as opportunity-makers
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and to emulate those behaviors
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as so many of you already do —
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I know that firsthand —
09:13
and to reimagine a world
09:16
where we use our best talents together
09:17
more often to accomplish greater things together
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than we could on our own.
09:23
Just remember,
09:27
as Dave Liniger once said,
09:29
"You can't succeed
09:32
coming to the potluck with only a fork."
09:34
(Laughter)
09:37
Thank you very much.
09:39
Thank you. (Applause)
09:41

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About the Speaker:

Kare Anderson - Writer
A columnist for Forbes, Kare Anderson writes on behavioral research-based ways to become more deeply connected.

Why you should listen
Kare Anderson think and writes about becoming connected (and being quoted). She’s an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter, now columnist for Forbes and Huffington Post. Her diverse set of clients includes Salesforce, Novartis and The Skoll Foundation. She’s a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown, and sits on several advisory boards including Watermark, Raynforest, TEDxMarin and Gloopt. Anderson is the author of Mutuality MattersMoving from Me to WeGetting What You WantWalk Your Talk, and Resolving Conflict Sooner.
More profile about the speaker
Kare Anderson | Speaker | TED.com