New Year, Same Me?

For a lot of us, this has been a blur of a year. And in a year so uncertain, so frightening, with so much at stake…there was so much monotony. The endlessness of days spent avoiding infection bled them all together, washing away the end pieces.

It’s tempting to feel as if, in a year during which so much took place, that nothing happened at all.

We had other expectations for 2020 when we rang in the new year last time around. We set ambitions for ourselves—to learn new skills, to take a long-awaited trip, to run a marathon, to defend a PhD. As this year draws to a close and a new year looms, what if we looked at things from a different perspective? Do you really need to start 2021 with a lofty goal?

Here,  we treat you to a selection of talks that explore the authentic side of who we are—our vulnerabilities, our neuroses, our flaws, our quirks. Let these talks remind you that we’re all human—and our oddities make us interesting.

To evolve is optional.

Rives – The Museum of Four in the Morning

Let’s face it: we spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to suppress our infatuations. Our wildest dreams. Our passions. And for what? We all have our reasons, but here’s a thought:

What if we…didn’t?

If we let our weirdness out on display, we might just rediscover parts of ourselves that we thought we’d lost. At the very least, we may even get invited to speak in front of an international audience about how weird we are…twice.

What does Tahiti have to do with Amsterdam?
How does nineteenth-century botany relate to the salty mannerisms of a sailor?

Before the internet, before we could hop on a plane and arrive on a different continent in a matter of hours, before unlimited data plans, before Zoom, Bluetooth, Alexa, and 5G…we were connected. Even in the nineteenth century. 

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her stunning novel, The Signature of All Things, about how even slight shudders of our planet can send shockwaves across the globe.

Picture: Elizabeth Gilbert

What if an obsession was a positive force?

Bill Gates. Warren Buffet. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. 

Yes, they’re all rich guys whose names and companies we know even in our sleep, but why? How did they get there? 

In short: obsession. By pouring an unabashed and relentless focus into their goals, they became household names. As Akaash Nanda writes in his article “The Upside of Obsession”, obsession isn’t always a bad thing.

Reggie Rivers – If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them

Do you ever feel anxiety because your goals seem too big? Too much? Too far away?

If you focus too much on your goal, you are never going to achieve your goal.

Reggie Rivers shows us that it’s not our goals, but our behaviors that make it count. Don’t focus on what’s out of your control. Focus on your actions, one step at a time.

Most of us live from one goal to another. In an age where comparison is ominously present and readily available, our own goals can seem small and insignificant, or huge and daunting. Causing us to spiral into anxiety and self-sabotage. 

But do you know what is worse than not achieving your goals? Doing nothing at all.

Let’s shake ourselves from our big thoughts and things we can’t control. Let’s focus on what we CAN control. Us – our daily small actions, our one small step of the day. We may not be able to climb Mt. Everest, but who knows? One day you might look back and realize that the mountains you’ve climbed are far higher than you expected.

Source: Psychology Today

Kaizen (jap.) – The act of making bad points better

Kaizen is a japanese philosophy of ‘changing for the better’. Often used in professional areas such as lean manufacturing, the same principle can also be applied outside of work. 

Where in our lives can we make small  improvements? You might be surprised what a big effect a small change can make!

Tim Urban – Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Are you a procrastinator?

From writing his thesis in 72 hours to preparing his TED talk at the last minute, Tim Urban has experienced procrastination and what it can do to you first-hand.

As he wanted to find a fun and entertaining way to explain to non-procrastinators what goes on in the heads of procrastinators, Tim Urban soon realized “everyone is procrastinating on something in life.”

And while procrastination is a normal part of life, we just have to be careful to not procrastinate on the important things.

“It’s a job that should probably start today. Well, maybe not today, but….”
– Tim Urban

With the whole internet just one click away, there is so much more interesting stuff to focus on than work.


It’s only when the deadline approaches, that the panic kicks in.


Procrastination means a bad thing for most people. And some procrastinators are stressed out by the fact that they can’t stop procrastinating.

But pre-crastinator and TED speaker Adam Grant actually forced himself to procrastinate more. Why?

In fact, the right amount of procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing and can actually spark creativity. So, if you ever find yourself procrastinating again, don’t get frustrated but remember that this might just be part of your creative process. 

And while you’re trying to procrastinate more, why not learn more about the good parts of procrastination in Adam Grant’s article “Why I taught myself to procrastinate”?

Safwat Saleem – Why I keep speaking up, even when people mock my accent 

Safwat Saleem is an animator who also voices his characters. Some users on Youtube left him mean comments regarding his Pakistani accent. 

Those mean comments crushed him and took him back to his childhood when he used to stutter. He stopped voicing his characters for a while.

What brought him back to his work is the motivation to challenge people’s conception of the “normal” way to speak English. “Normal” is simply a construction of what people have been exposed to, and how visible it is around us.

“I can challenge that pre-existing notion of normal with my work and with my voice and with my accent and by standing here onstage, even though I’m scared shitless and would rather be in the bathroom.“ 
– Safwat Saleem

There are many ways a language can be spoken. Multiple dialects can exist and co-exist even within a national language. Foreigners who speak a second language develop accents due to the way certain syllables are pronounced in their native language.

Long ago, the prescriptive approach of linguistics was supported by most linguiststhey considered themselves the experts who would decide how to speak correctly. However in the modern world, the descriptive approach of linguistics is preferred. This approach focuses the analysis on how languages are spoken by different kinds of people in various environments.

Moreover, studies by Vangsnes et al (2014) and Antoniou show that being bilingual or bi-dialectical can give extra stimulation to the brain that leads to higher cognitive performance.

Chris Bailey – How to Get Your Brain to Focus

Do you feel distracted often? Should you be doing something else right now?

It might not be your fault! Dopamine is released when your brain gets stimulated – for example right now!

What if you lowered the stimulation? What would happen to your ability to focus?

Chris Bailey tried to intentionally bore himself for 1 hour per day. Watching a clock, reading the iTunes Terms of Conditions, and more.

Find out what he experienced in his TEDxMancester talk!

When was the last time you just observed your mind wander?

When our mind wanders, it thinks about the future 48% of the time. This is called prospective bias. Letting your mind wander makes you more creative. It lets you come up with new ideas. While knitting, taking a shower, or walking without staring at a phone, your mind produces ideas. 

Just make sure to bring along a notepad to capture your ideas! 

Technology often diverts our attention and makes it harder to focus.

Mindfulness is a technique that helps you train your capacity to pay attention and to focus. It teaches us to truly  come to rest in the present moment and helps us to experience more clearly  – including the arising of new thoughts and ideas.

Check out Matt D’Avella’s interview with Sam Harris, creator of the Waking Up app and neuroscientist.