TED videos for Business English, Part II (Success and Failure)

Lights go out on 75 W light bulb
Often, whether we admit it or not, we measure a person by how successful they are...  but what exactly is success?

It's not how much money someone has, is it?

It's not whether or not they have a family  and friends... as good as all that may be, it's something else, it's something much more illusive.  How do we decide?  What leads us to  this sort of judgement... to saying "oh, don't bother with him, he's a loser" or "Wow, that woman is so amazing, gifted, she's really made it to the top of her profession."  Is it our  own culture that defines this or do these assumptions, opinions, ideas transfer globally?

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Anyway, here are my recommended TED videos for whenever the subjects of success and failure arise in your adult English classrooms.  I've also stuck up a SimplyConversations lesson on Achievements and Ambitions into Google Docs. which you can use as a  pre-task or follow-up activity.

A kinder, gentler philosophy of success
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html (17mins)
Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure -- and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

Measuring what makes life worthwhile
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/chip_conley_measuring_what_makes_life_worthwhile.html (18mins)
When the dotcom bubble burst, hotelier Chip Conley went in search of a business model based on happiness. In an old friendship with an employee and in the wisdom of a Buddhist king, he learned that success comes from what you count.  Fascinating!!

8 secrets of success
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html (3mins)
Why do people succeed? Is it because they're smart? Or are they just lucky? Neither. Analyst Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success.

True success
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success.html (18mins)
With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father's wisdom. 

Keep your goals to yourself
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself.html (3mins)
After hitting on a brilliant new life plan, our first instinct is to tell someone, but Derek Sivers says it's better to keep goals secret. He presents research stretching as far back as the 1920s to show why people who talk about their ambitions may be less likely to achieve them.

Success is a continuous journey
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/richard_st_john_success_is_a_continuous_journey.html (4mins)
In his typically candid style, Richard St. John reminds us that success is not a one-way street, but a constant journey. He uses the story of his business' rise and fall to illustrate a valuable lesson -- when we stop trying, we fail.

Don't eat the marshmallow yet 
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet.html (7mins)
In this short talk from TED U, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification -- and how it can predict future success. With priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow.

Hope you enjoyed these as much as we did! 

Which was your favourite?


Write a lesson plan based on using one of these videos (or any other that refers to the subject of success and failure) and post this up on your own website or blog.  Alternatively, upload the LP into a document sharing site (e.g scribd/ slideshare/ google docs and let us all know the URL in the comments below.

Other great videos on this theme, via YouTube

See also:
Part I: TED videos + decision-making 
Part III: TED videos + motivation
Speaking activities for teaching English with TED
Best video websites for teaching adult Business English learners

9 Responses to “TED videos for Business English, Part II (Success and Failure)”

  • David Warr says:
    February 04, 2011

    A great list of videos, and I like your activities too. I've read Alain de Botton before, but never seen him speaking. I think he's captivating. Here's just a little thing that's been in my mind a while: talks like this, and blogs, any substantial input really, don't you think, are completely the opposite of Dogme? I have no input, no say in them whatsoever (OK, I can comment, but the original, I mean), but the surprise (and the quality) is what makes them so interesting, with the potential to learn from them too.
    What's your favourite talk?

    February 05, 2011

    Thanks David,

    re the link between dogme and using videos like this... well, if you've a 3hr lesson, using 20 minutes of an incredible authentic material which leads on, by its very content, to sparkling conversation is pretty materials light and highly motivational... to me.

    Also, some videos are only 6 mins or even 3 mins ---

    It's not just that, tho, the time, it's the conversation one has going on in one's head while listening - speeches like these, as you noted are utterly absorbing - there's a whole lot going on in one's head while watching... be it native speaker or language learner which is why, although some dogmeists may beg to differ, I think they're excellent to take into the classroom.

    Also because of the captivation they inspire - the focused attention - even when they only understand 60 - 85% of what was said they still provoke discussion. And importantly, often my students report re-viewing a TED at home to close the gap in understanding.

    I'm not sure exactly how to express this... but you see, what's often discussed in these sorts of videos, are

    a) ideas that may not "naturally" emerge however once there, in the room, they provoke the students to discuss them from their own perspectives therefore forcing a certain level of communication and critical thinking to emerge... all of a sudden they find out they need new vocabulary to express what they're thinking - which teh teacher can then supply and sometimes it's lexis that was actually mentioned in the speech and therefore prompts imprinting...

    b) they can be used impromptu - there's need to prepare (as mentioned in the speaking tips post)... to be honest, this organization of TED videos actually springs out of something which happened in class a couple of weeks ago when I was sick (but still going to class)... my student said something about my lung infection and mentioned that in China you have to pay the doctor when you're well not when you're sick. And I remembered that there was a video that talked about that too and it was a fine moment to start discussing cultural differences and assumptions and using the Derek Sivers video would have fit in nice... I wanted to find the video on my netbook -but I've so many videos now and I couldn't find it.. i.e. started pfaffing about...

    so I thought right, Kaz, it's time to sort these down into themes so that the next time this happens I can just search my own blog and not look like a idjet... (I often do that btw, search my own blog... the blog's not just for the world but also me :-))

    February 05, 2011

    Oops, forgot: My favorite in this particular set is the Chip Conley one and the Bottn which is great too... though, confess re the links to YouTube (in the Best-of-the-web on TED), the Steve Jobs speech is one that I... um.... oh, blush... have listened to at least ten times possibly much more... I haven't counted: I carry it around and whenever I'm feeling low or not terribly motivated or not sure what I'm doing... turn that one on... and I know my path again.

    One of my ex-students, an older CEO of a bank, really enjoyed the Wooden one which I didn't so much but still included because I know other folks who read this blog will have students in that profile.

    February 08, 2011

    note to self- see also w/ AutoStudents
    Honda Video on Failure - an inside look at the mishaps of Honda racers, designers and engineers to learn how they draw upon failure to motivate them to succeed. From poor color choices to blown race engines, these risk-taking individuals provide an honest look at what most people fear most.

  • Unknown says:
    February 09, 2011

    Also a good one for success, Joachim de Posada- Don't eat the marshmallow yet. Only 7 minutes! Stuart

    February 09, 2011

    Hey Stuart, I love that one too!

    Debated on listing it within this list and then changed my mind and thought would put in the upcoming motivation set... but now not sure, think I better watch it again and see how/if fits better here...

    Ta for the reminder to rethink this!

  • Unknown says:
    February 10, 2011

    Definitely file it under success! Mr Posada says, "And they found that 100 percent of the children that had not eaten the marshmallow were successful. They had good grades. They were doing wonderful. They were happy. They had their plans. They had good relationships with the teachers, students. They were doing fine." Not sure how scientific "wonderful" and "happy" are and the 100 per cent seems a suspiciously round figure!
    I don't know if David's comment about dogme was tongue-in-cheek but whether it's dogme or not is a bit beside the point. If you've got a room full of students with their mouths open, intent on every word coming from the screen, you're well on your way to a good class. (although I think part of the genesis for dogme was to find more stimulating subject matter which is certainly true of TED).

    February 10, 2011

    Hey Stuart, just watched it again.

    You're absolutely right! What a brilliant video... I love the girl who eats the inside of the marshmallow - clever - and just added the video to my online grou to see what they think of it!

    Thanks so much for coming back and getting me to have a rethink...


  • Unknown says:
    November 20, 2013

    Success is random. I've read Alain De Botton's book entitled, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. It is very interesting. It implies to what other people get up all day and night to make the world function to success and what makes jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying. His books are inspirational but also, this is the first time I have heard him speak. This is actually better that reading. It's worth the listening.


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