3 business lessons learned at TED2013

Posted by Alexandre Douzet

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March 5, 2013

Alex shares his favorite TED Talks from TED2013.

Last week, I flew to the TED Conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Long Beach, CA, my fourth visit. As CEO & co-founder of TheLadders, I attended TED as a guest, rather than a speaker, which is the only show I attend in this more passive role. Although TED is an excellent platform for networking, the main reason I attended the conference was to hear about and learn from outstanding presenters.

Because most of the TED speakers do not work directly in my industry, the immediate implementation of my learnings from there are not obvious. However, there are some amazing moments when I absorb so much from these speakers that it is a humbling experience, demonstrating that a captive audience can learn from practically anyone. Whether a scientist, street-musician, artist, fashion mogul, serial entrepreneur, or a high-school graduate, these categories of “teachers” commonly demonstrate that their ideas are worth sharing. Additionally, I returned home with the feeling that challenges such as climate change, poverty, or job creation can, indeed, be solved. As human beings, if we have a purpose and put our minds to the task, we can be incredibly resourceful and creative.

Bono projects extreme poverty rate of zero by 2030

I highly recommend these three TEDTalks once they become available online:

1. Taylor Wilson, teenage nuclear scientist: Solving the world’s energy crisis

At 14 years old, from his garage, Taylor Wilson became the youngest person to achieve fusion with a reactor. Now, he wants to solve the world’s energy crisis with a safe nuclear fusion reactor. With a $100,000 grant from PayPal’s Peter Thiel, Taylor is skipping college to start a company that will manufacture a safe, non-replenishable fusion reactor (at least for 30 years) that either can be buried or sent to space. His newly designed reactor can produce 10-times the power of a traditional nuclear plant, with the intent of being commercialized in three to five years.

2. Ron Finley, South Central’s renegade gardener: “Plant some shit”

Ron Finley grows a nourishing food culture in South Central LA’s food desert by planting the seeds and tools for healthy eating. He is a true urban farming hero who thinks outside of the box, and could not help but notice what was going on in his own backyard: drive-throughs and drive–bys, both contributing to the area’s high diabetes rate. Ron’s vision started with the curbside garden where he grows fruit and vegetables. When the city tried to shut him down, his fight led to a movement that provides nourishment, education, and health. Additionally, his plans for a green café will create jobs in his poverty-stricken neighborhood.

3. Phil Hansen, stroke-of-genius artist: Embrace the shake

As an art student, Phil Hansen developed an artistic style for extreme pointillism that ultimately caused a tremor in his hand and permanent nerve damage. Eventually, he dropped out of school and stopped creating art until a neurologist suggested he “embrace the shake.” This recommendation propelled Phil on a journey to invent a new approach to making art by embracing his personal limitations. However, suddenly faced with too many choices and resources at his disposal, Phil lost his creativity. To find it again, he challenged himself to create art, only using materials that cost less than $1.00. Phil taught me the biggest lesson from my week at TED:  “I had to be limited to become limitless.”

These are just a few examples of the fantastic TEDTalks during my week, epitomized by the following quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”


Alexandre Douzet is the CEO and Co-founder of TheLadders, the premier mobile career network for career-driven professionals. In this role, Alex is responsible for the company strategy, global business operations, and product development. Follow him and TheLadders on Twitter at @ADouzet and @TheLadders.

Topics: #TheLaddersLife