Tag Archives: Tedx

TEDxBrussels: doing good in the ‘deeper future’

‘Deeper Future’: that was the official theme of TEDxBrussels 2016 earlier this month. Under this theme, speakers explored how in the future we have ‘food computers‘ to grow our food, communication networks based on connected moving vehicles, and – less across the frontier, but very important indeed – patients who select their doctor.

Apart from the Deeper Future, I picked up a another underlying topic across several of the talks: Doing Good. Doing the right thing and being a good person, matter for happiness, it emerged from three talks I would like to highlight.

The Bank of the Common Good

Using finance for Doing Good, that is the aim of the Bank of the Common Good established by Christian Felber. Felber is a strong believer in social justice and the Common Good, and already explained his economic views at TEDxVienna last year. He started the establishment of the Bank of the Common Good to show what a bank would do when its first and foremost purpose is to truly to serve the public good. The Bank would not only have to be sure about the ethical, environmental and social effects of its investments, argued Felber. It would also have to meet high standards for transparency and participation of its depositors in decision-making. By Doing Good, the Bank of the Common Good could contribute to the quality of life in all society.

Can it happen? At the moment, over 3000 individuals have contributed capital of around 2,35 million Euros. If the mark of 6 million is met, a full banking service including savings accounts and credit cards will be launched. That is Doing Good on quite some scale!


TEDxBrussels logo 2016

The Good Lobby

Too many people use their talents to advance the interest of large firms, rather than to Do Good, is the diagnosis of Alberto Alemanno. Alemanno teaches EU affairs, but also has radical ideas to change European policy process. His project for the Good Lobby is based on the idea that many people want to do their jobs and life their lives, but are also committed to spend some time in making the world a better place. But how to bridge the gap between online ‘activism’ (liking a facebook page, signing a petition) and the full-time engagement needed for real social change?

Alemanno has found a middle way to allow individuals to use their full potential in changing the world: the Good Lobby. The idea is simple: by becoming a Citizen Lobbyist and contributing skills a couple of hours of week to NGOs working on a good cause, you can make a difference and contribute to a better quality of life. And ultimately, it will also make you happier, promises Alemanno.

Become a Citizen Lobbyist - Alberto Alemanno on stage

Become a Citizen Lobbyist – Alberto Alemanno on stage


Love in the future: subcontracting or radical?

One of the most surprising talks during the day – and one I definitely recommend to watch back once it’s available in the next few weeks – is the talk by Croat philosopher Srecko Horvat about love. As a philosopher, Horvat mainly wondered about the oddities of love nowadays and in the future. Modern technology has changed the way people experience love in their lives, and not always for the better! Horvat took his audience on a tour starting with a datingmaster app providing tips to navigate through an awkward first date. But in the deeper future, it goes further than that: it is possible to subcontract love. Online dating is cumbersome: wouldn’t be easier to hire someone to do write the messages and score the date for you, and then just show up for the date yourself?

Love certainly isn’t easier in a time of selfies, concluded Srecko in his plea for ‘radical love’. Narcissus died because he fell in love with himself. And also in a time of individuality, we might be too afraid to fall in love. But without the fall, there is no chance to love…

Visual representation of Horvat's talk, by the team of Visuality.be

Visual representation of Horvat’s talk, by the team of Visuality.be


Bonus: the Brussels’ soundscape

I promised three highlights, but let me add a bonus! Witty and creative, musician and artist Sonoren demonstrated his edited version of Brussels’ soundscape to the audience. It might sound weird at first, but it’s a great way to explore the city in a completely different way. And if you can’t wait for the talk… there is an Easter egg here.

A postcard providing a visual explanation to the talk

A postcard providing a visual explanation to the talk

Looking back at my experiences and achievements in 2015

In the beginning of this year, I formulated no less than ten New Year’s Resolutions. For me, the end of the year is the natural moment to look back and review what I experienced and achieved throughout the year.

This is how I did:

  • Live together with the girl I feel in love with last year

Yes! And it is a very special experience. Moving in together comes with some challenges. But these challenges are insignificant in comparison to the wonderful pleasure of being together every day.

  • Track and improve my sleep

Fairly well. Especially in the beginning of the year, I used sleep-tracking apps. They helped me somewhat improve my discipline in going to sleep and getting out to bed on time. But I haven’t systematically used them all year round. And my sleeping habits still can improve.

  • Expand my blog

Not bad. Especially after summer, I’ve opted for a somewhat slower frequency. I’ve taken the chance to take on some speaking occasions presenting my work in this field. But maybe most importantly, I’ve visited two ‘happy countries’ this year: Denmark and Bhutan.

  • Work on my health by running or by yoga

Could be better. I regularly do yoga, but not every week. And while I ran a personal best at the 5k (22 min 20 seconds!), I have only ran in training for that race, not all year round.

  • Celebrate my 30th birthday

Yes! And I celebrated it well, spending a weekend in the Belgian Ardennes with a group of friends.

  • Continue to do well at work

I think so. My role within our team has grown this year. And in the last week before the holidays, I won a new promotion (yeah!)

  • Travel to two new countries: Portugal and Bhutan (finally!)

Yes! I spent two weeks in both of them, discovering different towns and landscapes and learning a lot about their culture. And apart from these two, I also visited Denmark for the first time and made stopovers in Nepal and Qatar en route to Bhutan.

  • Watch at least one new TED talk per week

Almost. I’ve had a good amount of inspiration in watching TED talks this year, with topics ranging from basic income to indoor plants to improve air quality in house and from the strength of Muslim women in peace processes to cold-water surfing. While I saw many, I don’t think I got to one per week. And unfortunately I did’t attend any TEDx events this year.

  • Read novels and books about happiness

A little bit! A quick glance at my current happiness bookshelf suggests there aren’t too many additions: books on the November GNH conference in Bhutan and The Power of Negative Emotions being the exceptions. Still, (un)happiness was also a theme in other books that I read, such as Haruki Murakami’s title Norwegian Wood. And reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps also made me happy!

  • Become a better public speaker

Yes! Two and half years after joining, I finished Toastmasters International‘s Competent Communication programme. And I undertook some public speaking opportunities to talk about my discoveries on happiness.


Especially in the beginning of the year, I occasionally took a glance at the list to remind me what I wanted to achieve. But as the year progress, I took more and more distance. And now, I don’t even understand why I needed ten goals.

Goals are helpful to meet objectives and develop yourself. But if there is one goal I have for 2016, it is to have less goals…

Crush your comfort zone and make the magic happen

Go outside your comfort zone: that is where the magic happens

Have you ever been at a conference with a great speaker that you admire, dying to pose a question important to you? But maybe you were not sure how the audience would react, or you thought that the speaker could think you were stupid. Or you hesitated in phrasing the question, and whilst you were wondering what to say, all the questions rounds were closed. Too late. Opportunity gone…

One of the challenges that we all face as human beings is to exit our comfort zones. And yes, asking questions in conferences is not the most comfortable thing to do. We feel nice and cosy to spend time in the places we know, with people we know, and a conference isn’t necessarily one of these places. But to really have unforgettable experiences, we need to leave our comfort zones and discover the world.

Image found on Reallifecoaching.net

Image found on Reallifecoaching.net


Easier said then done. How do you leave your comfort zone?

Well, you don’t leave it. You crush it. Preferably by laying down on the street for thirty seconds. At least, that is the solution from Till Gross (see talk below). With a large dose of enthusiasm and flair, and based on scientific insights, he explains how laying on the street has helped him to get out of his own comfort zone and given him the self-confidence to try scary things. Think of speaking to a girl or approaching top experts in his field, psychology.

The message is simple: we all are afraid to step out of our comfort zone. But if we just start something exciting and new, we make the magic happen. And if we do it over and over again, at some point it will become normal. The example of asking a question at a conference is not a random one. I’ve tried I myself. In Brussels, one gets to attend a fair number of conferences. Initially, I would never speak. But at some point, I realised that I had to change that, and as a general rule, I told myself that I’d always ask a question if a could come up with a smart one. In the beginning it was difficult, but it quickly became a habit – and it still is. That doesn’t mean I always get an answer, or that they are always smart questions, but at least the barrier is removed.

But Till’s message is even broader than that. Crushing your comfort zone doesn’t only help you to experience new things and grow self-confidence. It also helps you to be happier. I absolutely believe is right in that. Often, unhappiness results from comparing ourselves with others, and having the feeling that we are inferior. When you are physically down on the street for 30 seconds, you start a process of not caring about what other people think. By doing so, you do not only remove a barrier to self-confidence, but also a barrier to happiness.

Laying down on the street doesn’t only crush your comfort zone. It can also make you happy.

Mojitos, Lego and Beyond: Work and Motivation

Is there more to work than a means to pay for your mojitos?

Post-modern times require us to have complex skills in order to do our jobs well. This also influences how we feel about work in general: it is not just about making a living but also a way of self-realisation and a potential source to bring flow, meaning and happiness to our lives. TED speakers Dan Ariely and Dan Pink share their thoughts with us on the question: what motivates us to work?

Work and motivation

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely is a behavioural psychologist who is on his way to becoming a TED star. His talks on irrationality, loss aversion and dishonesty have been watched by millions. Two years ago, in 2012, he was a TEDxAmsterdam guest in De Stadsschouwburg.

This time, he chose a different topic: work and motivation. Ariely discards the simple theory that most people only work in order to spend their money on mojitos while sitting on a beach. Beyond mojitos, what motivates people to care about their jobs? According to Ariely, meaning and creation are the main motivators.


Ariely tells us the story of one of his former students who used to work for an investment bank. For weeks and weeks he worked on a presentation for an important business deal. He worked overtime, did the research and put together a slick powerpoint presentation. He delivered a stellar job and received the well-earned appreciation by his boss he was looking for. Then, things changed: he learnt that the deal was off and that the presentation wouldn’t be used after all. This news was such a disappointment to him that it took away all of his motivation to work (even though his work was beyond his boss’s expectations). As a researcher, Ariely’s job is to translate similar anecdotes and theories into experiments. In this case, he came up with an experiment to test the effect of demotivation on performance. Being a Lego lover, he thought Lego robots would bring him closer to the answer.

Ariely paid two groups of research subjects to build bionicles – a type of Lego robot. The standard condition comprised of presenting the robots built by the first group. But in the ‘Sisyphic condition’, the robots were destroyed in the presence of the subjects just after they finished building them. The result: any motivation to build the robots was crushed. Even those who stated they loved Lego, actually built very few of them.

The IKEA effect

It is not surprising that meaning and purpose are an important part of our motivation at work. Creating something that is yours is another source of motivation. Or in Ariely’s words: the IKEA effect. If you spend a number of hours assembling your own IKEA furniture, it’s very likely that you will be more attached to it: labour leads to appreciation. Children are another example. You may experience other people’s children as horrible creatures. But when they’re yours, you have already invested so much time and energy that they have become valuable to you. Ariely informs us that this effect has also been studied in experiments involving origami figures made by the subjects themselves.

Dan Pink

Autonomy, mastery and purpose

Career analyst Dan Pink has formulated his own answer to the question of motivation. He argues that in the current business climate, staff management is no longer suitable for the 21st century employee. Our jobs today require a specific set of skills. We do not live in a time anymore where a task is simply being executed as ordered. As the content of our jobs has changed over time, our management has to change, too.

Engagement can be reached with the help of three factors, says Pink: autonomy, mastery and purpose. We have the urge to be the director of our own lives, both in our private lives as well as in our jobs. We want to become increasingly better at what we do and we yearn to be part of something more meaningful, something larger than ourselves.

Thus, Dan Pink argues, our working cultures should be redesigned. We should build more (software) companies like Atlassian, where people have ‘Fedex days’, giving them 24 hour to solve a problem posed by themselves. Or, we should learn from radical reformers like Google, where engineers can spend 20% of their working time on projects they believe are important. Or we can work via the ‘ROWE’ (Results Only Work Environment) eliminating fixed working hours and meetings.

Challenge is what drives motivation. And companies can do so much more to create that challenge.

This article was first published on the blog of TEDxAmsterdam, as part of my series ‘TED & Happiness’. In this series, I explore some of the about fifty talks on happiness in TED’s library.

With great thanks to Tori Egherman for editing.

What my TEDx talk taught me about happiness

Picture 3It doesn’t happen every day that I make one of my dreams come true.

6 March 2013, a little over a year ago, I realised one of my bigger dreams. I gave my very own TEDx talk. For around 150 visitors of TEDxLuxembourgCity, I shared my ideas about personal and collective happiness.

Even though I was proud and excited about the opportunity, delivering the talk on the big day didn’t make me  happy. Why it happened is a different story, but my slides changed automatically, and faster than I spoke. I got distracted and more nervous than I already was. Parts of the talk are almost embarrassing to watch. I recall that I felt very frustrated after the talk. I fled to the bathrooms and needed some time to calm down before I could speak to people.


Later that night I noticed the irony.

In the talk, I spoke about one of the great powers of the brain: imagination. Imagination is a force that can both have a positive and a negative effect on our happiness. On the positive side, our possibilities to foresee what the future could be like help us to set goals and ambitions and realise a brighter, happier future. But there is a catch. If our expectations are too high, the reality of our daily life is nothing but a pale reflection of your colourful imagination. This is crucial. When we get something new – say a job or a car – we compare our life with the situation we had before. If our old car was slow and ugly, we’re better off with a new one.

But we also compared with what we imagined. Say that I imagine that my new car allows me to go on a ride in the countryside, wonderful landscape and wind blowing through my hair. That’s the ideal vision I have. But pale daily reality might be different. It might be raining. I might get speeding fines. I might need to go to the garage all the time. In those circumstances, it’s more difficult to appreciate the car and to be happy.

Turning bad things into good ones

What does all this have to with my talk? Well, it’s simple. I was a victim of my imagination. I though my talk had to be brilliant, exactly as I rehearsed it. When it wasn’t, I got upset.

But something interesting happened. I surprised myself. Something different and unforeseen happened. The key moment of the talk is the point where I accept the fact that the slides change. I acknowledge the problem. And I improvise – with my dry Dutch humour – by saying something spontaneous about it, commenting that the road to happiness, like my talk, sometimes makes some strange deviations.

It is true. In this way, the speech becomes more authentic, and more powerful. I’m not sure whether there’s a real message in it. If there is one it might be about one of the challenges of public speaking, happiness and life alike.

Turning bad things in good ones is possible.