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5 TED talks to help you shake off rejection

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Heartbreakers gonna break,
break, break

And the fakers gonna fake,
fake, fake
Baby I’m just gonna shake,
shake, shake
Shake it off, shake it off

– Taylor Swift

I have a very good reason to open with a quote from Taylor Swift, and it’s not just the fact that this song, “Shake it off,” is quite catchy (last we checked, it had over 664 million views on YouTube.)

Swift’s song reminds us to literally just dance “it” off, “it” embodying the negativity or stress from a particular moment or situation. Sometimes, in order to gain perspective, you have to do something that will help snap you back to reality and break a spell of negativity, like the one that comes with rejection.

Give it enough power and rejection can shape who we are, where we are going and what our decisions are. It’s scary stuff. So how do you shake off a success-swindler like rejection?

Try a TED talk. The inspirational seminars explore many topics, and in 20 minutes or less, you can watch or listen to one on their website or YouTube for free. The idea behind these talks is that in 20 minutes, you can change your attitude, life and “ultimately, the world,” (according to the TED mission statement).

Taking a bit of good advice on how to cool down, step outside, breathe deeply and gather our wits about us after a stressful situation never hurt anyone. So, without further ado, here is a playlist with five TED talks that might help you deal with rejection. And if these don’t help, just listen and dance to “Shake it off,” (even if all you can manage right now is desk-chair dancing).

5. Elizabeth Gilbert

Author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia

She’s “that girl that wrote that book about that movie,” according to a lady who stopped her in the street. How do you live up to people’s expectations or perceptions after achieving great success?

After feeling she couldn’t live up to her successful-book-turned-into-successful-movie, Eat, Pray, Love Gilbert had to find another way to prove that her creativity could survive its own success. Should you give up and spare yourself the pain of failure? How can you find your way back from the haze of extreme success or failure?

Gilbert says that there’s a psychological connection between how we experience failure and success: one catapults you “abruptly into the blinding darkness of disappointment” and the other to the “equally blinding brightness of fame, recognition and praise.” However, one state is objectively seen by the world as bad and the other good, but our subconscious is confused and sees them as one and the same. The danger? Getting lost in that blindness.

To find your way back, Gilbert says to get back to work and “go home” to whatever that means to you: your family, your passion or devotion. “Your home is that something that you love more than you love yourself, something worthy — addictions and infatuations are not part of that.” For her, it meant going back to writing, not going back to her family’s farm house. The trick is that you have to identify the best worthiest thing that you love the most and “build your house on top of it and don’t budge from it.”

“And if someday, somehow, you get vaulted out of that home by either great failure or great success, then it’s your job is to fight your way back home the only way that has even been done: by putting your head down and performing with diligence, respect and reverence, with every devotion that love is calling from you next,” Gilbert adds.

4. Jack Andraka

Teenager credited with creating a pancreatic cancer test

How does someone that hasn’t even turned 15 help create an effective, non-invasive and cheap pancreatic cancer test? After a close family friend died from the disease, Jack Andraka set out to understand why pancreatic cancer is so difficult to diagnose and why it can only be detected once the disease is in its advanced stages. “Why are we so bad at detecting pancreatic cancer?” Andraka asks. The current test is more than 60 years old, very expensive ($800 per test) and misses 30 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases, Andraka says in his talk.

What he found is “as simple as making chocolate chip cookies” and he credits his success to his “undeterred teenage optimism.” He devised a plan and sent it to 200 professors at John Hopkins University and the Institutes of Health. He got 199 rejections, including one in which a professor took the time to discount each and every step Andraka made in his proposal.

However, “there was a silver lining”: he had received one somewhat positive reply, “I might be able to help you, kid,” said a professor. That was his hope and starting point. After a grueling interrogation from the professor and his students, he was granted time at a lab where he could create his sensor.

Working for seven months, he was finally able to build his product: a small paper sensor that costs three cents to make, but is 168 times faster and 400 hundred times more sensitive than the existing test for pancreatic cancer detection. It has close to 100 percent accuracy and can detect pancreatic cancer in the early stages. The sensor also works for detecting lung and ovarian cancers.

Andraka posits that by making a few changes, the sensor could be used to detect other diseases, such as heart disease, HIV, malaria, or really “anything,” he says.

“Through the internet, anything is possible. What you look like it doesn’t matter, it’s your ideas that count. For me, there is so much more to it, you could be changing the world. For a 15-year-old who didn’t even know what a pancreas was to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer … just imagine what you could do,” Andraka says.

The takeaway: Having “undeterred teenage optimism” and believing in what you’re working on can result in a great, great payoff.

If you want to read more about Andraka, go here

3. Manal al-Sharif

A Saudi woman who dared to drive

What would you do if your family, friends, acquaintances — really, everyone you know — called you a traitor to your people, but the world outside your state or country praised your heroism? That’s what Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman, had to endure for driving in her home country of Saudi Arabia, but it didn’t deter her objective: to change the fact that women couldn’t drive, which she sees as being one step closer to gaining equality in an oppressive culture.

Even though there’s no law in Saudi Arabia against women driving, it is forbidden according to traditions and religious fatwas. Manal al-Sharif spent time in jail for driving her brother’s car. Her brother was detained a few times just for handing her the keys of his car and the harassment was so severe that he eventually had to leave the country with his family.

She knew that women were complaining about not being able to drive, but no one was doing anything about it. So, she started a campaign encouraging women to drive. She videotaped herself driving and uploaded it to YouTube. After that, she started receiving threats to be killed and raped in an attempt to make her stop the campaign. But she kept pushing boundaries until she was arrested for driving and spent nine days in jail without being charged for breaking a law.

Her arrest made the whole country go into a frenzy. The media either supported or bashed her. The community was also divided: Some said she deserved to die, while others supported her by collecting signatures for the king to release her.

The day that she was going to get out of jail, the streets were full of police and religious police cars, but 100 “brave Saudi women broke the driving ban and were not arrested. We broke the taboo” al-Sharif says. The petition to let women drive was finally passed in 2013, even as many government and religious officials recommend that women shouldn’t drive.

Against all odds, al-Sharif found the courage to stand up and fight for what she believed in. While it wasn’t easy, she and her family kept pushing for change. “I believe that a society cannot be free if women of that society are not free,” she says.

2. Janet Echelman

How to take imagination seriously

What do you do when inspiration takes you over? Do you slow down, listen to it and write your ideas? Do you put them on the back burner?

After being rejected by many art schools, Janet Echelman decided to make a go of it on her own. She painted for 10 years, and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to India where she was going to give an exhibition for her paintings. She sent her paints but they never arrived. The fishing village where she was staying was famous for sculpture, so she tried bronze casting, but it was too expensive, heavy and difficult to produce.

Walking on the beach one day, where she usually saw many fishermen toiling with their fishing nets on the sand, inspiration hit her and she found a new way to create sculptures with fishing nets. With help from the local fishermen, they hoisted her first sculpture on poles to photograph and it caught the wind. From there, Echelman wanted to create more sculptures that “one could get lost in” by the dancing wind.

She had never studied sculpture, engineering or architecture. But her next creation would make her famous. After working with fishermen, they created a 1.5 million hand-tied knot net sculpture in India, installed it briefly in Madrid, Spain where she was approached by an urbanist who was redesigning a waterfront in Porto, Portugal. The urbanist wanted to build that same sculpture for the city, but Echelman didn’t know if she could build a durable and permanent art installation.

Three years of research later had yielded a fiber that could withstand the sun, saltwater and strong winds, translated the manual art of creating nets to computer software to be able to produce stronger weaving, and developed software to simulate different types of wind conditions and how the installation would react to it.

Even if everyone says no or the tools that you create with daily are taken away, there’s always a way if you take the time to find it. And following your passion and executing your visions have no boundaries.

1. Amy Webb

“Hacking” online dating

If you can use data analytics to track, predict, evaluate and re-adjust your business, marketing and even hiring strategies, why not use it for finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with? That’s what digital media consulting firm founder of Webbmedia, Amy Webb, sought out to do after being very frustrated with her love life.

Her approach to online dating was completely data driven, broken up into different data points, scoring systems, an evaluation of her competition, and finally, optimization of her own dating profile. It took her a few months to finetune her strategy, but she figured it out.

In the end, she ended up finding exactly what she was looking for and having the life that she knew she had always wanted.

Her funny video conference has much to teach advisors, agents and entrepreneurs of every stripe, including that you have to “figure out your own framework, play by your own rules and be as picky as you want,” Webb says.

Maybe you can take a few of her data points on how she was scoring possible date-worthy candidates and turn it into a “Do I really want this client” quiz.

Inspired? Go here for more great TED talks on how to get over rejection

See also:

5 traits of great leaders

6 tips for helping financial professionals take leaps of faith

How to get started in the insurance business