Talk Review: Jill Bolte Taylor - "My Stroke of Insight"

If you ever listen to the TED Radio Hour, you might have heard this: Jill Bolte Taylors' TED Talk, "My Stroke of Insight," helped put TED on the map, and brought this conference into millions of people's lives.

Why did this particular talk reach its way into our minds and hearts?

1.  She is a visceral storyteller.  She lived through an incredible experience, and is able to explain it in a way that probably very few humans on earth are able to do, thanks to her particular expertise. She makes the ethereal and unknown into the tangible and known.  It's a truly amazing story - which, when stories are told well, can catapult anyone - and anything - into shared meaning.  (Plus, she brings out a real brain for the audience to see. COOL.)

2.  She reminds us that we need only be ourselves. Jill is not your typical "speaker." She isn't the coolest cat in town (and, really, who cares; but so many speakers feel like they need a certain "look"); she has a unique cadence and speech pattern/pitch - almost nasally. But she commits fully, and embraces the power of her story (her self) - which can transcend many perceived obstacles an audience may initially have.

3.  She uses her whole body.  She re-lives different moments, using her body to help us "see" it.  We "see" her exercising. We "see" her moving across her room, feeling each change in her body as it happens. We "see" her struggle. So often, speakers speak from the neck up. But not Jill.  Jill is an experiential speaker, and we get to experience it with her.

4.  She shares a vulnerable moment.  You can see her remembering the moment as it actually happened, and it's stunted, emotional poetry:

"A little while later I'm riding in an ambulance from one hospital to another, and I culred up into a little fetal ball... and just like a balloon, with the last - last - bit of air - just pfffft - just right out of a balloon, I just felt my energy lift, and just - I felt my spirit surrender. And, in that moment I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a 2nd chance in life, or this was my moment of transition."  

5.  She asks big, powerful questions and lets us sit in them.  At the end of her talk - as she's challenging us to live outside our left hemispheres more - she says, slowly - and with weight:

Which would you choose?  Which DO you choose?  And when?

She asks these questions carrying the weight of the all the emotion she's built up over the last 17 minutes. It's not pushed, or over-done.  She simply puts the question in front of us, and waits.

If you haven't had the chance to watch this talk in action, check it out:


Thanks to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor for moving me with this talk!