Ideas Worth Spreading #4: Taking risks

Our pick of TED Talks that look at the benefits of risk-taking

Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kid do
Views to date: 1,931,000

Do you find yourself in a state of low-level panic when you see a child with a box of matches, a knife or your car keys clenched in their little fist? Why? As a child I used to leap across London’s labyrinthine roofs; I set fire to things that were hard to put out. Truth is, I survived and thrived on the daily danger I put myself in. There’s something tangible in my personality as a ‘grown up’ that is irrefutably connected to the risks I took back then – and the successes I have experienced since. I would want the same for my child, boy or girl.

Controlling fire is a way of learning the power of one of our most fundamental elements. Playing with tools is a way of extending the self into the world. Our brains are built for throwing things, namely spears. If you don’t use these fundamental parts of who you are, your mind and indeed your spirit, diminish. This is the premise of Gever Tulley’s brief but utterly enlightening talk, that is more of a call to arm your children than warn you of the never-ending perils of play.

It’s fair to say we live in a world gone crazy for health and safety, and the price paid is a generation of far less adventurous children more interested in jumping from buildings on a Playstation screen than the treetops of their local wood. This TED Talk puts forward the case simply and succinctly: we need to stop obsessively protecting children from learning about the world through potentially dangerous play and exploration. Maybe if we watch how they evolve naturally, playing wild in the world, we can learn to let them survive and thrive and maybe take a few more risks ourselves; and embark on the kind of adventure that makes life worth living.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
Views to date: 5,438,000

Elizabeth Gilbert Photo © Erik Charlton

Elizabeth Gilbert talks creativity. Photo © Erik Charlton

The inherent risks in living a creative life include potential jeopardy to the artists’ mental, physical and spiritual health, and bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, believes this is now endemic in the world. Creative genius throughout much of human history was attributed to something ‘other’ than us, something outside ourselves; an invisible force using the poet, artist, and writer as a vessel to express the collective consciousness of a nourishing idea that could benefit humankind. With this division between self and muse came a safety net, where the artist knew they would not become prisoner to the rampaging egotism that can easily follow a creatively successful individual’s rise to fame, transforming them into something other than what they were.

The idea of the genie in the bottle granting the three wishes, so often beginning with unlimited wealth, is today seen being granted to the god-like actors, musicians and writers of our time. Forgetting that the gift of their muse was given to them by another force is done so at their peril and creates a far-reaching and damaging impact on society. A moving and inspiring TED Talk that any individual involved in the creative process – for material or non-material gain – can return to in times of trouble to discover words of wisdom, presented with warmth, love and clarity.