The Annual TED Conference is devoted to spreading bold and beautiful ideas and visions through powerful speeches by the masterminds of our time that have the potential to change the world.  The conference comes with a price tag of $8,000, and an application process is required to attend; however, it hosts approximately 1,400 attendees from 58 countries for a five-day program of 70+ speakers and performers.  The speakers share ideas in a short and powerful 18 minutes or less and explore some of the greatest ideas that we are capable of dreaming up today. The theme for this year was: DREAM

“In the spirit of our theme, this year’s TED program includes speakers with truly extraordinary visions of the future.  We’ll hear ideas some hopeful, some frightening that will jolt us awake.” -TED Curator Chris Anderson.

This year, one of the most powerful people in television, Shonda Rhimes, spoke on the TED mainstage for the very first time.  This was monumental because if she was asked to speak at this prestigious and inspirational conference two years ago, her answer would have been ‘no.’  In 2014, Rhimes transformed her life from workaholic to celebrity and documented this transformation in her book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person.

After feeling tired and withdrawn, in a way that prevented her from truly enjoying her success, Rhimes expressed that she was “truly, deeply unhappy,” and realized that she was “losing herself one ‘no’ at a time.”  Despite the fact that she is the most powerful person in television with 4 shows and responsible for 70 hours of programming each season, she stated that she’d lost the ‘hum’ of happiness that had come from her writing and relentless work.

“The more balls in the air, the more eyes on me.  The more expectations there are, the more I work to be successful and the more I need to work.    What do you do when the thing you do, and the work you love tastes like dust?”  – Shonda Rhimes, TED2016 Conference

Yesterday evening on the TED stage, Rhimes shared with the audience the one thing that bought back to life.  One day, her daughter Emerson (3 years old), who called everyone “honey,” said “Mama, wanna play?”  Just as she was on her way out the door and naturally inclined to say ‘no,’ Rhimes realized that her daughter didn’t say “honey.”

“Here she is changing right before my eyes, so I said ‘yes.’  Saying yes to playing with my children likely saved my career.  By playing, the ‘hum’ started to creep back.”  – Shonda Rhimes, TED2016 Conference

Rhimes shared with the audience that she actually enjoys working more than she enjoys being at home; however, she has made it a firm rule to always say ‘yes’ when it comes to playing with her children, and this rule has completely changed her life.

“[When I am with my children,] something in me loosens and a door in my brain swings open.  A hum creeps back.”  – Shonda Rhimes, TED2016 Conference

The powerful super producer has transformed in more ways than one and, states that the ‘hum’ she gets from “making things up” as a TV writer is back, but in a different form.  “Work doesn’t work without play.”  Rhimes’ experience shows us that it is important for each of us to take time for the simple joys that make life worthwhile.   Working all the time might lead to sucess that could possibly last for quite some time, but it’s ultimately not sustainable.  Many of life’s pleasures are found in between the actions that fill our lives, and it is important that we learn to cultivate simple pleasures throughout our days while stepping outside of the schedules, deadlines, and chaos that take up so much space in our lives.

“Saying ‘yes’ to playing with my children likely saved my career.  My tiny humans show me how to live and my tiny humans fill me up.  The real hum ignores the stare of history.  The real hum is just love, and joy.”   – Shonda Rhimes, TED2016 Conference

Check out Shonda Rhimes’ entire TED Talk below

Shonda Rhimes TED Talk



About The Author

Founder, HBR Media

K. Nicole Mills is the Founder of HBR Media. She transitioned from Wall Street to television and film development, and has worked at NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, and Showtime Networks. She currently develops digital programming for premium networks. Reach out anytime!

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