TED's 31 days of Ideas - Day 9 & 10: Steve Jobs & The art of misdirection


How to live before you die

By James Veitch

You're Steve Jobs. You don't do personal appearances. You don't even do interviews these days without a corresponding product release. Yet here you are, the famous college dropout, abhorrent of ceremony, donning a silly gown and hat to give a commence ment address to college graduates. It must be important.

Of all the many things Steve gave to the world, it's this speech, "How to live before you die," given two years before the iPhone was announced, that I am most grateful for. As a commencement address it stands out by virtue of looking backwards rather than forwards. Like the best TED Talks, the three stories he tells -- "No big deal, just three stories ..." -- seek not to teach new knowledge but to invoke that which has been forgotten. 

Under the dazzling California sun, marine-blue jeans showing underneath his gown, Steve Jobs tells the students not to change. It's a sentiment reiterated in every Pixar movie and one that remains a part of Apple's DNA. With a Dumbledore glint in his eye, Steve's final appeal: stayhungry, stay foolish.

The art of misdirection


Art has the ability to change perceptions. It can show what is obvious yet not considered, and it can change the way we see the world because what we see changes who we are.

Apollo Robbins's TED Talk, "The art of misdirection," makes visible something important. I'm always amazed by how people can be so easily distracted. Playing around on our phones and computers, we aren't able to pay full attention to what's happening around us, and we lose track of each other. We forget to talk to and listen to each other; we forget that only human contact can save us. I'm certainly guilty of being distracted, too. Still, it's hard to imagine how we leave so many doors open to manipulation.

I surround myself with magicians because I'm fascinated by their ability to manipulate our minds. That's why I think Apollo's talk is so great: because seeing a pickpocket act live and in front of everyone, tricking a full audience with just a little misdirection, is pure art. May it give us a new kind of awareness and remind us to pay attention.