What TED Taught Me

One UPSer explains the value of sharing – and consuming – ideas that can transform how you see and experience the world.


When I gave a TED Talk last year, I wasn’t nervous. I was terrified.

I spoke at the inaugural TED@UPS event on how the fearless search for trouble can save a company. In a way, giving this talk was an act of seeking out trouble

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Creativity isn’t reserved for the writers, painters and musicians of the world. 

This wasn’t part of my day job. It forced me out of my comfort zone. It was difficult, intimidating and stressful.

It was also totally worth it. And so was watching my fellow UPSers speak on topics ranging from why hunger is a logistics issue to the power of hiring scrappy people.

As we approach the second TED@UPS event on Sept. 15 – which explores the question, What if? – some might wonder why we devote so many resources to this forum.

From my experience, I can tell you: The investment is paying off in spades.  

I learned even more from the process than the presentation. It was about gaining a new appreciation of creativity and the importance of ideas. It made me realize that I can bring more to my everyday work if I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone.

And many in the audience said it was unlike anything they’d ever experienced.

[Also on Longitudes: TED@UPS Speaker: Mark Modesti]

Everything begins with an idea

TED’s tagline is “ideas worth spreading,” and their videos have been viewed more than 4.6 billion times across the world. The TED people call the process of finding and developing those ideas “content curation.” In UPS terms, that means the packaging and distribution of ideas.

But ideas have to be developed.

I had to learn the difference between telling and showing. I had to learn how to use stories, facts and anecdotes to illustrate ideas instead of just explaining them. This was pretty new to me.

I had read a lot of books and kept journals for years. But I had never done anything requiring this kind of creative scrutiny.

As I discovered, creativity isn’t reserved for the writers, painters and musicians of the world. Everybody can tap into their creative side, especially the logisticians of the world.

Our business challenges, personal problems and relationship issues can all benefit from an injection of creativity. But it’s hard work.

I lost track of the number of TED drafts I prepared – somewhere between 15 and 20.

The practical attributes we apply to business success such as perseverance, hard work and time management, are every bit as relevant to the creative process. Most of my TED breakthroughs came after feeling stuck. The epiphanies eventually materialize, especially with the help and perspective of others.

Click here to learn more about TED@UPS.

An idea has to be shared

Sharing ideas is scary.

But we don’t really know our capabilities until we stretch them by doing something a little scary.

In my TED Talk, I highlighted the mindsets of fixers and builders and how those philosophies affect our problem-solving approaches. At times, however, I actually fell into the very trap I warned against.

Early after my idea was accepted I attempted to fix my original outline rather than use it to build something that would challenge and maybe even trouble the audience. I was playing it safe.

I later decided to take the plunge. I’m so glad that I did. And I’m glad that my company took a similar risk.

Our logo was nowhere on stage. UPS was barely even mentioned in the talks. People were speaking to their own experiences. They just happened to work at UPS.

There were only a few presenters from senior management. It was all about the ideas. This was not some typical PR push.

[Also on Longitudes: From Scrapper to Success]

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

In my own talk, I discussed the importance of swinging big. 

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We don’t know our capabilities until we stretch them by doing something a little scary.

UPS swung big and it paid off. It changed our mindset as a company.

I was blown away by the other presenters.

I’d encourage you to watch their talks – and stay tuned for Round Two in September.

We all have the opportunity to stretch our creative muscles regardless of whether we give a TED Talk. Maybe even step out and try something a little scary.

This was the experience of a lifetime for me. I’d challenge you to find new ways to share your big ideas with world.

It will change how you experience life, both at home and at work. For me, that’s a transformation worth sharing. goldbrown2



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Mark Modesti is in Customer Solutions Sales at UPS. He works with customers in the middle market to help accelerate their business results by leveraging the expertise and technology UPS has developed in business process analysis, supply chain and warehouse solutions.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.