TED Conversations

Jordan Reeves

TED-Ed Community Manager, TED Conferences


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What is the most important thing you've learned on your own?

In three sentences, explain something that you've learned without being told by another person -- something you've figured out all by yourself. Here's an example:

"I learned how to paint with water colors by reading a book and searching for YouTube videos. It took me a while, but I figured out some techniques that really work for me. I'm not an expert yet, but I have discovered a real joy in painting."

It can be anything -- a practical skill (like painting) or a knowledge set (like how to use mathematics).

  • Mar 18 2013: I have learned that letting go is one of the toughest thing you can ever do because you literally are making yourself vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage, strength and faith to believe in yourself, trusting your judgement.

    I have learned that a healthy state of mind not only affects your physical well being but also your relationship with others.

    I have learned that one needs to cherish and treasure what one has, because sometimes life don't give you a second chance.
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    Mar 1 2013: Do to my poor memory and &%#*% public education I had to learn almost everything on my own, on the positive side it made me a great problem solver and it is easy to think outside the box when you don’t recall its edges.
    With so many I have to say it depends on the subject:

    For health:
    *The best diet is one you create for yourself, for we all have unique health needs and taste.
    Do an web search for “health-issue diet” with each health-issue, and combine the results and adjust to taste.
    *Trust that you know your body/health better than any doctor.

    For home projects:
    *always consider the maintenance that will be required after it’s built.
    *Table saws will cut fingers; I learned that the hard way, luckily only to the bone and not through it.

    For work:
    *read two articles on your profession every week, and you will become tops in your field.
    *never trust HR.

    For stress management:
    *Take a deep breath, and consider if you will even remember the stressful event in a few months.
    *Semi-denial is a powerful tool for the short term. AI: with a major health issue still take your meds, and put it out of your thoughts until your next med time.

    In the grand scheme of things:
    *Live by the Nine Noble Virtues.
    *Death from old age is beautiful, and only looks ugly from our view point.
    Try seeing it from their view point and you will realize that they are letting go of all earthly desires and on path to enlightenment.
  • Mar 2 2013: I guess one of the most important things I've learned on my own is to be careful about letting other people decide who I am for me. Way too often people will try to tell me I'm this kind of person or that kind of person. Who I am should not be affected by how other people choose to see me.
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    Feb 25 2013: I am what I want to be and not what other people think of me. When i was 3 years old, my mother and I were in a car accident; I survived, she didn't. I am now 18 years old.
    As devastating as it was, I'm thankful (in a weird, hindsight-led way) that my mom died when I was young. After she died, there was an outpouring of love that came onto out household. It seemed like everyone my mom and dad had ever known was calling us, the phone was constantly off the hook, and they were offering love. In a way, my mother's passing led to me being raised by the community we lived in.
    Now, here I stand 15 years later and I'm very active in activist circles campaigning for social justice, I slam poetry, and all the local business owners know me on a first name basis.
    The most important thing I've learned on my own is that from every loss, every devastating blow, there is good. Although it may not be obvious, or it may not reveal itself until decades later, it is there. I am a child of the streets, even though I have a loving father, and I consider everyone in my community a member of my extended family.
  • Mar 11 2013: How to no longer fear the uncomfortable. It's always a work in progress, but I've learned how to muster courage where I wouldn't have before.
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    Mar 4 2013: I've learned that you will not be happy if you live your life trying to satisfy "the crowd". It is when you find that special thing you want to do, and do it regardless of what anyone says, that you can truly be happy. And I se it every day, people taking major choices about their future, based not on their will or interrest, but on what "the crowd" (friends, parents, the norm) does.

    I've also learned that insight is the most powerfull tool that one can posess.
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    Mar 3 2013: I've learned to appreciate my struggles in life because I believe there's something beautiful in struggle. If I didn't have challenges in life I might never have learned to appreciate the small things in life that I think most Americans take for granted such as being able to shower regularly, having a home to come back to and not having to worry about where you're going to sleep at night, or knowing that you have a healthy body complete with two arms and legs to get you to places you need to be.There's beauty in struggle because at that point where we feel weak and helpless some inner part of us that we never knew we had emerges from the depths of our soul and pushes us to grow.
  • Feb 27 2013: I have learned that the most difficult moments in life--the experiences that cause you to hit rock bottom and lose faith in the world and yourself-- are the opportunities that build appreciation for tenacious character and strength. We learn early in life that the world isn't fair but when you learn to accept that shit happens and sometimes justice cannot be guaranteed, you lose the need to worry or get anxious. This is when you start to re-focus your energy on how to better prepare yourself for the next hurdle.

    There are a lot of self-motivation books, websites and blogs, but until you experience the need to talk yourself through life's simple tasks like getting out of bed, eating a meal or attempting to make appointments for things you used to enjoy, those words just go in one ear and out the other. Don't wait to build yourself mentally or physically because one day you'll appreciate the strength you've built over time.
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      Feb 27 2013: Wise words April....don't wait until we hit rock bottom to start building our emotional and physical strength. I am grateful for the fact that I started building, way before hitting rock bottom, so I had some resources to draw from.
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    Feb 27 2013: I have learned that I am who I am, and that no one else, no matter how well intentioned can know what I must do to be true to myself. It is easy to say, but not so easy to live. Being true to yourself is not necessarily being selfish either, it is doing things that I know to be most important for personal growth and integrity. It is often not easy, and may seem contrary to others.
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    Feb 24 2013: As a teacher, the most amazing thing that I have learned, and continue to learn every year, is that the mind of a child is more amazing than the entire night sky full of stars. On the heels of that, I also have learned/will keep learning that I wouldn't trade the teacher's life for all the money on Wall Street.
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    Feb 24 2013: The most important thing I learned on my own was that I can learn on my own.
    Today, more than every we need to be resigned to being "life long learners."
    This does not mean that we can be content to merely learn through imitating others. We need to commit to knowing what we are passionate about and pursuing at with vigor, and also remaining open to other interesting and engaging ideas. We can learn on our own and must continue to do so. Saying "I can't" or "I don't know how" is a "learned disability" we need to overcome.
  • Feb 24 2013: I've learned that quitting something can be just as satisfying as accomplishing something.
  • Feb 24 2013: I learn to calm down myself peacefully in meditation.I have done it everyday for three years .I learn to love people around me with my heart.I learn to think quietely.I learn to see things in facts.I learn to reflect myself everyday.
  • Mar 19 2013: Good question.....
    1. Most of the things we do, say, or believe are culturally programmed into us....they are not original thoughts
    2. The Ego settles too quickly & easily for simplistic explanations.
    3. If we understand a problem, we do not need the solution, the answer will come out of it, for they are not separate.

    -Learn from that which has no thing to gain...........nature is a good start
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    Mar 17 2013: I learned how to cure my husband of the horrible effects of type 2 diabetes by reading books, watching you tube. After 20 years of suffering with the complications of diabetes, In 2003, on my program he came off of 43 units of insulin a day, eliminated severe, debilitating neuropathy in both his feet that limited his walking to 75 feet, eliminated diuretics, eliminated statin drugs, eliminated Naproxen and Nuerontin for pain and lost 100 pounds - 80 in the first 9 months of the program and 20 more a few years ago. We were at Disney World last May and he walked from 8:30 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. with only a short break in the afternoon which we all needed - best part of that trip was seeing the smile on his face at 11:45 p.m. as he came off the monorail at Disney.

    A Cleveland Clinic doctor who saw us recently looked at my husband and said, "do you know you would be dead by now if it wasn't for Mary's program?" He was so impressed, he made arrangements for us to tell our story to the local NBC channel.

    Dr. Marsh of The Ohio State School of Medicine heard our story and asked us to give the opening remarks to a lecture by Gary Taubes (one of my heroes) author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat. Mr. Taubes was at The Ohio State University at the request of Dr. Marsh.

    I have created a Keynote (Apple for Powerpoint) presentation and go everywhere delivering hope and help to other diabetics. They need to know that through the right knowledge, they can become an empowered patient and a proactive partner with their doctor in their own healthcare.
    • Mar 19 2013: Mary, this is an awesome share. Well done..........It goes to show us it's often not WHAT we know, but WHO we know. Your husband is fortunate to know you. :-)
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        Mar 20 2013: Thanks so much, Scott! I appreciate your kind words. I am blessed to have such a wonderful husband for the past 52 years and I look forward to the next 25 or so together.

        The 20 years when my husband was so very ill from diabetes were not so much fun for either of us but he has been back being himself for the past ten years. We're grateful for all we've been given especially in terms of his good health.
  • Mar 17 2013: I learned the Theories and Principals of the Philosophy of Philosophy (PHoPH). It required me to erase all previous education (except math) and acquire 100% thought control. Knowledge is NOT Power, the PHoPH is.
    • Mar 19 2013: If you can share a primary source for PHoPH, I'd mucho appreciate it.....I'm interested
      • Mar 20 2013: The "primary source" is an unfinished book I'm writing. Half history of Men of Letters/Half PHoPH. It all started with "Knowledge, itself, is Power" (which Bacon never said) and has expanded way past knowledge and progressing towards Wisdom and even now Abstract (or Theory). Not new, possibly the first was Leucippus, mostly through Democritus and every prolific Philosopher/Physicist/Inventor that followed. Other definitions exist for the Philosophy of Philosophy (i.e. Meta Philosophy) but I believe mine is quite simplistic. Unfortunately, Philosophy today is franchised to the elite, has missed its only goal, and I have trouble understanding when I have to research EVERY sentence of the "academic" Philosophy of today. I will tell you the 3 Principles I have narrowed down are: Conscious Conscience, Common Unity, and the Wisdom of Wisdom (or Theory of Theories). Knowledge, itself, is Empowering. Wisdom itself is Powerful. Wisdom, within itself, is Power. Philosophy has 3 goals:Peace and I forget the other two.
        It is not complicated, the ancients were pretty close, we have only complicated or misunderstood the gifts. I take a wide, but not deep, swath looking for what is profound whether it is Epicurus, Jesus (of Philosophy), Lord Kames, Dr. Franklin, Samuel Clemens, (non Physics) Albert Einstein, or Dr. King. Newer discoveries like Dalai Lama and Paulo Coelho or "obscure" ones like John Lennon or Al McGwire.
        This book, 'Theorum Philosophiae Principia Philosophia: Conscia Consciencia Commenum Unitatem' is not likely a "TED book", but I have others that may fit like 'Analogica Transferum', 'Paradoxes and Pandoras Boxes' and "Chain of Conscious Series": Reason beyond Perception, Logic beyond Reason, Wisdom beyond Logic, Theory beyond Wisdom, and Faith beyond Wisdom. Any guidance for newer member of TED would be appreciated. I will be fighting an uphill battle due to my lack of high school diploma, but the future is how you see it. I see a challenge.
  • Mar 13 2013: The most important thing I've learned on my own is that the most effective teaching is self-teaching.
  • Mar 8 2013: The most important thing I've learned on my own and that I think everyone needs to learn on their own is how to learn. Learning how to learn, allows you to remain flexible. Problem-solving, and learning are the most important things in life.
    • Mar 20 2013: Read to Read, Read to Live, Read to Learn, Live to Read, Live to Live, Live to Learn, Learn to Read, Learn to Live, Learn (how) to Learn. This is how I originally summarized the Philosophy of Philosophy. To learn is to know and knowledge is power, was the thought process. Knowledge of Knowledge, or Knowledge, within itself, is Power. But beyond Knowledge/Logic is Wisdom. Philosophy defined is "love of wisdom" and therefor the Wisdom of Wisdom is more pure. Beyond Wisdom is Abstract and Faith. Abstract (or Theory) is imagining things that are not known to us and can be verified in truth or falsified, anything else is Faith. The true power is in the Theory of Theory, but this is not possible if you do not first Learn how to Learn.
  • Mar 8 2013: The important thing I learned on my own was that I could make things happen for myself and that I could trust in my decision making process.
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    Mar 6 2013: I learned Spanish online. I searched the youtube videos and some other web sites to learn. Also some friends helped me. i'm not very good yet, but i'm doing my best.
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      Mar 7 2013: awesome ! i wanna learn Spanish too but i don't know how to start !
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    Mar 5 2013: "Learning by my own" is the most important thing I've learn by my own. When you learn that, you can learn anything else.
  • Feb 26 2013: When I was young my mother wanted a small landing and set of stairs built from the back of the house. Growing up without a father sometimes can prove to be cruel. Of course I didn't have a clue as to how to begin. I was ridiculed very harshly. Much later in life I built a large deck by myself complete with two sets of stairs onto the back of my home after reading a book from the library. Stairs are fairly complicated if you are to create the most comfortable (safe) ratio of rise and run while making them level too. I'd like to hug the man that wrote that book. God bless him.
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    Feb 25 2013: I taught myself about the basic fundamentals of herbalism and integrative nutrition by reading online resources, talking with various practitioners, and experimenting with my own self-care treatments. It is crucial for me to be an active participant in my own health care. I feel empowered because I have knowledge and a lifestyle that enables me to feel better, manage stress, and heal without solely depending on doctors and medicines with side-effects and sometimes toxic ingredients.
  • Feb 25 2013: 1. After experiencing racism from people who did not know any better, I learnt to stop being racist and start treating people the way I wanted to be treated.

    2. I've become more forgiving and learnt that not holding on to past feelings is the best way to heal ones self. Everyone's bound to their own circumstances, those that act 'wrongly' do so cause they know no better (karma).

    3. After experiencing healing through the angels, I have become a strong supporter of helping others heal too. We all do need external help as science is limited to the evolution of the human mind.
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    Feb 24 2013: I've learned to play the bass guitar with printouts from the internet and cd's. I have no formal education on the matter and have and am still grooming my own style.
  • Feb 23 2013: I've learnt that intelligence is not determined by what you know, but how much you are willing to learn.
  • Feb 23 2013: That people are remarkably similar the only real thing that 'seperates you from me' are your experiences in life.

    This train of thought leads to many many other ideas.
  • Mar 18 2013: 1) The value of a good coach to guide you 2) The value of being Nice to others - if you want the world to be nice to you 3) If you are to be a good at swimming, you have to get in the pool and swim (regularly and with focus)
  • Mar 17 2013: I learned I have always had the answers to every one of my life's greatest questions. I only needed to be still long enough to listen to myself. I shouldn't be afraid to hear my inner voice. Its the idle chatter which fills the void I must muddle through.