What to Read/Listen to this Weekend


Hi everyone,

Longtime readers of this blog know that I’ve been crazy about TED talks from the moment I discovered them a few years ago. So I am incredibly honored to announce that I’ve been invited to give a TED talk on introversion this February, at the TED conference in Long Beach, California!

To mark the occasion, my picks this weekend are all TED-related:

1. Elizabeth Gilbert, on creativity: This is probably my favorite TED talk of all, for the beauty of her language and warmth of her presence. That’s Elizabeth in the photo up top.

2. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, on flow: Of all the Big Ideas I’ve come across in a lifetime of reading about psychology, the idea of flow has improved my life the most.

3. Billy Collins, on mothers and sons:

What a thrill, turns out I’ll be sharing the stage at TED with the great poet Billy Collins! This is really an amazing thing, because I’ve been a devoted fan for years. When we were off to the hospital to deliver our first son, my husband insisted on keeping the cab waiting while he ran upstairs, just so I’d have a Collins collection with me in the maternity ward.

Here’s one of my favorites:

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

I hope you enjoy these picks — and have a wonderful weekend.



  1. Vinod Narayan on 13.01.2012 at 16:09 (Reply)

    Hi Susan,

    First of all congrats on your invite to present at TED. Hope to watch your video once it comes on TED.com

    Infact I found your site when I got a mail that the speaker lineup has been published and I have been looking at who all had a blog and trying to know more about the speakers. Sadly not all have a blog and I was happy that you have one and I have added you to my reader list.

    Thanks again for sharing Billy’s poem

    I have spoken (sorry written) too much in a site that is all about quietness :)

    Wish you all the very best!

  2. Vinod Narayan on 13.01.2012 at 16:33 (Reply)

    Coming Back again to share something I wrote for your Quite movement just now

    I am Quiet
    Not indifferent
    Not silent
    Just quite
    I witness, I react, I Care
    Yet I am Quiet
    My voice
    will spreads quietly
    Till it is heard everywhere
    echoing my voice in all quietness

  3. Frank on 13.01.2012 at 18:33 (Reply)

    How has the idea of Flow improved your life? I thought Csikszentmihalyi only described what it is. Does he describe how to achieve it in his book, or did you figure it out on your own? If the latter, we’d love to hear about it!!

    Congratulations on the TED talk!

  4. Mary Ellen on 14.01.2012 at 08:14 (Reply)

    I’m thrilled for you, Susan, with your invite to TED. And thanks for introducing me to Billy Collins. There are poets whose work just grabs me right at the start and I’m thinking he might be one of them. Same with your blog…grabbed me right at the start and I’ve been following ever since. Sounds like the New Year is off to an excellent start and I’m so happy for you for that.

  5. christopher on 14.01.2012 at 08:39 (Reply)

    Congratulations. I wish I could attend that live talk…

  6. Mark on 14.01.2012 at 09:44 (Reply)

    Congratulations on TED — I am a long time fan of that, and you being a part of it makes me that much more hooked on it.

    Collins is a real treasure too — thanks for reminding me of that!

  7. Lisa on 14.01.2012 at 11:03 (Reply)

    SO excited for you Susan!I can’t wait to view the TED talk when it’s available. And to share the stage with Billy Collins! What could be better than that? I LOVE Billy Collins, too and “The Lanyard” is one of my favorite poems! Good luck with your public speaking adventure and remember to have fun!

  8. Amy on 14.01.2012 at 21:54 (Reply)

    I am happy that you will be on TED. I think TED is a great way to spread your positive message about introverts!

  9. Brittany on 23.01.2012 at 00:30 (Reply)

    Excellent work Susan, I look forward to watching your TED talk!! That is amazing!

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1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

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3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

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