“Imagine you’re a shipwrecked sailor adrift in the enormous Pacific. You have three choices to try to save yourself and your shipmates – but each choice comes with a dreadful possible outcome. How do you choose? In telling the story of the whaling ship Essex through her TED Talk, novelist Karen Thompson Walker forces us to imagine our possible futures and decide how to cope with them.” 1

And in telling the story of the Essex, she gives us an insight into our own behavior when we have choices before us. This piece of self-awareness is a game-changer for all of us!

Image: A shipwreck

Source: Lookas PHT // Flickr

Is fear a bad thing? And what role do the stories we tell ourselves have to play in our decisions?

To come to some new insight on that, treat yourself to this thought exercise: watch Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk below and PAUSE the talk at exactly 4:45. That’s just after you understand the choices that the sailors faced. Then really think about which option you would choose. Really… process your choices and jot down your decision BEFORE listening to the rest of her presentation.

Watching this along with someone else makes this even more insightful because the most amazing debate about your choices will arise. See if you can round up a companion to enjoy this rare bit of fun insight.

It’s fascinating and if you are like us, this may just change the way you consider your options every day. Enjoy!

Via: TED 2

Well… how did you do?

It seems like such an obvious insight: Author Karen Thompson Walker simply reminds us to listen to the stories we are telling ourselves. That’s not rocket science in theory, but it is so hard to actually practice.

❤️️ Want to access good news at the push of a button? We have an App!
Download in the Apple and Google Play stores.

So how often does irrational fear force us to make bad decisions? How often do we make choices based on the scariest outcome we can imagine, even though that possibility has terrifically small odds of actually happening?

Image: Kids with pots on their heads

Source: Dr. Lynda Ulrich

We’ve just come back from the most extraordinary “ideas conference” called PopTech.

Everyone we met at the conference is working out on the edges of possibility in their fields, just as we are here at EWC. But no one we met had heard of this concept of what fear can teach us, so we thought we’d share this talk today.

Every week here at EWC we feature numerous innovators who are telling themselves a different story than the one that would make them quit. They are dealing with the fear of failure in a healthier way.

Since watching this TED Talk, I have thought of the cannibals on the island a thousand times and turned my back on them. Instead, I stayed with the facts and made decisions without fear as a motivator.

Why do we gravitate towards telling ourselves the most emotionally charged story of all the possible outcomes? We don’t even stop to ask ourselves how likely that particular outcome is.

We do it in our families, businesses, and communities. It seems to be a leap our brain performs automatically. 

Take a look at the following photo. What’s the story that jumped into your mind about what’s going on there?


Source: Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Are you telling yourself a negative story, perhaps something a bit fearful? It’s an impulse that is irresistible, isn’t it?

Well, actually, this is our 11-year-old daughter sitting by a campfire in our backyard, pouting a bit because we wouldn’t let her have a 20th marshmallow! Oh how the stories we tell ourselves could be changing the way we approach every situation.

Let’s sort this impulse out in our own lives…

First, we have to acknowledge that fear is an entire system of brain pathways, and one of the most important responses that has kept humanity from going the way of the Neanderthal. Yet today –  when we do not have to fear a saber-toothed tiger behind every tree – we are still telling ourselves that a critical level of danger may be right around every corner.

Now our stress is social, ethical and financial, but our brain elevates the challenges to that same fear center. How often do we have difficult family situations that need attention, but we avoid wading in because we are imagining the worst possible outcome? How often are our business decisions based on avoiding the worst possible outcome?

13 minutes

Why Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Why do we feel embarrassed to ask for help? The wonderful (and hilarious) TED Talk Speaker Michele L. Sullivan helps us re-frame our perspective on asking for help, and how it all starts with having a little more compassion!

Read More

Most importantly, have you ever told yourself a scary story ahead of time that caused you to pass up a good opportunity?  (Yikes! That’s the hardest one for me to ponder.)

Or, do you work in an environment that is so “Risk Conservative” that very little that is meaningful gets done? Some interesting things to consider. See where this new insight takes you.

If you’d like to see an article that shows us how innovation works when fear of failure is not a part of the equation, check out an article we wrote called DARPA: Removing the Risk of Failure. DARPA is one of the world’s most important centers for cutting-edge technology research and innovation. If you’re interested in learning more, pop into the article down below!

19 minutes

DARPA: Removing the Fear of Failure

What would our lives look like if we could shake our fear of failure? What would you try tomorrow if failure wasn't a bad thing? Enter: DARPA, a place we might find a new mindset! Take a look at the TED Talk by Regina Dugan and become a better you!

Read More

Have a great week… and watch out for the stories you are telling yourself.

Stay open, curious and hopeful.

~ Dr. Lynda

Enjoy the ideas of a few more thought leaders!

If you want to gather a few more pearls of wisdom from speakers like Michele L. Sullivan, jump over to our TED Talks Archive! There you will find all of our favorite TED Talks to soak in!

TED Talks on EWC!

Also, don’t forget to subscribe! It’s the best (free) way to get a daily dose of optimism delivered right to your inbox!

Support us on Patreon!       Check out our library!


  1. Thompson Walker, Karen. “What Fear Can Teach Us.” TED.com. TED, June 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us>.
  2. Thompson Walker, Karen. “What Fear Can Teach Us.” TED.com. TED, June 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world. Hear her latest conversations with thought leaders on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast--new episodes every Wednesday!

In this Circle

Secrets to the “Happiness Advantage” at Work

18 minutes

[ Business ]

By Dr. Lynda

Want to be happier at work? Solid science predicts we actually control 90% of our happiness and only 10% is related to our circumstances! Today, Shawn Anchor tells us how to nurture the "happiness advantage" in our work and home. Amazing!
Read More

Rewilding: How Wolves Radically Change Rivers

18 minutes

[ Conservation & Sustainability ]

By Dr. Lynda

Author George Monbiot has coined a new term - "rewilding" - which may be the key to finding balance with the natural world. You won't believe the dramatic improvements that nature can manage for itself, once key species are reintroduced. Fascinating!
Read More

Conspiracy of Goodness: A Movement That’s Changing our Future

15 minutes

[ Conspiracy of Goodness ]

By Dr. Lynda

Why don't we know about the awe-inspiring people who are making the world a better place? There is already a movement underway of people working towards a better collective future and you're already a part of it. This is the Conspiracy of Goodness, the movement all around us just waiting to be celebrated!
Read More

How to Move Forward When Grief Finds You!

20 minutes

[ Featured ]

By Dr. Lynda

If you or a friend are struggling with grief, this article will feel like opening a window on a new landscape. Here are some transformational ideas about how we can move forward with grief, from a thought leader who has had her fair share of experience with it!
Read More

The People Who Could Be the Unsuspecting Heroes in Our Journey!

16 minutes

[ Conspiracy of Goodness ]

By Dr. Lynda

Jonathan Gravenor discovered some unlikely "teachers" as he went from traveling the world as a successful journalist to struggling through chemo alone, and they changed his life. He shares a few of the lesson he learned in this great TED Talk!
Read More

The Wild Potential of Embracing Our Limitations

10 minutes

[ Art ]

By Dr. Lynda

What if embraced our limitations? What possibilities might we discover if we just owned them and let them force us to get creative. We might actually find possibilities we would never have discovered. Take a look at how remarkable this mindset can be!
Read More

Life Advice from the Slowest Mammal on Earth!

30 minutes

[ Animals ]

By Dr. Lynda

What can sloths teach us about dealing with the chaos of modern life? Here's a hilarious TED Talk that will have you becoming a champion of the sloth lifestyle for yourself.
Read More

What Fear Can Teach Us About the Stories We Tell Ourselves

17 minutes

[ Business ]

By Dr. Lynda

DO NOT MISS THIS! If you are turning your back on all the fear and malice in the news media these days, this TED Talk is a really fun and "game-changing" insight! (We use it almost every day)
Read More

Abundance is Our Future!

16 minutes

[ Conservation & Sustainability ]

By Dr. Lynda

It's easy to concede that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but the data shows the opposite! Here's the CEO of the X-Prize foundation to clue us in on where we are headed and why!
Read More

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

16 minutes

[ Business ]

By Dr. Lynda

Have you ever watched the TED Talk with the most views in history: 33 million? There's a reason this one is on top. Great fun and a subject that can expand every single one of us, no matter our age.
Read More