Who doesn't love feeling inspired?

I do, so for a long time I loved TED talks. No longer.

Why not?

Because I distinguish between inspiration to act and mere feeling inspired.

I've been asking people for years, and in no case of someone telling me a TED talk "inspired" them did they also change their behavior. Not a double-blind controlled experiment, but strong enough evidence for me.

So I made this video:

I Took Out the Detail. If You Wouldn't Remember It, Does It Matter?

As a leader, coach, teacher, and entrepreneur, I value getting things done over dreaming. We all know the thought we have watching a TED talk, "Now that I know that amazing research, I can use it to get ahead!"

How many of those lessons can you remember now? How many have you used?

If not, while you're calmly reading, why would you expect to remember them in tense moments when you need them?

Inc.com readers are smart and smart people point out flaws. I'm happy to hear counterexamples. Come to think of it, I'd love to hear them so I don't get too jaded.

Research isn't action, nor is hearing about research.

The most follow-up anyone told me was to buy a presenter's book. Impressed at even this minimal follow-up, I asked how she liked it.

"I haven't bought it yet," she said. "But I'm going to!"

I rest my case.

Nothing Wrong With Entertainment

I won't lie. I still like some talks. I see them as entertainment.

I see nothing wrong with being entertained. Movies and TV try to make you laugh or cry. Cable news tries to fill you with outrage. Sports try to excite you.

TED talks try to make you feel inspired.

So, despite my misgivings, I still say to watch them. Just don't confuse those feeling with getting things done.

What to do instead

As the proverb says:

I hear I forget. I see I remember. I do I understand.

Lesson: Act! Do! Learn experientially!

Distinguish between passive watching and active doing. You can't learn the piano by listening to Duke Ellington. You have to get your hands on the keyboard.

Nor can you build your company, sell your product, or live your dreams by listening to research. Getting your hands on your life's keyboard means interacting with your employees, customers, and loved ones. Allow yourself to be vulnerable directly, not vicariously.

Away from your computer keyboard.

Published on: Feb 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.