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  • When Dorothy was a little girl,

  • she was fascinated by her goldfish.

  • Her father explained to her that fish swim by quickly wagging their tails

  • to propel themselves through the water.

  • Without hesitation, little Dorothy responded,

  • "Yes, Daddy, and fish swim backwards by wagging their heads."

  • (Laughter)

  • In her mind, it was a fact as true as any other.

  • Fish swim backwards by wagging their heads.

  • She believed it.

  • Our lives are full of fish swimming backwards.

  • We make assumptions and faulty leaps of logic.

  • We harbor bias.

  • We know that we are right, and they are wrong.

  • We fear the worst.

  • We strive for unattainable perfection.

  • We tell ourselves what we can and cannot do.

  • In our minds, fish swim by in reverse frantically wagging their heads

  • and we don't even notice them.

  • I'm going to tell you five facts about myself.

  • One fact is not true.

  • One: I graduated from Harvard at 19 with an honors degree in mathematics.

  • Two: I currently run a construction company in Orlando.

  • Three: I starred on a television sitcom.

  • Four: I lost my sight to a rare genetic eye disease.

  • Five: I served as a law clerk to two US Supreme Court justices.

  • Which fact is not true?

  • Actually, they're all true.

  • Yeah. They're all true.

  • (Applause)

  • At this point, most people really only care about the television show.

  • (Laughter)

  • I know this from experience.

  • OK, so the show was NBC's "Saved by the Bell: The New Class."

  • And I played Weasel Wyzell,

  • who was the sort of dorky, nerdy character on the show,

  • which made it a very major acting challenge

  • for me as a 13-year-old boy.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, did you struggle with number four, my blindness?

  • Why is that?

  • We make assumptions about so-called disabilities.

  • As a blind man, I confront others' incorrect assumptions

  • about my abilities every day.

  • My point today is not about my blindness, however.

  • It's about my vision.

  • Going blind taught me to live my life eyes wide open.

  • It taught me to spot those backwards-swimming fish

  • that our minds create.

  • Going blind cast them into focus.

  • What does it feel like to see?

  • It's immediate and passive.

  • You open your eyes and there's the world.

  • Seeing is believing. Sight is truth.

  • Right?

  • Well, that's what I thought.

  • Then, from age 12 to 25, my retinas progressively deteriorated.

  • My sight became an increasingly bizarre

  • carnival funhouse hall of mirrors and illusions.

  • The salesperson I was relieved to spot in a store

  • was really a mannequin.

  • Reaching down to wash my hands,

  • I suddenly saw it was a urinal I was touching, not a sink,

  • when my fingers felt its true shape.

  • A friend described the photograph in my hand,

  • and only then I could see the image depicted.

  • Objects appeared, morphed and disappeared in my reality.

  • It was difficult and exhausting to see.

  • I pieced together fragmented, transitory images,

  • consciously analyzed the clues,

  • searched for some logic in my crumbling kaleidoscope,

  • until I saw nothing at all.

  • I learned that what we see

  • is not universal truth.

  • It is not objective reality.

  • What we see is a unique, personal, virtual reality

  • that is masterfully constructed by our brain.

  • Let me explain with a bit of amateur neuroscience.

  • Your visual cortex takes up about 30 percent of your brain.

  • That's compared to approximately eight percent for touch

  • and two to three percent for hearing.

  • Every second, your eyes can send your visual cortex

  • as many as two billion pieces of information.

  • The rest of your body can send your brain only an additional billion.

  • So sight is one third of your brain by volume

  • and can claim about two thirds of your brain's processing resources.

  • It's no surprise then

  • that the illusion of sight is so compelling.

  • But make no mistake about it: sight is an illusion.

  • Here's where it gets interesting.

  • To create the experience of sight,

  • your brain references your conceptual understanding of the world,

  • other knowledge, your memories, opinions, emotions, mental attention.

  • All of these things and far more are linked in your brain to your sight.

  • These linkages work both ways, and usually occur subconsciously.

  • So for example,

  • what you see impacts how you feel,

  • and the way you feel can literally change what you see.

  • Numerous studies demonstrate this.

  • If you are asked to estimate

  • the walking speed of a man in a video, for example,

  • your answer will be different if you're told to think about cheetahs or turtles.

  • A hill appears steeper if you've just exercised,

  • and a landmark appears farther away

  • if you're wearing a heavy backpack.

  • We have arrived at a fundamental contradiction.

  • What you see is a complex mental construction of your own making,

  • but you experience it passively

  • as a direct representation of the world around you.

  • You create your own reality, and you believe it.

  • I believed mine until it broke apart.

  • The deterioration of my eyes shattered the illusion.

  • You see, sight is just one way

  • we shape our reality.

  • We create our own realities in many other ways.

  • Let's take fear as just one example.

  • Your fears distort your reality.

  • Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain.

  • Fear fills the void at all costs,

  • passing off what you dread for what you know,

  • offering up the worst in place of the ambiguous,

  • substituting assumption for reason.

  • Psychologists have a great term for it: awfulizing.

  • (Laughter)

  • Right?

  • Fear replaces the unknown with the awful.

  • Now, fear is self-realizing.

  • When you face the greatest need

  • to look outside yourself and think critically,

  • fear beats a retreat deep inside your mind,

  • shrinking and distorting your view,

  • drowning your capacity for critical thought

  • with a flood of disruptive emotions.

  • When you face a compelling opportunity to take action,

  • fear lulls you into inaction,

  • enticing you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.

  • When I was diagnosed with my blinding disease,

  • I knew blindness would ruin my life.

  • Blindness was a death sentence for my independence.

  • It was the end of achievement for me.

  • Blindness meant I would live an unremarkable life,

  • small and sad,

  • and likely alone.

  • I knew it.

  • This was a fiction born of my fears, but I believed it.

  • It was a lie, but it was my reality,

  • just like those backwards-swimming fish in little Dorothy's mind.

  • If I had not confronted the reality of my fear,

  • I would have lived it.

  • I am certain of that.

  • So how do you live your life eyes wide open?

  • It is a learned discipline.

  • It can be taught. It can be practiced.

  • I will summarize very briefly.

  • Hold yourself accountable

  • for every moment, every thought,

  • every detail.

  • See beyond your fears.

  • Recognize your assumptions.

  • Harness your internal strength.

  • Silence your internal critic.

  • Correct your misconceptions about luck and about success.

  • Accept your strengths and your weaknesses, and understand the difference.

  • Open your hearts

  • to your bountiful blessings.

  • Your fears, your critics,

  • your heroes, your villains --

  • they are your excuses,

  • rationalizations, shortcuts,

  • justifications, your surrender.

  • They are fictions you perceive as reality.

  • Choose to see through them.

  • Choose to let them go.

  • You are the creator of your reality.

  • With that empowerment comes complete responsibility.

  • I chose to step out of fear's tunnel into terrain uncharted and undefined.

  • I chose to build there a blessed life.

  • Far from alone,

  • I share my beautiful life with Dorothy,

  • my beautiful wife,

  • with our triplets, whom we call the Tripskys,

  • and with the latest addition to the family,

  • sweet baby Clementine.

  • What do you fear?

  • What lies do you tell yourself?

  • How do you embellish your truth and write your own fictions?

  • What reality are you creating for yourself?

  • In your career and personal life, in your relationships,

  • and in your heart and soul,

  • your backwards-swimming fish do you great harm.

  • They exact a toll in missed opportunities and unrealized potential,

  • and they engender insecurity and distrust

  • where you seek fulfillment and connection.

  • I urge you to search them out.

  • Helen Keller said that the only thing worse than being blind

  • is having sight but no vision.

  • For me, going blind was a profound blessing,

  • because blindness gave me vision.

  • I hope you can see what I see.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • Bruno Giussani: Isaac, before you leave the stage, just a question.

  • This is an audience of entrepreneurs, of doers, of innovators.

  • You are a CEO of a company down in Florida,

  • and many are probably wondering,

  • how is it to be a blind CEO?

  • What kind of specific challenges do you have, and how do you overcome them?

  • Isaac Lidsky: Well, the biggest challenge became a blessing.

  • I don't get visual feedback from people.

  • (Laughter)

  • BG: What's that noise there? IL: Yeah.

  • So, for example, in my leadership team meetings,

  • I don't see facial expressions or gestures.

  • I've learned to solicit a lot more verbal feedback.

  • I basically force people to tell me what they think.

  • And in this respect,

  • it's become, like I said, a real blessing for me personally and for my company,

  • because we communicate at a far deeper level,

  • we avoid ambiguities,

  • and most important, my team knows that what they think truly matters.

  • BG: Isaac, thank you for coming to TED. IL: Thank you, Bruno.

  • (Applause)

When Dorothy was a little girl,

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【TED】Isaac Lidsky: What reality are you creating for yourself? (What reality are you creating for yourself? | Isaac Lidsky)

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    Laura Zhang posted on 2016/12/05
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