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How To Learn Sign Language

How language generates your world and mine: Chalmers Brothers at TEDxBocaRaton

Translator: Alina Siluyanova
Reviewer: Denise RQ We speak ourselves into the world. We speak ourselves
into transformation, or not. Into new possibilities
and new results for ourselves, or not. TED is about ideas worth spreading, I believe it’s also about ideas
worth reminding ourselves of, because what I want
to share with you today, I believe many of us know, or knew, but somehow, somewhere
along the way, we forgot. And it’s easy to forget this because in some ways
it’s so close we don’t see it, it’s so obvious we can miss it. What I would love to do today is to reintroduce you,
to remind you of this idea – which is really
two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the same powerful idea – and do so in such a way
that you can leave here today more conscious and more aware of how to purposely
apply this in your life. I ask a room full of people, “What is language? What is language for?” And what would
the giant majority answer with? A tool for communication,
or some variation of this. This is such a widely held idea, or a way of understanding language, that most people
don’t see it as an idea at all. We see it as a definition. As a fact. I offer this: if language is a tool,
it’s a tool we cannot put down. When we look a little bit more closely, we can see that we are doing
a great deal more than communicate
and describe with our language. So, point number one: language creates and generates,
it does not simply describe. Some examples: think about
every single time in your life you’ve ever said the word “yes”. Every time. Now consider: if all
those times you had said no, would your life be different? You wouldn’t be here. The simple act of saying yes,
you move in the world this way, these doors open,
these doors close, and vice versa. We’re not describing. One of my favorite stories
about how language creates is a baseball story. Two umpires sitting around talking,
and the first one is saying, “You know, Joe is a fabulous umpire: there’s balls in his strikes,
he calls them like they are.” The second umpire said,
“No no no, Joe is a great umpire. There’s balls in his strikes,
but he calls them like he sees them.” Joe said, “Ya’ll both wrong.” He says, “There’s balls in my strikes,
but they are nothing till I call them.” (Laughter) When he says “Strike three”,
it is “Strike three”. This question is for everybody who is married,
or who has ever been married. It’s a simple question: Is it different being married
than not being married? Yes. It’s different legally, socially,
sexually, emotionally, financially. It’s different. So the question: how do we go from being
not married to being married? How’d that happen? Somebody said something. And in that moment it’s different, and it’s not a little bit different,
it’s really different. We speak ourselves into the world. How was the United States
of America created? What is there, in the Archives,
right next to the Constitution in Washington D.C.? The Declaration. This country was declared into being. Now, there was work to do after that, yes, but without the Declaration
does not happen. How was Jim’s Auto Body Shop
down the street created? And all organizations for that matter? They were also declared into being, and Jim and the rest of us
can find the evidence in the file cabinet, “We hereby shareholders
declare part 100, a, b, c; August, 1, the company doesn’t exist,
August, 2, it does.” Leaders get paid
to have effective conversations. Leaders create
and continually sustain and cultivate this non-physical but very real
and very powerful thing called corporate culture, not with shovels
and fertilizer, of course, but with the conversations they have,
the conversations they require, and the conversations
they prohibit in their organizations. These conversations
shape and impact that culture every bit as much as the culture
influences the workplace conversations. Causality is two-way. Now, let’s get personal. Think about somebody in your life with whom you have
a close, deep, excellent relationship. Your conversations with that person create the experience of intimacy, generate the space of authenticity
and vulnerability, not describe it. You change those conversations, and you change that relationship. You end those conversations, and you end the relationship. Back to the wedding:
Is there not a moment in most weddings when the person doing the ceremony
will say some version of this: “Anybody here thinks that so and so
and so and so should not be married? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.” Here’s my promise to you: you stand up in that moment
and you scream: “I object!”, you are not describing,
you are creating. (Laughter) Think about it. You’re creating chaos, a crisis, you’re also creating
a brand new relationship with the groom. Think about it. And a brand, spanking new
public identity for yourself. (Laughter) I am not saying
we don’t describe with language. What I’m saying is
that is not all that we do. And it’s this whole other
“not all that we do” that’s worth looking at. One more example. In times of ongoing change,
exactly like those we live in today, our ability to continually learn
is critically important. And one of the most spectacularly
powerful prerequisites for learning, regardless of whether
we’re learning to ride a bike, learning to rebuild a relationship,
learning to lead a company, that prerequisite is a language step, and it’s when the learner says,
either internally or out loud, “I don’t know.” Declaring “I don’t know”
does not describe a state of affairs, it produces something. What it produces
is called a context for learning; not physical, very real. We declare beginnerhood into being. We speak it so. Just like the umpire. Everybody here knows this: Who here in this room has ever tried
to teach somebody something when the learner thought
they already knew it? How much learning takes place? Not much. So point number one: language creates and generates,
it does not simply describe. Point number two: we live in language. We live in language. Now, that expression, what does it mean? I like to frame it this way. Who here in this room
has the little voice inside? When it’s saying,
“What’s he talking about?” that’s what I’m talking about. Who has a debate team? (Laughter) One of my favorite quotes
of all time is Mark Twain. He said, “I’m always in a conversation. And sometimes, other people are involved.” (Laughter) It’s not just Mark Twain, it’s us. It’s all of us. And because we live in language,
this is what we do. You, and I, and all of us,
we are confronted with events. Events at home, events at work,
events with our kids, events in college,
events at the beach; events. And what we do as a human beings,
we make up stories about these events, we hold these stories to be the truth, and we forget that we made them up. (Laughter) Now, when I say “story”,
I don’t mean fib, or fabrication, it’s not a purposeful manipulation,
it’s not a self-deception. It’s an interpretation. An explanation. A crucial distinction
for us to possess is event is not equal explanation. Event is not equal explanation. One example: your child comes home from school, looks up at you straight in the eye,
and says, “I’m stupid.” “What are you talking about?”
“I’m stupid.” “What are you talking about?” “I got an F on my English test.” In this little example, what’s the event? The F on the test. What’s the explanation? “I’m stupid.” Question: if that kid lives
in that conversation long enough, is that a descriptive thing
or a creative thing? That’s a creative thing. And let’s back up from the F
on the test and think more broadly. Is it the events of your life
or your explanations about those events that are more influential as to the actual actions
you end up taking in the world? It’s the explanations. And not only actual actions
we take in the world, we produce something
called results in the world in a wide variety of areas, do we not? Yes. And the explanation
is the spring board, not the event. Out of any given event, how many possible explanations are there? Infinite. What if we can break a habit? What if we can break the habit
of throwing the right wrong scaffolding on top of our and other
people’s explanations? “My explanation is right, yours is wrong,
this is right, this is wrong.” What if we can stop that, and instead have something
called ‘powerful-unpowerful’. It would look like this: Is your explanation
powerful or unpowerful, given the results you say you want? Does my explanation
serve me or not serve me, given what I say I want to be,
do, or have in this situation, in this relationship? Always with the tagline
“given the results we say we want” never in a vacuum. Never in a vacuum. Because we’re doing it already anyway. That’s not in doubt. We are Mark Twain. Have you ever known someone
who didn’t see themselves as doing this? Because this is about self awareness. It’s not a problem that we do this. The only problem is
we don’t see that we’re doing it! Here’s what someone must look like
who does not see himself as doing this. It’s wonderful to meet everyone today,
and it’s obvious to me how each of you are necessarily influenced
by your age, your race, your sex, your degree of travel
or non-travel when you were little, and your cultural, educational,
and work histories, and all these necessarily service filters
to which you perceive reality. I, on the other hand, am somehow
blessed with cosmic objectivity, was somehow born
unfettered in this regard, and unburdened by all the cognitive, emotional, and cultural filters
that clog you up. My eyes are more like
clear panes of glass, amazingly allowing me
access to native reality in such a way that it yields
cosmically objective viewpoints. How excellent for me that I was somehow born
and blessed with such a gift? (Laughter) (Applause) I get to this part in a workshop, a guy stands up in the back
of the room and says, “My brother, my brother, finally!
Someone who understands me!” (Laughter) “I thought I was alone!
The burden of this gift! The only one with any objectivity!” Everybody is interpreting, no matter what, no exceptions, ever. One of my teachers said this, “Everything that is said,
is said by someone.” (Laughter) Think about it. Somebody who was born somewhere, in some culture,
in some time period somewhere, raised by individual human beings, each of whom had standards,
distinctions, values, practices, experiences, moods, like each of us. But folks, here is the consequence,
and we know this: if you do not see yourself
as doing this now, making up explanations, and you couple that with not producing some important result
that you say you want, well, then the option for you of offering
a more powerful interpretation, it’ll never occur to you. It’ll be off your radar screen, because if you don’t think
you’re doing it now, there’s nothing to update. And what you have effectively done
is take off the table a spectacular leverage point. For intervening at the level you can make a real
difference, which is you. We live in language
like a fish lives in water. A fish is born in water,
lives in water; water, water, water. Question: when would a fish first know,
he’s born in water and lives in water? When would he first know that? When you take him out. We are born in language, live in language,
language all around, language everywhere. Part of what I want to do today
is create a space where we can begin to look at language
instead of living through it, so we can be more aware
of what we’re up to in language and more conscious and more purposeful about how we wield this creative,
generative energy we call language. We are swimming, each of us,
in an ocean of stories, interpretations, explanations and beliefs, all of which live in language and a great majority of which we have
long since forgotten that we authored. Some of these stories, interpretations,
explanations, and beliefs absolutely do not take us today
and will not take us tomorrow where we say we want to go. But because we have forgotten
that we are the author, we have also forgotten that we have
the authority and the ability to change them, update them,
transcend them or let them go. So number one:
language creates and generates. Plus, number two:
we live in language equals, we are always creating
or generating something, it just may or may not be
what we say we want. What do you most seek in
to be, do, or have in your life? Because regardless of how you answer
that question, these questions, I’m here today to remind you
you speak yourself into the world. We are not human beings,
we are human becomings. We are. And in this neverending dance of learning,
growing, evolving, and becoming, this ideal, this way
of understanding language, this way of understanding ourselves, is the key. I invite you, I challenge you
as you leave here today, to be a more powerful observer of yourself
and what you’re up to in language and live with ongoing awareness
and acceptance of your role as the author of your life. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

14 Replies to “How language generates your world and mine: Chalmers Brothers at TEDxBocaRaton”

  • Speak life, and create!  Pay attention to what people speaking languages are actually creating, not just defining and sharing, fellow "human becomings".  Great talk, Chalmers.

  • Great talk. Great points. But you have to realize that this guy just explained (very eloquently)….that language IS communication. He's really just explaining what communication is and does.  

  • Excellent elocution of this perspective-useful to navies and can be appreciated by masters. There are gems here both whimsical and wise.

  • Simple, yet powerful message and reminder of who we are, and we show up in the world. Well done Brothers.

  • @albert,(for some reason can't reply) it's not just communication. Remember in the talk when Chlamer talked about the kid who said he was stupid?  If he says it enough, he will eventually speak it into being.  That's not communication, that's creating through language. What you say (think) to yourself defines the options and opportunities available to you.

  • Very important concept. Love this talk. Stay open minded and aware of our effect on others and ourselves. Key to motivation in moving forward and unlocking doors we didn't even realize were there. Thank you Chalmers for this timely reality check. Came at the perfect time for me!

  • Love this whole concept of creating by the use of language – creating opportunities, creating people, creating wholesome relationships … Thank you Sir for this idea and this talk.

  • I read his book. Language and the pursuit of happiness. it's worth reading. reminds me of Landmark Education.
    I accept you invitation and challenge to be a more powerful observer of myself and what Im up to in language and live with ongoing acceptance of my role as the author of my life. Let's do it!

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