Erica Swallow: My Favorite TED Talk

by Todd Jones ([email protected]) 211 views 

With Little Rock hosting a TED Talk later this month, we’ve begun a series of asking a number of folks in the Arkansas startup scene for their favorite talk.

One of the speakers at the Little Rock event is Erica Swallow, vice-president of product at Noble Impact.

Swallow is a native of Paragould, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management and New York University. She is an entrepreneur, technology enthusiast and social media fan.

In addition, Swallow has been a contributor at various publications including the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur magazine and more.

From Erica Swallow:

There are so many good TED talks, but one of my favorites is novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk on “the danger of a single story.”

Growing up in Arkansas, I was always fascinated with the magazines that arrived in my mailbox from distant lands such as New York and Los Angeles. It wasn’t until I was a young woman in college, though, that I began to understand that it is not sufficient to understand a story, but even more important to understand who is telling the story and what motivates them to do so.

I am befuddled at how I hadn’t, up until college, stopped to question the authors of history, of the novels I had read, of the news I had consumed.

Adichie’s TED talk hit the notion home for me, that we must always consider the writers of history, of media, of news, of everything written and told.

A former boss and colleague of mine, Contently CEO Shane Snow, gave a TEDx talk entitled, “Those who tell the stories rule the world.” It’s an old Native American proverb that was painted on the walls of Contently when I worked there. I’ve never forgotten that message, and Adichie’s personal story is one that is emblazoned in my memory as adding much context to that idea.

It’s not often that we hear personal stories, told with such precision, about the effects of stories and storytellers on a person’s core existence. In the words of Adichie, her talk is about “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.”

Imagine living in a world where the stories you heard as a child were not reflective of your culture or history. Or a world where all you’ve heard about another culture is so off-point that it’s not reflective of that culture.

The truth is, we all live in this world, and it’s controlled by the stories we hear and the people who tell those stories. As a storyteller, I take great responsibility in mitigating bias when I tell stories, but I – like everyone – am limited by my experiences and the stories I too have heard.

It is important that as readers, we maintain a curious mind to question those who are sharing stories, and as storytellers, we must always seek to tell all sides of the story.

I’ll leave you with one last thought from Winston Churchill on this topic: “history is written by the victors.” It’s a disservice to humanity to have just a single story. Hopefully Adichie’s talk inspires more people to consider the importance of that idea.

Watch Swallow’s favorite TED Talk from Adichie below.