Ted Talk Lesson 3 Artwork

Learn English with Ted Talks #3: How to Create a Movement

Would you like to inspire a movement and become a leader?

Well according to this video, there are certain things that need to happen for a movement to take place. And, in this short video, you will learn what those things are.

Watch the video, read the transcript, see more examples of the key language, and then answer the question below.

The Video

The Transpcript

The following transcript is taken from Ted.com

So, ladies and gentlemen, at TED we talk a lot about leadership and how to make a movement. So let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under three minutes and dissect some lessons from it.

First, of course you know, a leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed. But what he’s doing is so easy to follow. So here’s his first follower with a crucial role; he’s going to show everyone else how to follow.

Now, notice that the leader embraces him as an equal. So, now it’s not about the leader anymore; it’s about them, plural. Now, there he is calling to his friends. Now, if you notice that the first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. It takes guts to stand out like that. The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader. (Laughter) (Applause)

And here comes a second follower. Now it’s not a lone nut, it’s not two nuts — three is a crowd, and a crowd is news. So a movement must be public. It’s important to show not just to show the leader, but the followers, because you find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.

Now, here come two more people, and immediately after, three more people. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point. Now we’ve got a movement. So, notice that, as more people join in, it’s less risky. So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to. They won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed, but they will be part of the in-crowd if they hurry. (Laughter) So, over the next minute, you’ll see all of those that prefer to stick with the crowd because eventually they would be ridiculed for not joining in. And that’s how you make a movement.

But let’s recap some lessons from this. So first, if you are the type, like the shirtless dancing guy that is standing alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals so it’s clearly about the movement, not you. Okay, but we might have missed the real lesson here.

The biggest lesson, if you noticed — did you catch it? — is that leadership is over-glorified. That, yes, it was the shirtless guy who was first, and he’ll get all the credit, but it was really the first follower that transformed the lone nut into a leader. So, as we’re told that we should all be leaders, that would be really ineffective.

If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in. And what a perfect place to do that, at TED.


A leader needs the guts to stand out

To have guts means to have courage. This is quite common in everyday language, and can be used both seriously and when joking.

  • I didn’t have the guts to ask her out.
  • I bet you don’t have the guts to play me at FIFA (computer game).

To stand out means to look and/or act differently from the everyone/everything else:

  • Wow, your yellow shoes really stand out!
  • People spend their time at school trying to fit in, but once they graduate, they want to stand out.
  • I really want to stand out in my interview.

To be ridiculed

If someone is ridiculing you, it means that they are making fun of you and most likely laughing at you. Everyone who was watching the dancing guy was probably ridiculing him before they joined in.

There he is calling to his friends

There is a difference between call and call to. In the video it shows that the second guy is waving at his friends and telling them (through body language) to come over and join in – he is calling to his friends.

But, when we’re talking about using a telephone, then we don’t use the preposition to.

  • My boss called me last night.
  • I need to call my mother; it’s Mother’s Day.

The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader

A lone nut is someone who is doing something crazy on their own. It can be used in a funny way (like describing the dancing guy) or a serious way (like describing someone in general). The second way is used to describe someone who is a little (or very) crazy and doesn’t have any friends.

Be careful how you use this one.

Because you find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.

To emulate means to copy/imitate someone and to follow their lead.

This is the tipping point. 

The tipping point describes the point when something starts to become significant. You can clearly see the tipping point of the movement in the video.

So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to.

I love this saying, and it’s very common in English. To sit on the fence means to be undecided, to not have an opinion, or to not take sides in a dispute.

In this case, a lot of people were sitting on the fence and didn’t join in. But, once there was a lot of people dancing, they got off the fence and joined the dancers.

They will be part of the in-crowd if they hurry

To be part of the in-crowd means to be involved in the popular group. At school, there’s always a few people who are the most popular, and they are in the in-crowd.


What I like about the video is that it takes a funny event and gives an important lesson. The talker explains that it is the second person who is the real key to the success, and it takes a lot of guts to do this.

And, if that you really want to inspire, you need to have the courage to follow, and then encourage others to follow.

Now, my question to you is this:

Would you have joined the dancing guy? If you answered yes, when would you have joined in?

Leave your answers below.

Name: Email:
  • Daniel

    I don’t know how to say this, but this is awesome!!

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Thanks Daniel. You said it perfectly!



    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Thanks Tatiana. I love this video too and hope that the new phrases will help you.

  • Daniel

    Yes, but I wait until lot of people joining that, I’ll do it,

  • Reginaldo

    No. For me, Follow a leader must make sense of what I will follow. I know. My sense couldn’t make sense to all other people. But I am like that.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Thanks for your comment Reginaldo!

  • Angie

    sharing the power is exciting

  • Mary

    Oh, I would join in the in-crowd but waiting until there was a lot of people.
    Thank you for loving us ,your learners. I have got much new interesting knowledge. It really helps me to speak better.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      You’re welcome Mary. It’s great to have you in the JDA English community!

  • Samuel

    Indeed! Otherwise I would be ridiculed not to be part of a team. Nevertheless, I don’t think I would have the guts to be neither the second nor the third one. Honestly, If I had been there, I would have gone with the flow.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Do you have any friends who would have started a similar movement? Thanks for your great comment!

  • Tamara

    I would join him as the third one, I guess. I’d be watching him dancing and thinking how funny and crazy he was, and as I would be thinking about to join him, the first follower would already appear and then I would stand up and follow them two, trilled and enthusiastic. Yes, that would be the sequence in my case now that I’m older. When I was younger and crazier I was the first one who would just get up and dance, no matter what.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      That’s interesting Tamara. Thanks for you comment.

  • Neusa Viçoso

    Yes. If I
    could take part of this type of situation, I would enjoy a lot and I would also
    learn how to become a leader. There’s no importance of to be a leader, but it’s
    important to know to maintain the leadership. It’s essential to have courage,
    strong, and mainly a desire of being a leader because some was born to be a
    leader but others were born only to follow. It’s the difference and the responsibility
    that every person carry inside yourself.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Thanks Neusa. I think the debate of whether leaders are born or are made is an interesting one.

  • Chauncey Zhou

    Yes, if the dance guy is my good friend, I will support him. Also I must have a good mood. I think it’s interesting to do something crazy sometimes. We’ll have fun.

    • http://www.jdaenglish.com/ Jack Askew

      Thanks for commenting Chauncey! Just to note: we need to use the second conditional here, so:

      “If the dance guy was my good friend, I would join in. Also, I would have to be in a good mood.”

      Hope that helps. For more information on the second conditional, see here: http://www.jdaenglish.com/conditionals/second-conditional/

  • Stan

    I would never join this crowd of nuts ))) Not because I don’t have the guts to stand out and be ridiculed, but because I just dislike what they are doing. However, if I saw any common sense of the movement (for example, this crazy dance would help raise money for ill children), defenetely I would join immediately, and, perhaps, I would regret that this isn’t my idea and I had to follow somebody.

  • Cristina Serafim

    Lovely lesson, Jack! Great idea using TED talks this way! Love your Friends lessons as well. I’d love it if one of these days you could design a lesson based on “The Big Bang Theory”. Thanks a lot for these great lessons you make available to us.

  • Martina Ronchin

    I Never had the guts to stand out!! I wish i was like the second guys!!
    Thanks Jack for Your lesson!!

  • Vanessa Almeida

    when he let his feeling of happiness flow