Rainbow Example 5 – Jill Bolte Taylor

Rainbow breakdown of Jill Bolte Tayor's TED talk
Rainbow breakdown of Jill Bolte Tayor’s TED talk

I discovered the colors of my Speak-the-Rainbow theory could be linked to differences in how our left brain and right brain process information when I watched Jill Bolte Taylor‘s amazingly colorful TED talk: My stroke of insight.

Fellow TEDxIHEParis coach, Dawn Z Bournand, and the writer of How to deliver a TED talkJeremey Donovan,  both cite Jill’s talk as an example of how to use a prop: a real brain complete with spinal cord.  Jill’s talk is also a wonderful example of how a TED presenter can speak science and the rainbow at the same time. And the bonus is, while Jill explains how each side of the brain thinks, you learn the sides of the brain which trigger and are triggered by my seven Speak-the-Rainbow colors. A slide from the talk even shows the brain as a fragmented rainbow.

Slide from talk with logo of Jill Taylor Bolte's book
Slide from Jill Taylor Bolte’s TED talk

We learn the right brain, discussed between 3′ 47″ and 4’40”, is responisble for information in the form of energy which is present in the “right here, right now”. That means both yellow (joy) and orange (energy) orginate in the right brain. Later in her talk, Jill decribes how feelings of nirvana and timelessness also orginate in the right brain. Thus, purple thoughts (soul) flow from the right brain too.

The Left brain is then explained as responsible for linear thinking (the past through to the future) as well as language functions. Thus red (past emotions), green (hope for future), and indigo (structure and language) are formed and triggered in the left brain. Jill also states that the feeling and knowing of “I am”, which is our blue, orignates in the left brain too.

To sum up:

Right brain – Orange, Yellow, Purple

Left brain: Red, Green, Blue, Indigo

Jill is a master storyteller and we can learn so many things from this speech. Watch how this highly educated woman, who uses high-brow scientific words at the start, chooses to repeat key phrases in everyday language ( eg. “I got a problem” ) at vital points in her talk in order to connect. And watch Jill, in full control of her colors, intentionally shift from purple (right brain) to blue (left brain) and then back to purple in the conclusion of her speech. Here is a rainbow breakdown of her talk:

RED: At 6minutes 35 seconds into the speech, Jill begins the emotional story of her stroke with the words ” I woke up to a pounding pain”.  This story is relived and communicated intensely to the audience through a huge range of emotions, theatrics, and continues right through to her moving and emotional conclusion. Red is the dominant color in this rainbow.

ORANGE: Another strong color in Jill’s rainbow is Orange as “energy” is actually a word employed repeatedly. Her body language is expansive. Her arms are often raised as though she is trying to capture and spread energy to her audience. Her vocal pace shifts from a fast scientific style to a slower poetic pace and then accelerates to add drama to her story. Notice the excellent use of body language when Jill relives the moment when her arm is paralyzed. Like a seasoned actress, Jill continues her talk with only one arm until she brings the “stump” back into play two minutes later to call the her colleague for help. This is a physical and energetic performance Kevin Spacey would be proud of!

YELLOW: In spite of its scientific and emotional subject matter, Jill’s speech has laughter and light-hearted moments. She gets her first laugh and hint of yellow joy at 3:43 when she says, “It’s been a joy”. Just after the 10 minute mark she gets several laughs in middle of her emotional story. The repetition of funny lines like “Oh my gosh! He speaks like a golden retreiver!” add yellow moments of comedy which release tension and allow the audience to connect to Jill’s story.

GREEN:  Green shines brightly in the beautiful passage at 4′ 40″  which begins, “We are energy beings….” Jill plants seeds to let this idea grow and develop. Green also shines in the conclusion and call to action to choose to “run the deep inner peace circuitry of the right hemisphere”. . Although Jill does not employ the future and only sketches a hope for her audience, her speech does teach and enlighten her audience.

BLUE:  Blue is a strong color in this speech which is told mainly in the first person “I”.  Jill uses several phrases to describe herself:  “a sister”; “a scientist”; and at 17′ 10″ she says, “I am Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist”. The powerful slide of her head stictched up after the operation defines Jill as woman who has suffered and survived. Her story is unique.

INDIGO: The speech begins with a mix of indigo and blue. Scientific terminology and an actual brain as a prop serve as a hook and anchor for her story by establishing her credentials as a brain expert. The range of vocabulary used during the talk is surprisingly broad. A rich mix of everyday language and scientific language add interst and depth to her speech.

PURPLE: Purple erupts into the speech after 13:45 as she describes her soul ready to escape her body and make its “transition”. Poetic and moving passages with pauses and the repetition of niravana five times follow. Jill’s soul, like a “genie” liberated from its body, seems to soar free in the room. We, her audience, can almost see her soul and connect to these purple moments.

Over twenty million viewers can’t be wrong, and the success of Jill’s TED talk shows audiences want us to connect to them by speaking to both sides of their brains. Hence the rainbow…

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