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8 tips to make your life more surprising, from Tania Luna, Surprisologist

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A closeup of Tania Luna, with glow stick. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

A closeup of Tania Luna, with glow stick. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In today’s talk, Tania Luna shares her experience of immigrating to the United States from Ukraine as a little girl. Perfectly happy with her family’s outhouse and with chewing a single piece of Bazooka gum for a week, Luna found herself blown away by the wonders of her new country. From pizza to pennies to pit-bulls, Luna’s moving story reminds us to appreciate the unexpected joys of daily life and to embrace uncertainty. This philosophy translates directly to Luna’s day job, as a Surprisologist. Luna co-founded Surprise Industries, a company that curates delightful experiences for both individuals and teams. (Read more about Luna’s work in this TED Blog Q&A.) “Surprises make life simultaneously more serene and more exciting,” says Luna. Below, she offers 8 pieces of advice for how everyone can make their lives a little more amazing.

  1. Commit to the mindset and process of surprise. Decide to be a surprisologist, and explore the world through this lens. Ask yourself, “What would a surprisologist do?” Create systems to reinforce surprise in your life. Counterintuitive though it sounds, schedule time to wander, and set up reminders using FollowUpThen.com. Even the most exciting people need to be plucked out of their routines sometimes. .
  2. Get to the pot of gold on the other side of awkward. Remind yourself that all the good stuff in life lies behind a sticky clump of discomfort and uncertainty. Few people follow their dreams or take positive risks — not because it’s difficult or even scary, but because we avoid that sensation of uncertainty that we call awkwardness. Learn to love it. Remind yourself that discomfort means you are growing AND reaching someplace special that few people dare to go. Try a hobby that looks awful. Talk to a stranger. Or spend some alone time if you tend to avoid your own company. .
  3. Stop Googling away delight. I love instant information, but I also know that seeing photos of my hotel room before I get there and using Yelp to pick out the best dish on the menu strips my life of surprise, discovery and serendipity. Let yourself imagine and then get surprised. .
  4. Turn your social circle into a different shape. Go way off the grid when it comes to meeting new people. Being surrounded by people like us is comforting, but it also stops us from growing and learning. Go out of your way to speak with and empathize with people who don’t share your norms. Ask friends to introduce you to the most unlike-you person they know. .
  5. Collect sensations. When was the last time you smelled, tasted or touched something new? Every week give yourself the assignment to explore and experience the world through one primary sense. .
  6. Get lost. If you always know where you’re going, you’ll never get someplace new. Let yourself wander, mapless, in an unfamiliar park or neighborhood. Try playing the Left, Left, Right game — keep turning left, left, then right until you discover something surprising. (I learned this one from my fellow Surprisologist, LeeAnn Renninger.) Or simplest of all, set aside free wander and wonder time. .
  7. Schedule a Yes Day. Saying “yes” to new things can be overwhelming, so I like to dedicate one day every week to saying “yes” to all new opportunities. FYI: my Yes Day is Wednesday :) .
  8. Keep a Surprise Opportunity Log. Anytime someone mentions something they love or have always wanted to try, jot it down and put to good use in the future. Surprising others is as much fun as surprising yourself.

Luna believes we can all be surprisologists. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Tania Luna leads a TED audience in a glowstick dance, during a talk given a year prior to the one posted today. Photo: James Duncan Davidson