Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days


This TED talk is about trying new things and setting goals.

Before you watch… (Discussion Questions) Questions to make watching the video easier

What new things have you done recently?
What’s something you want to try to do?
Is there anything you want to stop doing?
What healthy habits do you have?
How much time do you need to form a habit?
What things do you do that are unhealthy?
Do you like to try new things? Why/why not?

Before you watch… (Vocabulary Prep) Questions to make learning the vocabulary easier

An example of “being stuck in a rut” is when a baseball player can’t get a hit for a long time. It means to not be able to do well. Can you think of a time you were stuck in a rut?
Would you like your children to follow in the footsteps or lead a different type of life?
How have your habits changed over the years?
What do you want to add to your life? What do you want to subtract?
How do you challenge yourself or push yourself to be better?
People often say that time flies. Can you think of a memorable event or experience that flew by for you?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to grow their self-confidence? (have a bigger belief that they can do well)
Some people like to move around when they work. Others are desk-dwelling. Which are you?
Do you love computers? Are you a computer nerd?
What’s something you learned not because you needed to, but just for fun?
Do you think you’ll end up working at one company for over 20 years?
Have you ever hiked up a mountain? Would you like to?
Do you know someone with an adventurous spirit? Someone who likes to try new things and take risks? Describe them.
Do you think it’s better to let people figure out problems by themselves or to tell them the solution?
What long books–novels–have you read?
Do you like to cook from scratch or to eat pre-made food?
Do you usually get enough sleep or are you sleep-deprived?
“Awful” means really bad. Can you think of three more words that mean really bad? What are you awful at?
What is the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
“Sustainable” means that you can do it for a long time. What makes a business unsustainable?
When’s the last time you had a ton of fun? (a lot of fun)
Is it possible for you to give up eating meat and/or candy?
To give something a shot means to try something, usually for the first time. For a company, is it important to sometimes give strange people a shot?

Before you watch… (Listening Prep) When asking these questions, emphasize how the words link together to the student.

Can you think of a movie with a surprise ending? How does it turn out? “it turns out” (at :37)
What’s just about the right amount of sleep for you? “just about the right amount of” (at :38)
I would never have been an astronaut. How about you? “I would never have been” (at 1:25)
Have you ever wanted to just travel for a year? “have you ever wanted to” (at 1:38)
What’s something you’d like to mention to your boss? “I’d like to mention” (at 2:32)
Is there anything wrong with big, crazy challenges? “There’s nothing wrong with” (at 2:42)
What’s something you know you should do soon? What are you waiting for? “what are you waiting for” (at 2:59)
Whether you like it or not, we all grow old. How does it make you feel? “whether you like it or not” (at 3:05)

Detail Questions #1 First set of detail questions

What is a 30-day challenge?
What does it mean to be stuck in a rut?
Does he have a simple or a complex idea?
What things does he learn while doing the 30-day challenges
What memorable day does he mention? Which challenge was he doing?
How did he change as a person?
What does it mean to write a novel from scratch?
What adjective does he use to describe his book?
Which changes are most likely to stick?
What question does he ask at the end?

Detail Questions #2 Second set of detail questions. (Meant for a follow-up lesson.)

Whose footsteps does he follow in?
Why does he choose 30 days?
How does he feel about the time before he started doing 30-day challenges?
How do the challenges affect his self-confidence?
What big thing did he end up doing?
What example does he give of a popular 30-day challenge?
What is his secret to successfully writing a novel in 30 days? What negative thing might happen?
How does he normally introduce himself at a TED party? (What’s his job?)
How does he feel about big, crazy challenges?
What guarantee does he make at the end?

Detail Questions #3 Third set of detail questions. (Meant for a follow-up lesson.)

What example does he give of a habit you might want to add or subtract?
How does he feel about the time after he started doing 30-day challenges?
Do the challenges get easier or harder?
Why did he become more adventurous?
What challenge do tens of thousands of people do every November?
Did he write a great book? Why/Why not?
How might he now introduce himself at parties?
What happened the day after his month without sugar ended?
What suggestion does he make at the end?

Follow-up Questions #1 First set of follow-up questions

Why do you think he chose harder challenges as time passed?
Name three challenges you might try where you add a new thing to your life.
Why do you think it’s important to make small, sustainable changes if you want a new habit?
Why does he say “if you want something badly enough” before saying you can do anything for 30 days?
He mentions a few good things about doing the challenges–they make his life more memorable, he gains confidence, he becomes more adventurous–do you agree that doing the challenges would have those results?

Follow-up Questions #2 Second set of follow-up questions (Meant for a follow-up lesson.)

Why do you think he presents his idea as a simple idea? How does it make his audience feel?
Name three challenges you might try where you subtract something from your life?
He says small, sustainable changes are more likely to stick, but do you have something big you’d like to change?
Think of someone you know well–like a boss, spouse, or good friend–what challenge would you recommend they try?
What kind of guy is Matt Cutts? Do you think you could be friends with him?

Follow-up Questions #3 Third set of follow-up questions (Meant for a follow-up lesson.)

If you tried to write a book in 30 days, what would you write about? Would it be any good?
Why might he not want to introduce himself as a computer scientist?
He seems like a nerdy guy. Do you agree? Why? What nerdy things does he do?
Will you follow his advice and try something new for 30 days?

Homework #1 (Write Something)

30 Day Challenge #1

Write a comment on a TED video every day for 30 days. It can be the same video or a different video, but you should write something each day.

Homework #2 (Read Something)

30 Day Challenge #2

Go to For 30 days, read one of his short articles on learning English.


Find a blog related to your field. Read it for 20 minutes every day for 30 days.

Homework #3 (Say Something)

30 Day Challenge #3

Every day, for 30 days, find the lyrics to an English song you like and sing it at least one time. You can find the video on YouTube and sing along.

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