Top 5 Favorite TED Talks

There are two questions I’ve always had trouble answering.

  1. Where are you from?

  2. What are your hobbies?

And while I’m still working on a quick answer to the first one, I finally figured out the second: Watching TED talks.

Some people have favorite movies, books or albums. I have favorite TED talks. I get excited when I discover new talks with my favorite speakers and find myself watching the classics over and over again, feeling just as inspired as I did the first time I heard them.

These words, these people — it baffles me that their experiences, insights and stories can reach across our identities and impact us at our core, inspiring and relating to us in a way that restores my faith in our future.

In his foreword of the 25th Anniversary edition of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes:

“Wherever I go, people understand me. They understand my soul. This continues to give me hope. When I read about clashes around the world — political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes — I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbour doesn’t understand my religion or my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.”

To me, TED talks are these bridges. They are the table where we sit and put an end to our history of clashes. Where we listen to our neighbors, and strive to understand their stories.  Where we realize and actualize our power to build a bridge.

While one day I hope to deliver one of my own, in the meantime, I’ll share a few of my favorites. In no particular order, I present to you my Top 5 Favorite TED talks — the ones I find myself re-watching most often (and a bonus, just for fun).

The power of vulnerability

This talk changed my life.

I don’t mean that in a dramatic, drastic way, like I immediately became a new person. But rather, I started to look at life differently. I started to reframe every choice, relationship and opportunity. I started to think — sure, this could go horribly wrong, but it could just as well go wonderfully right.

“…vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love."

The danger of a single story

While stereotypes and assumptions serve a sociological purpose, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us that we should challenge them, consider the source and root of our beliefs, and welcome new information when it’s presented to us.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

How great leaders inspire action

This has to be one of the more well-known, dare I say ‘famous’ TED talks on the circuit. Throughout my life, I’ve heard ‘If you want to motivate people, share the why.’

Whether it’s motivating a team member, starting a movement, or promoting your brand, it all goes back to sharing your why.

“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Ah, Luvvie. ❤️ If this is your first encounter with her — you’re welcome.

She delivered this talk in November 2017, and I as I watched it shortly thereafter, it became my mission and 2018 new year’s resolution to wake up every morning and listen to this talk. While I fell short in that resolution (and all others), I still listen to it from time to time, feeling as moved and encouraged as I did before.

With wit, vulnerability and a candid fire, Luvvie encourages all to ‘speak truth to power.’

“Being the domino, for me, looks like speaking up and doing the things that are really difficult, especially when they are needed, with the hope that others will follow suit.”

Your elusive creative genius

One time, I dated a musician who said, ‘We need to break up so I can write a new song.’ And it was my honor to oblige his wishes. But as a poet, artist and creative myself, I can understand this masochistic longing for darker and gut-wrenching times because of the art that ultimately comes from them.

In her talk, Elizabeth challenges this idea of the ‘tormented artist’ and the anxiety, stress, depression and anguish that comes from the pressure artists place on themselves to produce. Walk with Elizabeth through history, friend’s anecdotes and her own experiences as she inspires you to find your elusive creative genius.

“But maybe it doesn't have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you're finished, with somebody else.And, you know, if we think about it this way, it starts to change everything.”

P.S. For a cherry on top, check out her ideas.ted.com article ‘Fear is boring, and other tips for living a creative life‘ 🍒

BONUS

Talk about ‘straight and to the point.’ While this one is a bit shorter than some of its counterparts, it holds its own and packs just as much punch (with humor, to boot).

Have a few talks you think should make the list? Curious to see which ones didn’t make the cut? Holler at me.