TED talks are short, powerful lectures that explore the power of ideas. There are talks on life-changing insights and talks on hard-to-tackle topics. These short, 17 minute lectures can feed your mind and make you smarter.

What is TED?

I first came across the platform sometime around 2008, and the variety of speakers and subject areas available at TED.com keeps me returning. Over the years, I’ve watched maybe a hundred or so videos and used them to decompress and get ideas flowing around subjects of interest and areas I may not know.

If you haven’t heard of TED, it is a not-for-profit organisation that shares ideas via short-form presentations, each lasting 18 minutes or less.

Their conferences are held all over the world and cover every topic. In addition, independently run events (TEDx) conferences are run in over 100 countries across the globe.

My favourite TED Videos

So here are my seven favourite TED videos and why I love them. I’ve tried to link where possible to them. I’m not listing them in any order, just for you to enjoy.

My stroke of insight - Jill Bolte Taylor

I believe this was the first TED video I ever watched. This brain scientist talks about what happened to her during her stroke. It’s a powerful talk in which Taylor charts her reasons for choosing her career path and the effect the stroke had on her life.

Her vivid descriptions are evocative and made me think about what it would be like to experience life with only the right hemisphere of our brain working. How differently would we walk through our lives? Would we be able to operate at all?

Delivered with humour and emotion, it’s worth watching, and you’ll want to watch it again and again.

Do schools kill creativity - Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken is a great orator who uses humour effectively during this extraordinary talk. This British educator posits that creativity is as important as literacy in education.

As a creative, it’s likely that you have experienced people denegrating the importance of your work. You may have even had people treat your work, skills and expertise as less than that of say a doctor, financier or engineer.

Listen to Sir Ken, he will give you a boost and could help you to realise the importance of your creative practice and how it could change the world.

The power of vulnerability - Brene Brown

Brene Brown’s talk at TED in 2010 catapulted this Social work researcher into the public square in a big way. The talk explores connection, vulnerability, empathy and shame. The ability for us to be who we are as opposed to being who we think other people think we should be is a position that we should all aspire to attain.

Brown reinforces this with the research she carried out, and this talk presents the study in a very engaging way.

Ukelele - Jake Shimabukuro

I love how unassuming Jake Shimabukuro is with his audience, and his skills as a guitar player are impressive. In this short video, Jake plays four pieces of beautiful music on his Ukelele, demonstrating mastery, passion and all the vibes on this unassuming instrument.

The danger of a single story - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“I’m a storyteller”, states Ngozi Adichie right out of the bat. The main message from this talk is that we need to hear stories from a diverse group of people in their own voices.

Adichie’s dry wit is evident as she recounts her college roommate’s perception of her as an African.

She discusses how beneficial it is for communities to understand who their neighbours are because of the depth and breadth of the stories told by and about them.

How to start a movement - Derek Sivers

I love how Derek Sivers communicates his message in a video that lasts only two and a half minutes. The story of the first follower creating a successful movement using dancing people at an outdoor event is a classic.

The mystery box - J.J. Abrams

Film producer, writer and director JJ Abrams speaks in this talk about how he constructs stories with the device called the Mystery Box. It’s a beautiful exploration into life as a storyteller. The insight into his process, history and origin is excellent for someone like me who wants to learn as much as possible about story construction.

Bonus video

So that’s the seven. I had a little trouble narrowing it down and have included one more just because…

Are we born to run - Christopher McDougall

I enjoyed this and found it so interesting because I hate running. I watched this video as part of my training for participating in the London Triathlon in 2017. I was investigating running techniques during this time, so I was interested in the stories about barefoot running and endurance running feats of South American tribes.

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