Are you a knowledge junkie, always looking for new, maybe even quirky, information and points of view? If so, you’ll enjoy watching (or listening to) TED Talks. Even before I had a friend who gave a TEDx Talk (locally sponsored TED events), I watched TED Talks regularly.

I’m really excited to share 5 the TED Talks that blew me away when I heard them – I’ve watched some of them 5 or 6 times. First, an introduction to TED. TED Talks began in the 1980’s as invitation only events for movers and shakers in the TED (Technology, Education, and Design) fields.

TED has now evolved into a non-profit organization, with over 2300 talks available online at Talks are limited to 18 minutes or less (some creep over a little bit)! Plus there are TED affiliated talks all over the world delivered at locally sponsored TEDx events. In this post, the number in parentheses after the TED Talk name indicates its length.

1. The TED Talk that literally had me gasping.

In her TED Talk, How to Gain Control of Your Free Time (11:54), Laura Vanderkam blew me away with her no holds barred evisceration of the excuses we use to justify our constant lament of not having enough free time. The example she uses to make her case is perfect. After watching her Talk, I found myself re-evaluating the language I use to talk about my choices around time and time management.

2. The one from my favorite productivity and human behavior researcher.

If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you’ll recognize the name Dan Pink. His book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, was a life and career changer for me. In the book, Pink took apart conventional wisdom around motivation and formulated a refreshing and powerful research-based view of how motivation and drive really work. I’ve watched his TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation (18:36), 5 or 6 times.

3. The woman who started (and researched) the conversation about resilience and mindsets.

The idea of fixed vs infinitely possible growth has always been a favorite topic of mine. In grad school we talked about fixed and growth mindsets based on this speaker’s work. I’ve even recorded a podcast on the Growth Mindset. In her TED Talk, The Power of Believing You Can Improve (10:20), Carol Dweck uses her research to explain the difference between people who believe they have the potential to learn and improve and those who believe that their intelligence and abilities are fixed. I love her description of a grading system where students who don’t earn a passing grade on their work the first time through get a “Y” because they haven’t passed it, yet, making room for improvement and the assumption that success is inevitable.

4. The TED Talk that popularized the power pose…

and taught us that our body language can make or break us. Amy Cuddy’s talk about body language codified the power of the power stance. Her Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are (20:55) Talk, has been viewed 42.7 million times to date. Her power stance – put your hands on your hips, spread your feet out and lift your chin – has become part of every coach’s interview strategies. I know you’ve heard that when you assume the power stance (aka the Wonder Woman stance), you automatically feel more powerful. In her TED Talk, Cuddy talks about her research into how we can use our bodies to change our brains and emotions.

5. The one about speaking up for yourself – particularly in negotiations!!

Another hot topic. I don’t know about you, but it can be hard for me to speak up for myself in certain situations (stop laughing – it is). In his Talk, How to Speak Up for Yourself (15:08) Adam Galinsky demonstrates why learning how and when to speak up is a critical skill for both our work personal lives. His explanation of the right and wrong times to speak up is inspired. And, his explanation of speaking up as a function of power is thought provoking.


The first TED Talk I ever saw: How the washing machine changed women’s lives forever.

Hans Rosling’s 2010 TED Talk, The Magic Washing Machine (9:15), argues that the washing machine may well have been the most important and life changing invention of the Industrial Revolution. His eye-opening Talk informs the way I look at and talk about women’s work. Rosling is a master of using and presenting data in captivating ways.

So, there you go. 6 thought provoking TED Talks. But what if you’re in your car or somewhere you don’t have access to a screen? Check out the TED Radio Hour podcast on NPR. TED Talks are also available on YouTube and iTunes.

I’d love to know your favorite TED Talk. What did you think about my recommendations? Is there a must-see TED Talk that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Happy viewing!

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