Inspirational TED Talks to Educate and Expand Your Worldview: Part 01

The process of learning is a constant thing that always happens even when we are technically finished with several grueling years of academic studies. Our minds are always searching for new thoughts and ideas to better understand the world we live in, and this is generally considered as a good thing. One of the ways we often absorb new information is when we listen to lectures or speeches presented by other people. The reason why oral presentations are often viewed as ideal channels for gathering fresh ideas is because humans are predisposed to exploring or challenging ideas that they’ve never heard about. It could be a speech presented at a graduation ceremony, a piece shared at a wedding banquet, or even a discourse delivered at an important business conference—whichever the case may be, there’s no shortage of where you can find new things to learn.

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Another important reason why speeches are often sources of inspiration for most people is that they encourage people to exercise their creative and analytical capacities. Throughout history, society has often confronted a wide variety of issues thanks to speeches delivered by high-profile individuals ranging from politicians and philosophers, artists and entrepreneurs, to scientists and religious figures. Most people look up to such personalities because their words carry significant weight that have the power to influence the way the public thinks. Furthermore, the thematic content or subjects in a speech is always indicative of a person’s public image, and so people would often react with surprise if a person they admire talks about topics that they’ve never thought would even discuss on the record. Thus, the power of a great speech should never be taken for granted, especially when speeches have the ability to plant seeds of undiscovered learning within a person’s mind.

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Of course, it can be difficult for the average person to accept new information, especially if he or she is so entrenched in their personal beliefs. But individuals who are open-minded and have the attitude of embracing new ideas may have a better time adjusting to new lessons, particularly if such fresh concepts are able to help them gain a deeper understanding of a subject that they’ve previously had no knowledge about. If you consider yourself to be the latter rather than the former, then you’re definitely someone who can make a difference in the world. We currently live in a time where so many people still don’t have an awareness of the major issues affecting society on a global scale. Therefore, it is our responsibility as educated human beings to raise our awareness to such vital concerns so that we can be part of the solutions being created rather than being contributors to the problems we are facing today.

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If you’re looking to be inspired by some of the world’s most thought-provoking speeches, then look no further than the ones published by the TED Conferences. TED (the acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization whose slogan promotes the concept of “Ideas Worth Spreading”. The organization’s focus has significantly broadened from its original trinity of subjects to include topics that range from scientific, academic, social, cultural, political, and artistic fields. Many famous luminaries from various professional sectors have been featured in a TED Conference and their speeches—commonly known as TED Talks—have gained global recognition in the press and online audiences for promoting ideas that challenge the way we see the world. Take a closer look at some of the most inspirational and motivational TED Talks featured below so you could expand your worldview and learn some new lessons to help you on your personal journey.

We Should All Be Feminists
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this particular speech by Nigerian writer, novelist, and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aside from its incredibly engaging and mentally stimulating content is the fact that several key sections of her speech were sampled by critically-acclaimed artist, Beyoncé, for her song entitled “Flawless”. Naturally, devoted fans of the American singer took to the internet to unearth the source of the sample and discovered the nearly thirty-minute discussion of Adichie talking about feminism. Indeed, the points that Adichie outlined in her now-iconic talk posits how society must embrace the importance of feminism in order to break the rigid barriers set upon by traditional gender roles of masculinity and femininity. Adichie delivers her erudite perspectives about gender politics with a assured confidence that it seems impossible for you not to be swayed by her persuasive arguments concerning feminism. Watch the full video of Adichie’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of her speech right below:

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Today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person; it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved; but it seems to me that our ideas of gender had not evolved.


Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change; but, in addition to being angry, I'm also hopeful. Because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.


I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world, a fairer world, a world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.


The problem with gender, is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Now imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations. Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically, but socialization exaggerates the differences and then it becomes a self-fulfilling process.


I am a feminist. And when I looked up the word in the dictionary that day, this is what it said: "Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes." More of us should reclaim that word. My own definition of feminist is: a feminist is a man or a woman who says, "Yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it. We must do better."

Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Sir Kenneth Robinson

The British are known for their dry sense of humor and wit, and this attribute is notably present throughout Sir Kenneth Robinson’s incredibly humorous yet thought-provoking speech about the importance of teaching children to nurture their creativity. More specifically, the knighted British author, advisor, and speaker presents to the audience of how most educational systems around the world places the least emphasis on artistic subjects such as music, dance, and visual art compared to more serious ones like mathematics, science, and language. In just nineteen minutes, Robinson makes a witty yet compelling case about how schools must evolve their current teaching methods in order to preserve the inherent creative aptitudes found in young children. He states that without the element of creativity and imagination, people are less likely to succeed as individuals in the world, and this is something that truly strikes a chord for anyone who has never felt academically inclined but more attuned to artistic pursuits. Watch the full video of Robinson’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of his speech right below:

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And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.


Kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they'll have a go. Am I right? They're not frightened of being wrong. I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original — if you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.


Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn't matter where you go. You'd think it would be otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance.


We know three things about intelligence. One, it's diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn't divided into compartments. In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.


I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children.

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Amy Cuddy

Most people don’t realize how powerful nonverbal language is, particularly the way we control our bodies in relation to how we think, feel, and act on a daily basis. Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist, author, and lecturer whose funny and informative TED Talk informs people about the power of body language and how we can use it to our advantage. Cuddy talks about how most individuals are not fully aware of how their physical movements are able to telegraph their mental or emotional states. In just twenty-one entertaining yet enlightening minutes, Cuddy obliterates everything you once thought about nonverbal communication and shows you exactly how you can train yourself to move and control your body in certain ways so your mindset and attitude will evolve into a more positive direction. Cuddy’s research has shown that the key to personal and professional success ultimately lies in how humans should be able to harness and exhibit a considerable level of confidence or assertiveness into their body language so that they’ll be able to rise to the top. Watch the full video of Cuddy’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of her speech right below:

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So when we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that's influenced by our nonverbals, and that's ourselves. We are also influenced by our nonverbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our physiology.


I really wanted to know, can you fake it till you make it? Like, can you do this just for a little while and actually experience a behavioral outcome that makes you seem more powerful? So we know that our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us. There's a lot of evidence. But our question really was, do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?


So what do the minds of the powerful versus the powerless look like? So powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel they're going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly. So there are a lot of differences. They take more risks. There are a lot of differences between powerful and powerless people.


And so I want to say to you, don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize. The last thing I'm going to leave you with is this. Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That's what you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don't leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn't show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.


Give it away. Share it with people, because the people who can use it the most are the ones with no resources and no technology and no status and no power. Give it to them because they can do it in private. They need their bodies, privacy and two minutes, and it can significantly change the outcomes of their life.

The Happy Secret to Better Work
Shawn Achor

We’ve all experienced moments in our personal or professional lives where we feel unsatisfied, and this kind of feeling has a negative effect on the way we think or perceive the world around us. But in Shawn Achor’s deeply uplifting TED Talk, he challenges us to use positive psychology and rethink the way we view the concept of happiness. This intrepid researcher, author, and speaker has built his career on the research and promotion of happiness and positive psychology, and so it seems quite fitting that his twelve-minute discourse on such subjects is such an eye-opening experience. Achor explores the relationship between success and happiness, and how the latter can have a significant effect on how the former will turn out. He also makes a very impressive case by deconstructing the formula for happiness by reconfiguring our thinking into channeling joy in the present time rather than attempting to chase bliss in the future. This is a truly revolutionary concept that people should definitely think about if they’re at a crossroads in their lives and want to live happier journeys ahead of them. Watch the full video of Achor’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of his speech right below:

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So one of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit?


But if I'm interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we're creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, "How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?" scientists change the answer to "How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?" and we tailor the class towards the average.


Positive psychology posits that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why? Why are some of you high above the curve in terms of intellectual, athletic, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, resiliency in the face of challenge, sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information, not just how to move people up to the average, but move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide.


[The assumption] is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality.


The absence of disease is not health. Here's how we get to health: We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success... If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. We need to be able to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of... By training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.

The Power of Vulnerability
Brené Brown

Everyone wants to feel powerful and successful in life, but have you ever considered the fact that you can actually achieve those goals if you allow yourself to feel vulnerable? This is the intriguing question that scholar, author, and public speaker Brené Brown wants people to consider in her illuminating twenty-minute long TED Talk. Brown’s extensive experience and research on the complexities of human emotion have prompted her to share an incredible discussion on why people should let themselves feel emotionally susceptible in order to attain some sort of holistic awakening of your mind, body, and soul. Brown challenges us to confront our fears and anxieties so that we can harness—and ultimately transform—them into something positive and meaningful which can help nourish and enrich our daily lives. Brown asserts that we can make stronger and more empathetic connections with others when we allow ourselves to access the full breadth of our emotions—both positive and negative—so that we could be able to gain a deeper understanding of who we are and where we need to go in life. Watch the full video of Brown’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of her speech right below:

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I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn't understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection?


The things I can tell you about it: It's universal; we all have it. The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it... The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.


There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better.


And so here's what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage... And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection... The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary... They thought this was fundamental.


You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable... But there's another way, and I'll leave you with this. This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror... And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough"... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.

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