Inspirational TED Talks to Educate and Expand Your Worldview: Part 02

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. Previously, we featured some motivational TED Talks that touched on a wide variety of subjects. Here are some more inspirational TED Talks to watch so you could expand your worldview and learn some new lessons to help you on your personal journey.

Try Something New for 30 Days
Matt Cutts

Sometimes, all you need to make a strong point is exercising a bit of brevity, and that’s exactly what programmer and software engineer Matt Cutts did during his TED Conference appearance. Indeed, at just under four minutes, Cutts’ TED Talk is perhaps one of the shortest—if not the most brief—TED Talks currently published. The genius of this particular discussion is the fact that Cutts simply encouraged the audience to make the most out of their time by trying something new in their lives and sticking to that activity for thirty consecutive days. When you really think about it, anyone can improve their lives within a month if they put all of their genuine efforts into committing to a positive habit. Furthermore, you’ll be surprised at the amount of new things you can do, learn, or discover in just thirty days if you allow yourself to become a bottomless receptacle for knowledge. There’s literally no stopping you from conquering the world one day at a time, especially since all it takes is thirty days to achieve personal greatness and fulfillment. Watch the full video of Cutts’ TED Talk here and read some choice bits of his speech right below:

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"I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days. The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you've always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days. It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit from your life."


"There's a few things I learned while doing these 30-day challenges. The first was, instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more memorable. I also noticed that as I started to do more and harder 30-day challenges, my self-confidence grew."


"I also figured out that if you really want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days. Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Every November, tens of thousands of people try to write their own 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in 30 days. It turns out, all you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for a month. So I did. By the way, the secret is not to go to sleep until you've written your words for the day. You might be sleep-deprived, but you'll finish your novel."


"So here's one last thing I'd like to mention. I learned that when I made small, sustainable changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There's nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they're a ton of fun. But they're less likely to stick."


"So here's my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot! For the next 30 days."

Your Elusive Creative Genius
Elizabeth Gibert

It can be a little intimidating for anyone if he or she is branded as a genius by society, and this kind of pressure may have some debilitating effects upon the individual in question. This is the dilemma that bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert bravely confronts in her funny and warm TED Talk about rethinking the way we perceive and harness our creative and mental capabilities. Gilbert shares to the audience her fears and anxieties about how she might never again attain the stratospheric heights she reached with her book called Eat, Pray, Love. Despite her uncertainties, Gilbert remains positive by viewing the concept of genius as a separate entity that can be accessed during the creative process, rather than using it as a label to describe a person with advanced abilities. She was inspired by this very notion when her research led her to stumble upon this information that had its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, where the society of those two pillars of civilization happened to perceive genius as something that was divine or spiritual in nature as opposed to being an inherent attribute in humans. Gilbert’s charming and humorous delivery on a very intriguing subject matter makes for an interesting nineteen-minute discourse. Watch the full video of Gilbert’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of her speech right below:

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"Somehow we've completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish. And the question that I want to ask everybody here today is are you guys all cool with that idea? Are you comfortable with that? Because you look at it even from an inch away and, you know — I'm not at all comfortable with that assumption. I think it's odious. And I also think it's dangerous, and I don't want to see it perpetuated into the next century. I think it's better if we encourage our great creative minds to live."


"People [in ancient history] believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity "daemons". The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a genius. Which is great, because the Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual."


"And this is how people thought about creativity in the West for a really long time. And then the Renaissance came and everything changed, and we had this big idea, and the big idea was, let's put the individual human being at the center of the universe above all gods and mysteries, and there's no more room for mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine. And it's the beginning of rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual. And for the first time in history, you start to hear people referring to this or that artist as being a genius, rather than having a genius. And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error."


"I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It's like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years."


"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."

Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid
Guy Winch

When one hears the term “first aid”, the immediate thing that comes to mind is the first line of defense when dealing with physical injuries. However, have you ever stopped to wonder if first aid can be applied not just to physical wounds, but also to those inflicted upon our feelings and emotions? This is the game-changing premise that psychologist Guy Winch addresses to the enraptured audience in his revelatory TED Talk. Winch proves to be a funny yet deeply engaging presence throughout the seventeen-minute long speech where he espouses the value of repairing the damage caused towards our mental and emotional states, which are considered harder to deal with than physical trauma. Winch cites various facts and examples which proves that when people don’t take care of themselves from an emotional and mental point of view, then that could lead to serious life-threatening consequences. Winch challenges the audience to be more aware of their thoughts and emotions—particularly in times of grave stress or despair—because when people are able to prevent the worsening of emotional wounds caused by negative factors in life, then they will be able to live stronger lives defined by empathy and positivity. Watch the full video of Winch’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of his speech right below:

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"I grew up with my identical twin, who was an incredibly loving brother. Now, one thing about being a twin is, it makes you an expert at spotting favoritism. When I became a psychologist, I began to notice favoritism of a different kind; and that is, how much more we value the body than we do the mind. This favoritism we show the body over the mind — I see it everywhere."


"We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones, injuries like failure or rejection or loneliness. And they can also get worse if we ignore them, and they can impact our lives in dramatic ways. And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It is time we closed the gap between our physical and our psychological health. It's time we made them more equal, more like twins."


"Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It make us really afraid to reach out, because why set yourself up for rejection and heartache when your heart is already aching more than you can stand? But loneliness is defined purely subjectively. It depends solely on whether you feel emotionally or socially disconnected from those around you. There is a lot of research on loneliness, and all of it is horrifying. Loneliness won't just make you miserable; it will kill you."


"Are you aware of how your mind reacts to failure? You need to be. Because if your mind tries to convince you you're incapable of something, and you believe it, then you'll begin to feel helpless and you'll stop trying too soon, or you won't even try at all. And then you'll be even more convinced you can't succeed. You see, that's why so many people function below their actual potential. Because somewhere along the way, sometimes a single failure convinced them that they couldn't succeed, and they believed it. Once we become convinced of something, it's very difficult to change our mind."


"I believe our quality of life could rise just as dramatically if we all began practicing emotional hygiene. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone was psychologically healthier? If there were less loneliness and less depression? If people knew how to overcome failure? If they felt better about themselves and more empowered? If they were happier and more fulfilled? I can, because that's the world I want to live in. And that's the world my brother wants to live in as well. And if you just become informed and change a few simple habits, well — that's the world we can all live in."

Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself
Thandie Newton

The concept of identity is something that most—if not all—people often have a hard time pinning down because in the world we live in today, individuals cannot establish a true sense of identity because of factors such as race, gender, politics, religion, and other socio-political themes. Critically-acclaimed and profoundly talented British actress Thandie Newton confronts this particular issue with her warm and wholly illuminating TED Talk where she opens up about her personal struggles about identity and how it relates to achieving personal success. As one of the few actors in the world holding a university degree, Newton studied anthropology during her youth and came to realize through her studies that how we perceive ourselves has a lot to do with awareness. Newton describes how people can become better versions of themselves if they tap into their very essence and use it to channel positive energies into everyday life. The central conceit of her subtle yet impassioned speech is something that could truly have life-changing applications if people are open to pursuing the idea of embracing their inner selves. Watch the full video of Newton’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of her speech right below:

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"We each have a self, but I don't think that we're born with one. You know how newborn babies believe they're part of everything; they're not separate? Well that fundamental sense of oneness is lost on us very quickly. It's like that initial stage is over — oneness: infancy, unformed, primitive. It's no longer valid or real. What is real is separateness, and at some point in early babyhood, the idea of self starts to form. Our little portion of oneness is given a name, is told all kinds of things about itself, and these details, opinions and ideas become facts, which go towards building ourselves, our identity. And that self becomes the vehicle for navigating our social world. But the self is a projection based on other people's projections. Is it who we really are? Or who we really want to be, or should be?"


"I applied to read anthropology at university. Dr. Phyllis Lee gave me my interview, and she asked me, "How would you define race?" Well, I thought I had the answer to that one, and I said, "Skin color." "So biology, genetics?" she said. "Because, Thandie, that's not accurate. Because there's actually more genetic difference between a black Kenyan and a black Ugandan than there is between a black Kenyan and, say, a white Norwegian. Because we all stem from Africa. So in Africa, there's been more time to create genetic diversity." In other words, race has no basis in biological or scientific fact. On the one hand, result. Right? On the other hand, my definition of self just lost a huge chunk of its credibility. But what was credible, what is biological and scientific fact, is that we all stem from Africa — in fact, from a woman called Mitochondrial Eve who lived 160,000 years ago. And race is an illegitimate concept which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance."


"But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection — and that thing is oneness, our essence. The self's struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it's connected to its creator — to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness — awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood. For a start, we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance, when I'm acting. I'm earthed in my essence, and my self is suspended. In those moments, I'm connected to everything — the ground, the air, the sounds, the energy from the audience. All my senses are alert and alive in much the same way as an infant might feel — that feeling of oneness."


"And when I realized and really understood that my self is a projection and that it has a function, a funny thing happened. I stopped giving it so much authority. I give it its due. I take it to therapy. I've become very familiar with its dysfunctional behavior. But I'm not ashamed of my self. In fact, I respect my self and its function. And over time and with practice, I've tried to live more and more from my essence. And if you can do that, incredible things happen."


"Let's live with each other and take it a breath at a time. If we can get under that heavy self, light a torch of awareness, and find our essence, our connection to the infinite and every other living thing. We knew it from the day we were born. Let's not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness. It's more a reality than the ones our selves have created. Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next. Simple awareness is where it begins."

How the Worst Moments in Our Lives Make Us Who We Are
Andrew Solomon

The world we live in isn’t perfect, and people will sometimes face moments of prejudice, discrimination, hatred, and tragedy in their lives. But this isn’t to say that such life experiences aren’t worth anything; in fact, we could forge a better path in life if we take these negative elements of life and use it as fuel to walk a road filled with purpose and positivity. This is the incredibly powerful lesson that award-winning writer Andrew Solomon presents in his TED Talk that delves into the topic of adversity and social injustice. Solomon shares his experiences with both humor and gravitas; allowing the audience to understand the importance of taking pride in one’s personal identity in order to generate depth and meaning. His twenty-minute speech outlines how we as a society must stand up against the forces of oppression and refusing to allow such negativity to define our lives. Instead, Solomon implores us to tap into our humanity and exhibit higher levels of compassion, understanding, and empathy as a way to combat everything that threatens the peace and harmony in our lives. Through this way of thinking, we can transform our world for the better rather than for worse. Watch the full video of Solomon’s TED Talk here and read some choice bits of his speech right below:

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"As a student of adversity, I've been struck over the years by how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them. And I've heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning. And for a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found. But over time, I've come to feel that the truth is irrelevant. We call it "finding meaning," but we might better call it "forging meaning" [instead]."


"Avoidance and endurance can be the entryway to forging meaning. After you've forged meaning, you need to incorporate that meaning into a new identity. You need to take the traumas and make them part of who you've come to be, and you need to fold the worst events of your life into a narrative of triumph, evincing a better self in response to things that hurt."


"When we're ashamed, we can't tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity. Forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: How much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious."


"Oppression breeds the power to oppose it. And I gradually understood that as the cornerstone of identity. It took identity to rescue me from sadness. Identity politics always works on two fronts: to give pride to people who have a given condition or characteristic, and to cause the outside world to treat such people more gently and more kindly. Those are two totally separate enterprises, but progress in each sphere reverberates in the other. Identity politics can be narcissistic. People extol a difference only because it's theirs. People narrow the world and function in discrete groups without empathy for one another. But properly understood and wisely practiced, identity politics should expand our idea of what it is to be human. Identity itself should be not a smug label or a gold medal, but a revolution."


"A Buddhist scholar I know once explained to me that Westerners mistakenly think that nirvana is what arrives when all your woe is behind you, and you have only bliss to look forward to. But he said that would not be nirvana, because your bliss in the present would always be shadowed by the joy from the past. Nirvana, he said, is what you arrive at when you have only bliss to look forward to and find in what looked like sorrows the seedlings of your joy... There's always somebody who wants to confiscate our humanity. And there are always stories that restore it. If we live out loud, we can trounce the hatred, and expand everyone's lives... Forge meaning. Build identity. And then invite the world to share your joy."

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