Famous TED Talks & Key Findings From The Best TED Talks Ever Recorded

There are so many inspiring speeches flooding the internet space. So many conferences gathering thousands of speakers yearly. Yet, so little time. With this pace of publishing videos, if you want to watch and learn from all the great talks ever published, you’ll need around 1,000 years.

In this article, I compiled the key takeaways from the best TED talks ever published online. Like a maniac possessed by the gold fever, I scoured the net to find the best talks ever published and I distilled the key findings in just a few sentences. I really hope my brief notes will help you make better decisions and inspire you to move towards achieving your goals.

The Key Takeaways from The Best TED Talks

Simon Sinek: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Recorded at TEDx Puget Sound, 2009. Length of the video 18:01 minutes.

The Golden Circle is the reason great organizations and great leaders are, well, great. Here’s the idea in short:

  • What (the outer ring): Every single organization and person on the planet know what they are doing.
  • How (the middle): Most of us know how we do what we do. What are all the processes involved and how our business is unique in a world of homogeneous competitors.
  • Why (the center): Few companies know why they do what they do. And that’s the differentiating factor for a successful company. You need to ask yourself: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What do you stand for? Why does your organization exist? Next, make sure you clearly communicate your message – your why – with your audience. Make business decisions based on why you do what you do.

“People don’t buy what you do. People buy why you do it. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” Simon Sinek

Mark Rober: The Super Mario Effect: Tricking Your Brain into Learning More

Recorded at TEDx Penn, 2018. Length of the video 15:08 minutes.

Your success depends on how you frame failure. If you see failure as something really negative, as if you’re wasting your time, or if you’re afraid of what others will say about you, you’ll give up on your dreams rather quickly.

Focus on the end goal, not on the failures that will surely occur, to stick with the task and achieve more. Each failure and setback suck. That’s for sure. But if you really want to keep going you need to learn from your mistakes.

“The trick to learning more and having more success is finding the right way to frame the learning process.” Mark Rober

Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Recorded at TED, 2016. Length of the video 14:03 minutes.

Alongside your rational behavior, lives an instant gratification monkey. Making you watch funny videos of cats and check the refrigerator every ten minutes. The monkey is the reason you’re not doing anything productive. This creature only cares about two things: easy and fun. Leading us to the Dark Playground. A place where leisure activities happen when leisure activities are not supposed to happen.

What we can do to cage the monkey and finally make progress?

Call out The Panik Monster!

This god-like creature wakes up every time a deadline is too close or when there is a danger of public embarrassment or some other negative consequences. And when it wakes up, two things happen: First, the monkey screams hysterically and runs off. And second, we’re finally completely focused on the important task.

But how can we summon The Panik Monster and take full control of our lives?

Set deadlines. When there are no deadlines, the monkey is in control. When you set deadlines, you can better manage your time.

“Everyone is procrastinating on something in their life. Stay aware of the instant gratification monkey and start setting deadlines for the important things. Today.” Tim Urban

James Veitch: The Agony of Trying to Unsubscribe

Recorded at TED Banff Alberta, 2016. Length of the video 07:40 minutes.

We’re getting way too many marketing emails. If the company messaging you is not allowing you to unsubscribe, just play their game. Reply to their emails. Set autoresponders. Start a conversation. Spam them back.

“If you ever feel way down by the bureaucracy and often modality of the modern life. Don’t fight the frustration. Let it be the catalyst.” James Veitch

Simone Giertz: Why You Should Make Useless Things

Recorded at TED Vancouver, 2018. Length of the video 11:58.

Instead of trying to succeed, you can, for a change, start building things that are designed to fail. This way you guarantee your success because you’re not worried that what you’re doing is going to fail, you already know it’s going to fail. Therefore, the pressure and the expectations are removed, allowing you to continue working without worrying that things will go south.

“The easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.” Simone Giertz

Stephen Duneier: How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

Recorded at TEDx Tucson 2017. Length of the video 17:52.

A small improvement in the daily decisions we make, in our work process, can have a huge impact on the end results over time.

Let’s face it, we don’t really know what will happen to us in the future. You can wish for a better job and for a bigger house but wishing is not the same as getting these things. What you do control, though, is the tiny little decisions you need to make every-single-day in order to increase your chances of getting what you really want.

Take your big assignments and your big projects and break them down into manageable tasks. This will help you make a marginal improvement to the process and boost your chances for success.

“What stands between us and achieving even our most ambitious dreams has far less to do with possessing some magical skills or talent and far more to do with how you approach problems and make decisions to solve them.” Stephen Duneier

The Minimalists: A Rich Life With Less Stuff

Recorded at TEDx Whitefish, 2014. Length of the video 14:57.

When we make more money we spend more money. We think that getting more (of everything) is the equivalent of our success and happiness. But this is rarely the case. Filling the void with stuff will only lead to more misery and more debt. You can’t buy your way to happiness. Instead, you can try the opposite approach.

Understand what’s important for you. Remove the clutter from your life so you can make room for the things that matter most. It’s not about getting more of everything, it’s about getting more of what really makes you happy. This is how you live a truly rich life.

“A rich life has nothing to do with wealth.” The Minimalists

Sam Berns: My Philosophy For a Happy Life

Recorded at TEDx Mid Atlantic, 2014. Length of the video 12:44.

There are four aspects of a happy life:

  1. Be OK with what you ultimately can’t do, because there is so much you CAN do: There will always be things out of your reach. Things you can’t really do. So, instead of wasting time feeling depressed about what you can’t do, focus your time on the activities you can do.
  2. Surround yourself with people you want to be with: Appreciate the people around you and support them every step of the way.
  3. Keep moving forward: Stay in a forward-thinking state of mind. When you’re feeling down or depressed, look forward to what’s next. As you know, the only constant thing in life is change.
  4. Never miss a party if you can help it: A little party never killed nobody, right?

“No matter what I choose to become, I believe that I can change the world. That I can catapult the world into a better future.” Sam Berns

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Recorded at TEDx Houston, 2011. Length of the video 20:49.

Feeling depressed? Like you’re not good enough? That you’re not worthy of having a good and stable relationship with someone else?

Exactly these feelings – the doubt – are preventing you from living a happier life.

To get better, emotionally, you have to have the courage to be imperfect. Accept who you are, without trying to be someone else. Open yourself up, even if this makes you vulnerable. Say to people that you love them first. This type of exposure will make you more emotionally mature.

“The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe they are worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown

Daniel Amen: The Most Important Lesson from 83,000 Brain Scans

Recorded at TEDx Orange Coast, 2013. Length of the video 14:36.

Well, it’s kind of mandatory to hear what’s the most important lesson from 80,000 + brain scans. After all, our health is the most important thing in life, right?

The lesson?

You can literally change people’s brains. And when you do you change their lives.

This applies to you as well. You’re not stuck with the brain you have. You can make your brain better by evaluating and after that applying the proper treatment.

“Treatment needs to be tailored to individual brains. Not clusters of symptoms.” Daniel Amen

Scott Geller: The Psychology of Self-Motivation

Recorded at TEDx Virginia, 2013. Length of the video 15:53.

How can we inspire people, and ourselves, to be self-motivated?

Ask them (and yourself) these three questions:

  • Can you do it? Do you believe you can do it? If you don’t have the needed skills and if you don’t know how to acquire them you won’t be motivated.
  • Will it work? Do you believe that what you’re doing will lead to a positive outcome? If you don’t believe that what you’re doing will lead to the completion of the job you won’t be motivated to start.
  • Is it worth it? We only do stuff because we want something in return. Ultimately, you need to convince people (and yourself) that what they are doing is worth it. Otherwise, they won’t be motivated.

“When you feel competent at doing worthwhile work, you’re more likely to be self-motivated.” Scott Geller

Bj Miller: What Really Matters At The End Of Life

Recorded at TED Vancouver, 2015. Length of the video 19:07.

Suffering is part of the deal to be alive. But suffering can change you, in a positive way. If you take the correct path, it can make you better and stronger. It can help you grow and realize forces inside yourself that you would otherwise miss.

Learn to live well despite the suffering and the devastating end result that’s is inevitable for all of us. When you realize that death is the most certain thing in life, you’ll stop wasting your time and live a happier life.

“For most people, the scariest thing about death isn’t being death, it’s dying. Suffering.” BJ Miller

Adam Grant: The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers

Recorded at TED Vancouver, 2016. Length of the video 15:24.

Procrastination is not so bad. It gives you time to incubate and consider different ideas in the back of your mind. In a way, it’s like a sandbox where you can try different approaches until you figure out the best way forward. This way you can become more original.

Delay tasks so you can think and consider all possible scenarios. Look at what others are doing. This form of procrastination will help you come up with the best approach. After all, it’s much easier to improve on somebody else’s idea than it is to create something new from scratch.

“Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity but it can be a virtue for creativity.”

Angela Lee Duckworth – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Recorded at TED New York, 2013. Length of the video 06:12.

Who is successful and why?

The answer is simple.

There is only one characteristic that is a significant predictor of success. It’s not IQ. It’s not looks. It’s not how long you meditate. It’s grit.

This skill, or should we call it personal quality, is a mixture of passion and persistence focused on a very long-term goal.

If you really want to succeed in your area of expertise you need to embrace a long-term way of thinking. Understand that success is like a marathon, not a sprint.

“Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future. Not just for the week. Not just for the month. But for years.” Angela Lee Duckworth

Daniel Engber: How The Progress Bar Keeps You Sane

Recorded in а studio. Length of the video 03:32.

The progress bar gives you a vision of a beginning and of an end. We should apply the same principle when we’re working towards a goal.

Often we feel bored and we consider quitting by the lack of real progress on our project. Actually, that’s the main reason people abandon their dream projects – they don’t see how they are improving.

What you can do in order to keep working on your goals, is to create a visual representation of your efforts. Whether this will be adding an X every time you workout or dropping a paper clip inside a jar, it doesn’t matter. As long as you see that you’re making some kind of progress you’ll continue working on your task. Therefore, prevent fizzling out.

“The progress bar is dulling the pain of waiting.” Daniel Engber

Jake Weidmann: Why Write? Penmanship For The 21st Century

Recorded at TEDx Mile High, 2014. Length of the video 16:20.

Our dependency on technology is making us more and more illiterate.

Though handwriting is obsolete and it’s no longer often practiced, is a habit that can make you smarter. It can help you slow down and disconnect from the busyness of our day-to-day lives.

While writing, the brain is more engaged in what you’re doing. The stuff you’re writing down gets literally engraved into your brain, helping you understand things better. So, in every possible moment, grab a pen and start writing.

“Typing is a very fundamental tool that children do need to learn. However, they should not be learning it at the expense of handwriting.” Jake Weidmann

Jon Jandai: Life is easy. Why Do We Make It So Hard?

Recorded at TEDx Doi Suthep, 2011. Length of the video 15:09.

Life is easy but new technology and trends are only complicating things.

Working hard won’t guarantee you success. Owning a TV, a big house, a wardrobe full of clothes, and at least two cars won’t make you happier. A new pair of jeans and a new laptop won’t change who you are. Starving to do more and to get more is only complicating things.

What you can do then?

Do what makes you happier. Figure out what really makes you feel good and pursue it. Disregard everything else. Manage your mind and make sure you point your thoughts only towards things that are meaningful to you. All the trendy things that others are doing shouldn’t necessarily be the things you need to do.

“When people have time to be with themselves they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves, they can see what they want in their life.” Jon Jandai

“When we follow fashion we never catch up with it because we follow it.” Jon Jandai

“Sickness is a normal thing. It’s not a bad thing. Sickness is something to remind us that we did something wrong in our life. That’s why we get sick, to stop and see what we did wrong.” Jon Jandai

Some Closing Thoughts

I really hope the information from these talks can inspire you towards action.

I’ve listened to some of the talks shared above at least a couple of times and every time I find something new. So, if you’re here and you’re still reading, don’t just move on. Bookmark the talks you like most and return to them after a while. When you feel down or when you need a gentle push towards your goals.

This is an ongoing project and I do plan to add more videos to this article. If you have suggestions for a TED talk, share them with me via the form here.

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