TED Talks

Recommended TED Talks

I am always on the lookout for fresh, provocative or just plain “Yes!” resources that might be of interest and help to you. Please read our brief Point-of-View and Key Insight summaries.

Please keep me posted on your favourite resources, and I’ll add them to the list to share with others.

“A kinder, gentler philosophy of success” by Alain de Botton, posted July 2009

Mike’s POV: I was hooked after hearing de Botton’s opening definition of a snob: “anyone who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.” How often in our rush to make sense out of others do our own internal biases and blind spots result in “snobbish” behaviour? I highly recommend this TED Talk to leaders and Forums exploring their own definitions of success and happiness.

KeyInsight48Key Insight: Too often our own definitions of success and failure have been moulded by outside forces – media, recruiters and well-intentioned parents. By failing to explore and claim our own personal definition of success, we risk serious regret and resentment later in life. As de Botton says, “It’s bad enough not to get what you want. It’s even worse to arrive at the end to discover it wasn’t really what you wanted after all.”


“The power of vulnerability” – Brene Brown, December 2010

Mike’s POV: One of my all-time favorites, along with nearly 16 million others who have enjoyed this TED Talk!  Brene Brown’s topic expertise and personal style mad.ckes it easy for leaders to approach what are often taboo topics – shame and vulnerability.

KeyInsight48Key Insight: That on some level, we all seek connection. Shame is evoked when we fear disconnection – that there is something about me that if other people know or see, will find me not worthy of connection, leading to emotional numbness, blame, perfection seeking and control. With a deep sense of worthiness comes courage, compassion, openness to action without knowing the consequence and willingness to be who we are, and let go of who we thought we should be.


“The happy secret to better work” – Shawn Achor, February 2012

Mike’s POV: An easy introduction to the work of positive psychology. I’ve shared Achor’s TED Talk with countless executives – in particular Type A males in their 40s – who have bought into the assumption that working harder and longer will lead to greater career success (material rewards and trappings), which will then offer the possibility of personal happiness.

KeyInsight48Key Insight: a human brain operating in the “happy” (e.g., high dopamine production triggers positive mood, outlook and activates natural curiosity and learning) is 31% more productive than the human brain operating in neutral or stress. Material trappings of the external world are predictive of only 10% of perceived happiness vs. 90% by how our brain processes the external world – e.g., our level of optimism; degree of social support around us; our ability to see change as a challenge vs. a threat.


“What matters more than your talents” – Jeff Bezos, July 2010

Mike’s POV: More commencement speech (Princeton University) than TED Talk. Nonetheless some compelling themes, equally valid for young adults on their way in a bigger world to those later in life seeking to rewrite their next chapter.

KeyInsight48Key Insight: “It’s harder to be kind than clever.”


“Don’t regret regret” – Kathryn Schulz, November 2011

We’re taught to try to live life without regret. But why? Using her own tattoo as an example, Kathryn Schulz makes a powerful and moving case for embracing our regrets. Kathryn Schulz is the author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error,” and writes “The Wrong Stuff,” a Slate series featuring interviews with high-profile people about how they think and feel about being wrong.

“There are no mistakes on the bandstand” – Stefon Harris, November 2011

What is a mistake? By talking through examples with his improvisational Jazz quartet, Stefon Harris walks us to a profound truth: many actions are perceived as mistakes only because we don’t react to them appropriately. Stefon Harris plays the vibraphone — and leads a jazz ensemble with a collaborative sound built on collective inspiration.

“Why you will fail to have a great career” – Larry Smith, November 2011

In this funny and blunt talk, Larry Smith pulls no punches when he calls out the absurd excuses people invent when they fail to pursue their passions. A professor of economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Larry Smith coaches his students to find the careers that they will truly love

“How to truly listen” – Evelyn Glennie, February 2003

In this soaring demonstration, deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie illustrates how listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums. Percussionist and composer Dame Evelyn Glennie lost nearly all of her hearing by age 12. Rather than isolating her, it has given her a unique connection to her music.

“What we don’t understand about trust” – Onora O’Neill, June 2013

Trust is on the decline, and we need to rebuild it. That’s a commonly heard suggestion for making a better world … but, says philosopher Onora O’Neill, we don’t really understand what we’re suggesting. She flips the question, showing us that our three most common ideas about trust are actually misdirected. Baroness Onora O’Neill is a philosopher who focuses on international justice and the roles of trust and accountability in public life.

“The walk from ‘no’ to ‘yes'” – William Ury, October 2010

William Ury, author of “Getting to Yes,” offers an elegant, simple (but not easy) way to create agreement in even the most difficult situations — from family conflict to, perhaps, the Middle East. William Ury is a mediator, writer and speaker, working with conflicts ranging from family feuds to boardroom battles to ethnic wars. He’s the author of “Getting to Yes.”

“Our loss of wisdom” – Barry Schwartz, February 2009

Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life. Lately, working with Ken Sharpe, he’s studying wisdom. Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for “practical wisdom” as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

“The art of choosing” – Sheena Iyengar, July 2010

Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions. Sheena Iyengar studies how people choose (and what makes us think we’re good at it).

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