My favorite TED talks.

My 5 favorite TED talks | Modern Mrs Darcy

My 5 favorite TED talks | Modern Mrs Darcy

I’ve heard people talking about TED talks for longer than I’ve actually known what that means. I suspect some of you are TED devotees, and some of you don’t know what that means. For those in the latter group, here’s the Cliff Notes version.

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” generally clustered around the themes of technology, entertainment, and design. A TED talk is a presentation—a talk—given at one of the global TED conferences, in 18 minutes or less, recorded for video, and available to watch for free on the TED website.

There are many types of TED talks: some feature big ideas, some small ideas. There are tech demos and artistic performances, talks about issues and artistic manifestos.

Presenters put their heart and soul into these talks. I love how I can turn one on when I’m making dinner, or tidying up, or just needing a little break, and come away educated, informed, and inspired. (Note: most, but not all, TED talks don’t require you to actually see the video, which makes multi-tasking easy.)

As of today, there are more than 1000 talks available to watch on the TED website. That’s way too many to sort through, so I’m sharing my very favorites: 

The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain takes to the stage with a bag full of books (really) and a cheer from summer camp to discuss introversion, extrovert bias, and how recognizing and embracing the power of introverts makes the world a better place for everyone.

Why 30 is not the new 20, by Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—and How to Make the Most of Them Now. Jay argues that the twenties are a developmental sweet spot, not developmental downtime. A must-listen if you’re in your late teens or twenties, but even if you’re older (like I am) Jay’s talk will enhance your understanding of your own path. (Also: Jay has a great accent.)

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, by Amy Cuddy, social psychologist at Harvard Business School. Cuddy blew my mind by revealing how your posture changes how you are perceived, how you behave, and how you feel. The sooner you watch this one, the better.

The Power of Vulnerability, by Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brené Brown’s work will change your life. Watch this talk for the twenty minute overview, then go get the books.

Your Elusive Creative Genius, by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things. For all you creative types—or anyone who wishes they were—because Gilbert believes we all can tap creative genius. That part about the poem barreling down over the landscape? Holy cow.

I’m always on the lookout for new TED talks. Share your thoughts on these and your own personal favorites in comments. 

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  1. I’ve watched 3 out of the 5 you’ve shared (Gilbert, Brown & Cain), and I just realized that for each of those speakers, I’ve read one or more of their books. I’m definitely watching the one about 20s/30s sometime today.

  2. Ana says:

    These look like great recommendations–I’ve read books by two of the five, and will check out the others. One of my favorite TED talks is Carolyn Steel–How food shapes our cities. I thought it was fascinating, and later read her book.

  3. Kelly says:

    Elizabeth Gilbert’s is my absolute favorite. I love the story about the famous singer (I can’t remember which one right now) tells off his muse because he’s driving in the car and can’t write down his ideas.

  4. Julie Sims says:

    Thanks for posting these! I’m so glad that Netflix has so many TED talks available. Like you, I loved Cuddy’s and Brown’s talks too. You should check out the talks by Temple Grandin and Sheryl Sandberg. They’re some pretty inspiring ladies.

  5. Beth Kensinger says:

    This may be funny, but the two I’ve seen that have had the most actual, real life impact on how I do things in life are fairly short, practical ones. I like the more inspirational ones, but these are the ones that “changed my life”. I don’t remember the speakers, but one was on how to use only one paper towel after washing your hands:) and the other was on practical composting:).

  6. Natalie Hart says:

    Thanks — these are some of my favorites, too. This one was lifechanging for me. Eduardo Briceno on The Power of Belief — Mindset and Success: It’s about two different ways of viewing intelligence and abilities: fixed mindset and growth mindset. A fixed mindset sees intelligence and abilities as fixed; therefore, having to work hard is, in and of itself, a sign of failure. A growth mindset sees intelligence and abilities as affected by effort, so working hard is something to be valued, because it means you’re growing. According to brain research, the growth mindset is the scientifically correct one. I absolutely think I had a fixed mindset for many, many years, and would just avoid those things that were hard. And I think I often praised my kids in a fixed mindset kind of way. No more! On either front. Briceno not only describes the situation, but he also gives ways to work from a fixed towards a growth mindset.

  7. Sarah M says:

    I *love* TED talks. I’ve listened to 3 out of these 5. I’ll have some time to watch the other two this afternoon.
    Brene is definitely a favorite, and led me to read all of her books last year. I loved them. Her work is so important. I also read Quiet before I even knew it was a TED talk. 🙂 Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest title is on my list for this year. I’ve heard really good things.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Sarah M

  8. Virginia says:

    I’ve never heard of TED talks! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to check out the ones you posted and then go see what else I can learn. 🙂

    I’ve read some of Brene Brown’s stuff and love it. I can’t wait to hear her speak!

  9. I love every one! With the exception of Elizabeth Gilbert’s. She just doesn’t quite do it for me. But I’m semi-obsessed with the other four! And I appreciate that you shared some background on TED itself. I listen to talks all the time and have posted about them (as you probably remember,, but I enjoyed reading a bit about the organization too. 1000 talks to date? That’s big!

  10. Liz says:

    I love both of Kelly McGonigal’s talks! The one linked above and her original TED Talk, The Science of Willpower, are excellent.

  11. Jessica says:

    I have listened to and loved 3 of your top 5. On my way to check out the 2 I haven’t seen now!
    I have 2 personal favorite talks not mentioned, both of which are TEDx talks, which I think just means they’re smaller than the big events TED usually does? Either way, the first one is by Jia Jiang and it is Surprising Lessons From 100 Days of Rejection – This talk speaks to my fear of people telling me “No,” and is such an inspiration.
    The other talk is by my favorite blogger, Andie Mitchell, and it is a summary of her struggles with her weight loss and how she is overcoming them every day. Even if you’ve never struggled with weight, but struggle with something else, she speaks of good advice we could all use to take things just one day at a time. She has her memoir coming out in January so this talk is a very good idea of what her book will be like.

  12. Sandra Miller says:

    So, I don’t have a favorite, but I have a funny story about TED Talks. One day my co-workers and I were on our way to a meeting. One guy and I were talking about a recent Talk we had seen, when our boss pipes up and says, “Oh yeah, I love to listen to Ted talk. He has some great things to say.” I almost rolled on the floor laughing. Poor guy!

  13. Naomi Liz says:

    This is so great! I’ve seen (and loved) Susan Cain’s and Brene Brown’s talks, but I’ll definitely check out those other ones. I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk (The Danger of a Single Story) is one of the best I’ve ever heard–love, love, love it.
    But there are so many good ones, and I’m interested to check these others out as well! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  14. Stephanie says:

    Oh yes, great post. Your top five are the ones I have watched the most! Such an amazing lineup of women. I fell in love with Susan Cain through her talk and then read her book. She is the most accessible intellectual I have encountered (she even gave me a book recommendation on Twitter!). Her book is a heavyweight but reads so easily. Definitely grateful for TED and the ideas they are moving!

  15. Sylvia says:

    Yes, these are great talks, I have seen them. My favourite one is “How I Hacked Online Dating” by Amy Webb. It’s hilarious, and a bit different from the ones you have posted.

  16. Cate says:

    Ooh – those are good! I LOVE the one Shawn Achor “The happy secret to better work” – I’ve watched it about a dozen times and it makes me laugh out loud. Malcom Gladwell’s The unheard story of David and Goliath is really good too.

  17. bethany says:

    oh my gosh anne — QUIET and THE DEFINING DECADE are two of my absolute favorite nonfiction books EVER. I bought multiple copies of both to share with others–and then watched the TED talks, which were also fabulous.

  18. Jenn says:

    I just watched the Susan Cain talk this week. I am a preschool teacher and it was required watching for us. As an introvert I could totally relate to what she was saying but for some of my fellow teachers I hope it was eye opening. We see what she is talking about happening already at the 3 and 4 year old level. Looking forward to watching the rest.

  19. Anna says:

    I know I’m late to the party but you should check out Cameron Williams “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.” It’s amazing and thought provoking and I play it every now and again when I need the reminder.

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