Unique TED Talks About Work And Getting Ahead

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One of the best ways to learn anything is to get insight from those who have done it before. While you may not have access to every top performer in an area you like, there are many sites to hear their talks. One of them is TED, a global movement of researchers, academics, and entrepreneurs sharing their lessons learned and insights. 

Thankfully, there are a lot of TED talks about work careers, professional development, and more. However, it can be a huge hassle trying to find insightful content that matches your needs – there are a lot of TED talks! That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best TED talks about work and getting ahead – to help make your search for knowledge just a little easier. 

How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

Who is Simon Sinek ?

Simon Sinek is an academic and author that focuses on how people are motivated to act – and how people can motivate others to take action.

What’s the talk about?

This talk explores Sinek’s model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle and the question: “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers.

He contends that if you start with “why,” you have a better chance of motivating people to join your movement and do what needs to be done to succeed.

How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals by Stephen Duneier

Who is Stephen Duneier ?

Stephen Duneier is an investment manager and financial professional. After years of success in finance, he became a speaker and author on subjects around personal development and achievement. He also holds a Guinness World Record.

What’s the talk about?

In his talk, Stephen explains that what truly defines him aren’t titles, but an approach to decision making that transformed him from someone who struggled with simple tasks to a guy who is continuously achieving even his most ambitious dreams.

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

Who is Brene Brown ?

Brene Brown is a professor and academic. Her work revolves around how people connect to each other and relate to themselves.

What’s the talk about?

One interesting element of Brown’s research is how connections are formed. Many people think that it’s through shared circumstances or common ground – and that’s true – but this talk explores one other element of human connections that’s necessary for the strongest bonds: vulnerability.

This talk became one of the most-watched TED Talks ever due to Brown’s speaking style and how she shared her own personal journey.

How to Speak so that People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure

Who is Julian Treasure ?

Julian Treasure has a unique job – he studies sounds. In particular, sounds and communication, meaning how different sounds (from talking to music) can influence and change communications between people.

What’s the talk about?

This talk is all about helping you use your voice in a more impactful way. Sharing insights from his research, Treasure offers tactics to try, exercises to do, and other tips on how to make sure that people listen when you speak.

The Puzzle of Motivation by Daniel Pink

Who is Daniel Pink ?

Daniel Pink is a marketer and author with a focus on the science behind motivation. He studied at top universities such as Northwestern and Yale, and continues his work today through his speaking and writing.

What’s the talk about?

In this talk, Pink talks about how traditional motivational tactics fail. In particular, how you can’t get someone to act with commonly used motivational tactics. Instead, he shares personal stories and anecdotes from his research on what really gets people out of their seats and taking action.

The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

Who is Susan Cain ?

Susan Cain is an author, speaker, and lecturer on cultural communication. She looks at how different cultures value communication methods and what people can learn from one another.

What’s the talk about?

One outcome of Cain’s observations is that people seem scared of silence – they speak to fill the void of a quiet room. In reaction, she started The Quiet Revolution. This talk explains the value of silence as a communication tool and how silence can actually help people develop deeper bonds than always talking.

How to Spot a Liar by Pamela Meyer

Who is Pamela Meyer ?

Pamela Meyer is an academic and researcher who focuses on nonverbal communication. In particular, she researches how and why people lie.

What’s the talk about?

This talk is all about lying. Well, spotting a liar. Meyer’s research digs into the subtle cues and facial expressions that liars give off, and she shares them in this talk. Information shared is partially from her books on lying and are intended to help people in negotiations and realizing when someone is lying to them.

What Makes a Good Life? by Robert Waldinger

Who is Robert Waldinger ?

Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School. He also led one of the longest studies in the world on happiness.

He started his career in academic and also maintains his status as a Zen priest.

What’s the talk about?

After a 75-year study on adult happiness, Waldinger shares his findings in this talk. The content is all about what makes people truly happy (not just happy on the surface) and how people can cultivate more happiness in their lives.

The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor

Who is Shawn Achor ?

A major advocate of ‘positive psychology’ Shawn Anchor is an author and speaker that advocates for the idea of bringing happiness into your life at every stage.

What’s the talk about?

Many people think that you have to work hard in order to be happy. Anchor argues that it’s the opposite – that if you find ways to bring happiness into your life now, you will actually be more productive at work. This will then create a system where you’re happy, more productive, happier, and on and on…

The Surprising Science of Happiness by Dan Gilbert

Who is Dan Gilbert ?

Dan Gilbert is a social psychologist that studies ‘affective forecasting’ – the study of how you can better predict someone’s future based on their past. He’s also written multiple books and other publications about his work and teaches at Harvard University.

What’s the talk about?

This talk focuses on what Gilbert calls the ‘psychological immune system.’ It’s a part of the human mind that can help you stay happy even if things don’t go according to plan, going directly against the idea that we can’t be happy if we don’t get what we want.

How to Make Stress Your Friend by Kelly McGonigal

Who is Kelly McGonigal ?

Kelly McGonigal is a researcher and academic who focuses on ‘science help’ – the idea that science can be helpful for everyday life, but only if it’s properly translated into practical insights (not dense academic papers).

What’s the talk about?

Most people think of stress as a horrible thing in your life. You can find many articles – and even a whole subset of the wellness industry – focused on reducing or eliminating stress. McGonigal takes a different path. In this talk she shares her strategies for making stress a good thing, arguing that it can be harnessed to help you do better work.

Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator by Tim Urban

Who is Tim Urban ?

Tim Urban is a writer who has a big idea: that long form content will perform better than easy-to-digest listicle content.

What’s the talk about?

This talk is all about procrastination, but from a different perspective. Instead of talking about how to minimize procrastination (or the “benefits” of procrastination), Urban encourages viewers to think about what they are really procrastinating from. Once you know that, you can start building a better life (where maybe you won’t procrastinate as much).

Your Elusive Creative Genius by Elizabeth Gilbert

Who is Elizabeth Gilbert ?

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote one of the most successful books of all time – Eat, Pray, Love. She’s written several other books and short stories as well.

What’s the talk about?

This talk happened right after Eat, Pray, Love exploded on the global scene. Gilbert talks about what it takes to be a “genius” and offers a new suggestion about where genius really comes from, challenging the narrative that it’s either inside of you or you’re a failure. In this way, she promotes what she believes is a healthier and more sustainable form of creativity.

The Psychology of Self Motivation by Scott Geller

Who is Scott Geller ?

Scott Geller is Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology. He’s also a fellow in numerous academic societies, such as the American Psychological Association.

What’s the talk about?

Geller’s talk is all about self-motivation, as the title suggests. He walks through how people become self-motivated and explains to the audience a framework that anyone can use to build up stores of motivation for any major project or outcome you’re shooting toward.

Career Change: The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Now by Laura Sheehan

Who is Laura Sheehan ?

Laura Sheehan followed her husband to multiple countries as he moved with his job. From that experience, she learned how to empower “trailing spouses” to make an impact and build community.

What’s the talk about?

Many people dream of making a big career change. It could come from being upset with how your career is going right now or seeing something new that you want. Before you make that change, though, watch this talk where Sheehan shares the questions you have to ask.

Change Anything! Use Skillpower Over Willpower by Al Switzler

Who is Al Switzler ?

Al Switzler is a researcher and author that looks at behavior change. In specific, he researches what makes people change and how to drive sustainable change for the long term.

What’s the talk about?

Going against normal beliefs that you just “need willpower” to make real changes, Switzler’s talk is all about his new framework – skillpower. He argues that willpower is a trap and instead you need to focus on the skills you have already, not a random sense of drive that could fall off at any moment.

Change Your Mindset, Change The Game by Dr. Alia Crum

Who is Dr. Alia Crum ?

Dr. Crum is a professor and psychologist who studies how humans make decisions. Her work looks at how different environments can alter mindsets and how decision-making changes as a result.

What’s the talk about?

This talk explores the scientific evidence behind the idea of mindset and how it can change your body. Dr. Crum explains how the studies worked and what they found – eventually discussing her framework for harnessing the “power of you” to change your mindset in order to change your life.

How to Be Socially Magnetic by Ben Chai

Who is Ben Chai ?

Ben Chai is an author and entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience. He now focuses on helping other people reach their maximum potential.

What’s the talk about?

This talk is about magnetism. The idea that people just can’t resist wanting to talk to you or work with you. Chai explains his frameworks that people can use to build deeper, more meaningful relationships that make you more magnetic to anyone and everyone around you. He also explains how to network better so you can consistently meet new, exciting people.

3 Steps to Transform Your Life by Lena Kay

Who is Lena Kay ?

Lena Kay went from everything, to nothing, to everything again – going from successful in business to broke and living in social housing. Then she came back using new psychological principles. Now she helps other people do the same.

What’s the talk about?

This talk is about how to change your life, with Kay sharing her own story of transformation. In her mid-20s she was living on social welfare and was homeless. Then she learned about neuroscience and applied those principles to her life – this talk is about those principles and how to apply them in your own life to create any change you want.

The Paradox of Efficiency by Edward Tenner

Who is Edward Tenner ?

Edward Tenner is a historian that looks at how the past can inform us about the future. Now he consults with different tech firms and writes books on tech innovation.

What’s the talk about?

In today’s world, people often assume that focusing on “productivity hacks” will help you get more done. Tenner challenges this notion in this TED talk, asking instead if our obsession with productivity is actually making humanity less productive. He then offers multiple alternatives to help people actually get more done. 

Want to get ahead at work? Make sure you have these skills.

Header image courtesy TED.