10 Must-Watch TED Talks and Commencement Speeches

TED Talks and Commencement speeches that will make you laugh, stimulate your mind, touch your heart and maybe even shed a few tears.

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Watching TED Talks are one of my favourite ways to learn something new, and I consider myself very fortunate to be living in an age where such empowering knowledge is free and so easily accessible.


TED Talks are renowned for their highly engaging and insightful speeches typically lasting for 18 minutes. Watching them over the years has inspired me, broadened my worldview, and also helped me understand myself a lot better.


While I initially thought of compiling a list consisting of only TED Talks for this post, I couldn’t resist including a couple of commencement speeches since I felt they were as good or even better than any TED Talk that I’ve seen.


I’d suggest bookmarking this post so that you can revisit and watch some of these talks at your convenience. Here are some TED Talks and Commencement speeches that will make you laugh, stimulate your mind, touch your heart and maybe even shed a few tears. So let’s get started.


Inside the mind of a master procrastinator | Tim Urban


In this hilarious and highly engaging TED Talk, blogger Tim Urban introduces us to the instant gratification monkey and the panic monster to describe why we procrastinate.


If you ever wondered why our tendency to procrastinate is so strong this will provide you with the answer.


A quote from the talk: "The Instant Gratification Monkey does not seem like a guy you want behind the wheel. He has no memory of the past, no knowledge of the future, and he only cares about two things: easy and fun."



Your body language may shape who you are | Amy Cuddy


In one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how our body language shapes not only how others see us, but how we subconsciously view ourselves.


In this insightful talk, she shares her research on how “power posing” can alter our brain chemistry to reduce stress and help us feel confident.


A quote from the talk: "Our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes."



The power of introverts | Susan Cain


In this talk, Author Susan Cain talks about some of the extraordinary talents and abilities introverts bring to the world and how they should be encouraged to be themselves.


Cain explains that “Introversion is… different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment, whereas introversion is more about how someone responds to all kinds of external stimulation, including social stimulation.


This talk was a real eye-opener for me and its message resonated with me deeply. Even if you are not an introvert yourself, this will help you to understand the introverts in your life much better.


A quote from the talk: "Extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments."



Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address


This talk has had more impact on my life than any I’ve listened to in my life.


Listening to this talk while I was in high school, inspired me to seek out what I love doing, which I have described here in this blog post How To Find What You Love To Do.


In this talk Jobs conveys some profound wisdom by sharing three stories from his life.


Some of the words from this talk remain etched in my mind and have proved to be very helpful in my life when I have found myself in tough spots and while making difficult decisions.


A quote from the talk: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”



J.K. Rowling 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech


In this powerful and deeply moving speech, Rowling talks about the benefits of failure and the power of human imagination.


She mentions going through a dark period in her life when she was jobless, a lone parent and poor before going onto publish the Harry Potter series.


A quote from the talk: “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected;”



The art of asking | Amanda Palmer


In this raw and vulnerable talk, musician Amanda Palmer talks about human connection and examines the relationships between artists and their fans.


She emphasises having faith in people and urges artists to have the courage to ask for help. Irrespective of whether you are an artist or not this talk is relevant for everyone and well worth watching.


A quote from the talk: "Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them, and when you connect with them, people want to help you. It's kind of counterintuitive for a lot of artists. They don't want to ask for things. But it's not easy. It's not easy to ask, and a lot of artists have a problem with this."



We need to talk about an injustice | Bryan Stevenson


Lawyer and social Justice activist, Bryan Stevenson received one of the longest standing ovation in the history of the TED Conference for his passionate and moving speech on human rights.


Stevenson illustrates that communities of colour and those with high rates of poverty make up a disproportionate percentage of people behind bars in the U.S. Wealth, not culpability, often decides who goes to jail.


He talks about issues such as the death penalty and life in prison without parole for children, and says that ignoring America’s history of violence against African-Americans prevents the necessary growth and healing process of “truth and reconciliation.”


A quote from the talk: "We need to find ways to embrace these challenges, these problems, the suffering because, ultimately, our humanity depends on everyone's humanity. Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done."



My philosophy for a happy life | Sam Berns


In this inspiring and heart-warming talk, Sam Berns a 17 year diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Progeria, talks about his dreams and what it takes to lead a happy life even in the face of obstacles.


A quote from the talk: "I don’t waste energy feeling bad for myself. I surround myself with people that I want to be with, and I keep moving forward."



The power of storytelling to change the world | Dave Lieber


In this riveting and funny TED Talk, columnist Dave Lieber shares the story of how he won the hearts of Texans after moving in from New York through the magical power of storytelling.


A quote from the talk: “Lord, I have been here for nine months, and these Texans are killing me. If I hear one more Texan say, ‘That Dave Lieber guy, he fell off the turnip truck,’ I don’t know what I’m going to do, because I don’t even know what a turnip truck is. But Lord, please send me a good, strong, mature, wise woman, and if you do, I’ll treat her with respect and dignity. And if you can’t send me one right away, send me a sign that a good woman is coming my way, and I’ll hang on. Amen.”



How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal


Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains why stress may not be all that bad as we make it out to be. What she reveals about stress may change the way you look at it forever.


A quote from the talk: "182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you."



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