Ever feel like you’re writing and creating the same kinds of stuff over and over and over again?
Consistently coming up with new material and unique angles is really difficult. You might find yourself in a vortex of similar content that makes it hard to find information you didn’t already know. It’s hard to stay inspired, too.
There is one type of content that can help us get out of this vortex: TED Talks. Featuring motivational speeches from some of the most brilliant minds in the world, TED Talks cover every topic under the sun in an easy-to-understand and inspiring way.
To help you break out of your typical content mold and learn something new, we’ve compiled 28 of our favorite inspirational TED Talks below. You’ll find a wide variety of talks in here from topics covering creativity, career success and happiness, and marketing and branding.
Some of these TED talks are three minutes long; others are 20–30 minutes long. Don’t be overwhelmed with the amount of content in here — watch these talks at your own pace, bookmark this page to return to later, and get ready to be inspired. You’ll learn, laugh, and maybe even cry. (We won’t judge.)
The Top TED Talks on Career Success & Happiness
1) “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid” by Guy Winch
Length: 17 min. 24 sec.
While we all know how important it is to take care of our physical health, we don’t take our emotional health nearly as seriously. But why? Why do we seem to value our bodies more than we value our minds? Emotional pain like guilt, loss, failure, and loneliness can impact our lives in dramatic ways — especially if we ignore it or try to deal with it by ourselves. In this TED talk, Psychologist Guy Winch makes the case for taking care of our emotional health and explains the scientifically proven techniques we can use to heal our psychological pain.
2) “What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?” by Dan Ariely
Length: 20 min. 22 sec.
Ever heard of the “IKEA effect”? It’s the psychological behavior in which people tend to place a high premium on projects we labor especially hard to complete. The man who coined that phrase and made it famous, a Duke University psychology and behavioral economics professor named Dan Ariely, talks about how leaders can use that behavior to motivate their teams. In this TED talk, Ariely talks about why it’s so important to value your employees’ efforts, and how small changes in how you give feedback can be crucial for keeping morale high.
3) “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown
Length: 20 min. 12 sec.
Everyone can recall a time when they felt vulnerable. Was it fun? Probably not. Is it a necessary part of growth? Brené Brown thinks so. In this enlightening talk, which is also one of the most famous TED talks ever given, Brown highlights years worth of research by diving deep into not only the reason why vulnerability exists, but also the role it plays in our ability to form connections and achieve a sense of purpose.
4) “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get” by Susan Colantuono
Length: 13 min. 57 sec.
Leadership manifests at every level of management — and there are many, many effective leaders in middle management. In fact, a lot of those middle-management leaders are women. But that raises the question: Why are there so many women stuck in the middle — even when they’re doing everything right at work and taking all the right advice? In this TED talk, Susan Colantuono shares a simple and surprising piece of advice. While the talk is aimed primarily at women, there are universal takeaways in here for men, too, as well as for new graduates and mid-career workers.
5) “How to Make Work-Life Balance Work” by Nigel Marsh
Length: 9 min. 57 sec.
Author and marketer Nigel Marsh says work-life balance is too important to leave up to your employer. “If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance,” he says. But being more balanced doesn’t call for a dramatic overhaul of your life — it just means investing in small ways in the right places. Do that, and you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. You’ll also learn what he thinks an “ideal day” looks like — one balanced between family time, personal time, and productivity.
6) “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Amy Cuddy
Length: 20 min. 55 sec.
This is probably my favorite talk on the whole list. Cuddy talks about a feedback loop in your brain that helps you fake it until you make it. If you’re not feeling confident in a high-stress, evaluative situation (a job interview or client presentation, for example), Cuddy’s motivational speech has some tips to help you transform from an Average Joe into Superman — all within two minutes of your time.
7) “How to Succeed? Get More Sleep” by Arianna Huffington
Length: 4 min. 3 sec.
In many companies, people get bragging rights for staying up ’til all hours of the night, slaving over projects … but in reality, you could be much more successful if you got the right amount of shut-eye. Not to say that level of dedication isn’t needed at times, but it shouldn’t be the norm for us. In the video below, Huffington gives us some quick advice for being more successful at our jobs and happier with our lives through one small change.
8) “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain
Length: 18 min. 56 sec.
Although extroverts are often revered in our society of social networking and uber-connectivity, being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. In fact, almost half of our society is made of up introverts … so why don’t we value them more? Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, this talk will be eye opening — and maybe will inspire you to work more successfully with your coworkers.
9) “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by Shawn Achor
Length: 12 min. 13 sec.
It’s the old chicken or the egg conundrum: Does productive work make you happier, or does being happy make you more productive? Historically, our society believes the former … but it doesn’t always work out that way in reality. Achor argues on behalf of the latter — and her take on this conundrum may help you be happier at work.
10) “5 Ways to Listen Better” by Julian Treasure
Length: 7 min. 43 sec.
Whether you’re a marketer, sales representative, PR professional, or web developer, listening is a tremendously important skill for your job. According to Treasure, “We’re losing our listening.” To help get it back, Treasure has five relatively easy exercises you can try.
11) “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” by Simon Sinek
Length: 11 min. 55 sec.
This eye-opening discussion from Simon Sinek explores the importance of establishing a sense of trust in an office environment. Without trust, he urges, you run the risk of wasting time fighting one another, rather than fighting for the greater good of the company. He goes on to stress that leaders must win the respect of their employees by actively challenging, educating, and encouraging them to take risks and own their accomplishments.
The Most Inspirational Speeches on Creativity
12) “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson
Length: 17 min. 38 sec.
Steven Johnson believes that creativity is a state of mind. So how do you get your brain into environments where innovation happens? It’s not as hard as you think. Check out this TED talk to learn how to harness your “Eureka!” moments into something sustainable.
13) “Your Elusive Creative Genius” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Length: 19 min. 24 sec.
As the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert got a lot of awful questions about creativity after her success with her novel. People came up to her all the time and asked her if she was scared that the best of her creativity and success was behind her … which is a very depressing way to think about life. Instead of wallowing in anxiety, Gilbert refocused on embracing her genius — not defining herself by it. Here’s her story, as well as her advice for other creatives.
14) “Got a Wicked Problem? First, Tell Me How You Make Toast” by Tom Wujec
Length: 9 min. 1 sec.
Having trouble solving a difficult problem? Visualize it. Serving as a pioneer in the emerging practice of business visualization, Tom Wujec suggests that almost every challenge we encounter can be made more manageable if we break it down into working parts. His three-step process suggests that you draw out, organize, and refine the problem until revealing patterns begin to emerge that can be used to help you arrive at a more meaningful solution.
15) “How to Build Your Creative Confidence” by David Kelley
Length: 11 min. 29 sec.
Why do some people feel like they’re not naturally creative? Usually, it starts when we’re young: Perhaps someone tells us our creations are bad or ugly, and we begin losing our confidence in being creative. Other times, people just make up excuses — such as being “left-brained” — to keep from others judging their creative efforts. But David Kelley, founder of the design firm IDEO, has made it his mission to help people gain back their creative confidence. They key, he says, is to discover something Psychologist Albert Bandura calls “self-efficacy”: the sort of “sense” that a person has that he or she can actually affect change in the world.
16) “How to Manage for Collective Creativity” by Linda Hill
Length: 17 min. 16 sec.
Often times, innovation isn’t the result of one person’s efforts, but rather the “collective creativity” of many. In an effort to surface insights on collaborative problem solving, Harvard professor Linda Hill set out to study 16 innovation leaders within 12 different industries. Her findings revealed that in order for businesses to achieve success, they must re-learn what it means to be an effective leader and place more of an emphasis on creating a space where multiple ideas can co-exist and evolve.
17) “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” by J.K. Rowling
Length: 20 min. 59 sec.
We all know that we can’t always be successful in life … but it doesn’t make failure sting any less. It might be something small, like your favorite variation losing in an A/B test. Maybe it’s something large, like a 3,000 word blog post that flops. Rowling encourages us to look on the bright side in this TED Talk: There really can be an upside to failure. Definitely a talk to keep in mind when you’re feeling knocked down by your job, or just life in general.
18) “Doodlers, Unite!” by Sunni Brown
Length: 5 min. 43 sec.
Sometimes the written word just doesn’t do an idea justice. For those times, Sunni Brown insists that doodling can be used as a method for improving comprehension and fostering more creative thinking. And while doodling is often considered a trivial exercise, Brown is committed to changing the world’s perception of the act by encouraging more people to put pen to paper.
19) “Tales of Creativity and Play” by Tim Brown
Length: 27 min. 47 sec.
Fear, especially that of criticism or failure, is detrimental to the creative process — but being playful while you’re creative can help immensely to douse that fear. In this TED talk, Tim Brown, who works at design firm IDEO, talks about how how encouraging playfulness can improve people’s mood, increase creativity, and help people make better decisions. He explains why it’s helpful to have rules for brainstorming, the benefits of “construction play,” and how role-playing can help people learn and better understand ideas and solutions.
20) “Weird, or Just Different?” by Derek Sivers
Length: 2 min. 35 sec.
There are two sides to every coin — something that you find weird may be enticing to someone else. For example, foods like whipped cream, flan, and Good & Plenty’s give me the creeps … but they might be someone else’s favorite foods in the world. Sivers reminds us of how our preconceived notions of what is normal or weird can shape how we think, an important reminder for all of us creating content.
The Best TED Talks on Marketing & Branding
21) “Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce” by Malcolm Gladwell
Length: 17 min. 26 sec.
Wondering what the heck spaghetti sauce has to do with marketing? Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell explores the story of how market researcher and psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz leveraged consumer opinions to highlight the importance of choice when he worked with Prego — the trademark brand name pasta sauce of Campbell Soup Company.
22) “404, The Story of a Page Not Found” by Renny Gleeson
Length: 4 min. 0 sec.
It’s happened to all of us. You’re searching for something online and then, all of a sudden, you hit a dead end. You’ve gotten a 404 error. For some companies, a 404 page is just a functional alert to tell users that they’ve tried to reach an unreachable destination … but it doesn’t have to be this way. Gleeson suggests an alternative: “What if this error page was also an opportunity?” You’ll have to watch the video yourself to see how these “well-designed moments can build brands.”
23) “How to Make Choosing Easier” by Sheena Iyengar
Length: 15 min. 58 sec.
Ever find yourself staring at a seemingly never-ending wall of mustard in the grocery store, unable to make a decision? You’re not alone. Sheena Iyengar details fascinating research that reveals the consequences of offering people too many choices. In an effort to help businesses get a handle on how to prevent choice overload, she goes on to explore four techniques that can be used to narrow your focus and simplify the presentation of options.
24) “What Consumers Really Want” by Joseph Pine
Length: 14 min. 15 sec.
In each economic period of history, customers have demanded different things. In the industrial economy when mass production developed, it was all about keeping costs low to distribute goods to as many people as possible. Then, the economy evolved to be more of a service industry, where companies were all about producing quality. Now, we’re in an “experience economy” and companies need to be concerned with “rendering authenticity.” Learn why authenticity is crucial to your business’ success — and how to make sure you can achieve it.
25) “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread” by Seth Godin
Length: 16 min. 57 sec.
If you’re trying to create messaging that appeals to everyone, you’ll end up resonating with no one. These days, the ideas that take off are the ones that speak directly to the people who are already listening. Seth Godin explains why traditional methods for idea transmission (mass media) are losing their appeal, while the importance of niche marketing begins to surface in modern marketing strategies.
26) “The Clues to a Great Story” by Andrew Stanton
Length: 19 min. 9 sec.
If you want to get some brilliant storytelling tips from the writer of all three Toy Story movies — all while laughing your head off — check out Stanton’s TED Talk below. Although, be warned that he does use some not safe for work (NSFW) language.
27) “Why Videos Go Viral” by Kevin Allocca
Length: 7 min. 12 sec.
One of the greatest mysteries of our generation is how certain content goes viral. Who would have predicted that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” would be so horribly awesome that it would get millions and millions of views? Not me. Luckily, Allocca figured out what all viral videos have in common — which may come in handy next time your boss or client asks you to make a video “go viral.” 😉
28) “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (about TEDTalks)” by Sebastian Wernicke
Length: 5 min. 52 sec.
Ever wondered what it would take to create the best — and worst — TED Talk of all time? Based on aggregate data from every TED Talk video on the TED website, Wernicke gives us some pointers on selecting topics, words, and even mood lighting to knock your talk out of the park … or make it flop. If you’re giving any sort of presentation soon, you should definitely check out Wernicke’s talk.
Which TED Talk is most inspiring to you? Do you have any other favorites not already on this list?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.