10 TED Talks to Inspire the Stressed and Lonely Entrepreneur

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A researcher who studies human connection, Brene Brown did a TED talk in 2010 about her findings in the areas of vulnerability. When it went crazy viral, she started receiving speaking requests, many of them from the business community. It makes sense: as Brown says in a later talk, vulnerability is a force that brings about creativity, innovation and change.

For entrepreneurs seeking a breather from the tension and isolation that often come with the job, TED talks like Brown’s act as a salve. They run from motivational to escapist to life-transforming.

The collection below, curated specifically for the entrepreneur or business owner in need of inspiration, includes talks that are among TED’s most popular, but also taps into some lesser known ones that dazzle and bring fresh perspective.

Check them out.

  1. Shawn Achor – The Happy Secret to Better Work

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLJsdqxnZb0&w=560&h=315]

This is one of the 20 most popular TED talks for several reasons. Achor, a psychologist, is funny and his excited cadence lulls the viewer into wondering what he’ll say next. His focus is on the positive, the bright side, but not in a way that feels syrupy. Think success will make you happy? Actually, it’s the other way around.

  1. Tim Urban – Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHhav-CPtGU&w=560&h=315]

What better way to spend some time procrastinating than by watching Urban talk about how it works? He’s compelling and gets a lot of laughs when he introduces the instant gratitude monkey and the panic monster. A reluctantly knowing audience goes on the thought-provoking journey with him right to the end.

  1. Amanda Palmer – The Art of Asking

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMj_P_6H69g&w=560&h=315]

No description could do justice to Palmer’s talk or why it’s unconventionality seems seductive. From street entertainer to musician, she learned the value of real connection, not just in in-person interactions, but through vehicles like Twitter and crowd-funding. Bottom line, asking makes you vulnerable and that’s OK.

  1. Brene Brown – Listening to Shame

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0&w=560&h=315]

Speaking of vulnerability, as mentioned above, this is a talk in its own league and its implications are far-reaching. The stuck entrepreneur can easily be awakened by Brown’s citing of Teddy Roosevelt’s concept of “daring greatly” and how that requires action, doing, being in the mix. People are prone to watch this one over and over again.

  1. Stacey Kramer – The Best Gift I Ever Survived

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKbet4RdSo4&w=560&h=315]

Perspective. Big, fat perspective in just three minutes. This is a quick hit of inspiration. Kramer has her moment on stage and as she expels what she must, viewers get an unforgettable close-up of what it means to have grace and a bright lens on life even in darkness.

  1. Guy Winch – Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2hc2FLOdhI&w=560&h=315]

From an early age people are conditioned to know that a Band-Aid should be put on a cut. But what about emotional “injuries” like failure, rejection or loneliness? What do people do for them? For one thing, says Winch, pay attention to them. A psychologist who can weave a story, he challenges viewers to show some favoritism to their emotional health.

  1. Casey Gerald – The Gospel of Doubt

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhiC9FpU7zU&w=560&h=315]

Where is Gerald going with an opening story about Y2K in East Texas when he was 12 years old? Or later when he shares his experiences at Yale, Harvard Business School, and a cross-country road trip? He knows something about false saviors and deep questioning.

  1. Jason deCaires Taylor – An Underwater Art Museum Teeming with Life

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L099ZkfCiOQ&w=560&h=315]

Lush, wondrous beauty alert. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Viewers can simply enjoy the aesthetic delights while taking a yogurt break. Or perhaps let it seep in that an artist creates sculptures that live underwater and apply it to their own business ventures. What might they do that is innovative and transformative? Sculptor deCaires Taylor issues a global challenge – be open to pushing massive boundaries.

  1. AJ Jacobs – My Year of Living Biblically

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5MkpzMAOZM&w=560&h=315]

This 2007 talk has to be considered a classic. A bestselling author who does what he calls life experiments and then writes about them, Jacobs has a charm and accessibility and even a bit of zaniness in what he chooses to shine a spotlight on. His insights about rules and ritual are particularly pertinent to the entrepreneur, as he humorously flips on its head socialized thinking about what we often do by rote.

  1. Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4&w=560&h=315]

We end with one of the 20 most popular TED talks because it cuts to the heart of every business with brilliant simplicity. Entrepreneurs, particularly those caught in a loop wondering how to get to the next level, might want to watch this one regularly. Sinek uses historical and contemporary examples that powerfully bring to life what he calls the golden circle. A gem that has been viewed over 30 million times.


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