5 of My Favorite TED Talks

Sometimes, I burn myself out working many hours in a row on complex tasks. Sometimes, my motivation escapes me and I need some inspiration to complete such tasks. I'm only human. In either situation, TED Talks help me pass the time and because I learn something new from each talk, I still feel as though I’m doing something productive. Here are five I love, and have definitely watched more than once. Pro-tip: If you’re ever browsing TED but not sure what you want to watch, use the “Surprise Me” function.

1. Maysoon Zayid: I Got 99 Problems and Palsy is Just One

Maysoon Zayid is unapologetic, honest and authentic—and she’ll make you laugh too. Zayid is an actress and comedian who has cerebral palsy and a zest for life. She claims at the beginning of her talk that she could win the “Oppression Olympics” if they existed, detailing that she is “Palestinian, Muslim, female, disabled and lives in New Jersey.”

But her message is simple and her motivations are clear in this funny, uplifting talk. She desires to create more positive images of disability in the media and in real life because “disability is as visible as race, and if a wheelchair user can’t play Beyonce, then Beyonce can’t play a wheelchair user.” It will change your perspective. At least, it did so for me.

2. Drew Dudley: Everyday Leadership

Drew Dudley tells such a great story that I won’t even try to sum it up for you. Instead, I’ll provide a quote from Dudley’s talk to entice you:

“We’ve made leadership into something bigger than us. We’ve started to devalue the things we can do every day. We take moments where we truly are a leader and we don't let ourselves take credit for it, or feel good about it. We let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it [...] You've made someone's life better by something you said or did. If you think you haven't [...] You're just one of the people who hasn't been told. It's scary to think of ourselves as that powerful, frightening to think we can matter that much to other people. As long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership beyond us and make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day, from ourselves and from each other.”

This is a great, short talk when you’re in need of a little inspiration.

3. Chip Kidd: Designing Books is No Laughing Matter. OK, it is.

Chip Kidd is a graphic design rockstar. Kidd has designed iconic book covers like “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton and “Naked” by David Sedaris, while also being a published author himself. In his design process, Kidd says he is an interpreter and translator of the text within the cover. I’m holding back the “don’t judge a book by its cover” puns with everything I have, but Kidd discusses how book design is an art of first impressions that is most properly appreciated in hard copy form while insisting that it will also evolve to be experienced digitally.

4. James Veitch: This is What Happens When You Reply to Spam Email

Have you ever responded to a spam email? Well, James Veitch did and his talk details exactly what happened as he discussed a business deal with a stranger on the internet. Veitch turns the tables on the spammer and what results is a hilarious series of emails you just have to see him reveal in story form. Spoiler alert: it involves a giant gummy lizard.

5. Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Appropriately, I’ve included Tim Urban’s talk on procrastination that was a result of a successful blog post he published on his site “Wait But Why?” In the talk, he explains the procrastinator’s system, which includes three characters in the mind of every procrastinator—the rational decision maker, the instant gratification monkey and the panic monster. But what Urban discovered is that a procrastinator with a deadline, and a procrastinator without a deadline, experience entirely different struggles.

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