9 Life-Changing TED Talks You Probably Haven’t Seen

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily”, Zig Ziglar had popularly said.

We read countless self help articles and books, and watch hundreds of self-pep videos. These are wonderful exercises. They keep us motivated to pursue a better life for ourselves.

But some philosophies go deeper – deeper than enhancing the external aspects of self improvement. They take the perspectives we harbored all our lives, crumple them into paper balls, and fling them into the fire by the mantlepiece. The stirred up fire makes us feel warmer. These philosophies go beyond inspiration.

You have heard many popular TED Talks. These talks, viewed and shared tens of millions of times, give you strength to pull off yet another day. But some not-so-popular talks possess the ability to make you question how you lead your life, and stretch the limits of your imagination. You never feel the same again.

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Here are nine TED Talks which have made me feel like a different person. Check them out, and bookmark them for when you want to spend some time in introspection. They just might be what you need to turn over a new leaf.

9 Life-Changing TED Talks You Probably Haven’t Seen

1. “What Makes Us Sick? Look Upstream” by Rishi Manchanda

This talk by Rishi Manchanda in 2014 has just 1.2 million views, but is as powerful (if not more) as Amy Cuddy’s body language talk. According to Machanda, our living and working conditions have twice the impact on our health than our genetic code. These conditions, coupled with the environmental and social fabric, and the impact of them all, affect our health five times more than pills and procedures administered by doctors and hospitals combined. While the talk is for physicians, general practitioners and other doctors, the message is powerful enough for us all to imbibe: health is not just a personal responsibility; it’s a common good. To be happier, we must be healthier. If we cannot live in an uptown society, our duty is to ensure that we create a hygienic environment conducive for living.

2. “Why We Do What We Do” by Tony Robbins

This was the first TED Talk I ever watched. I hadn’t heard of Tony Robbins. But the talk struck a deep chord. According to Robbins, the invisible force of internal drive is the most important thing. Emotion is the force of life. The right emotion will always make you succeed at what you do. Unfortunately, we live in a therapy culture. We are our past. Biography is destiny, Robbins says. But when you understand that decision is the ultimate power, that your decision now will shape your future, you appreciate yourself and others. This talk will make you realize how your model of the world – your filter – decides how your life turns out in the long run.

3. “How to Find Work You Love” by Scott Dinsmore

Scott Dinsmore passed away in an unfortunate accident last year. He was only 32. James Clear and Leo Babauta wrote tributes for him. And when people you respect write about someone, you have to discover more about him. That’s how I watched Scott’s TED Talk for the first time. I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched it after that. Scott explained why Warren Buffett’s quote, “Taking jobs to build up your resume is the same as saving sex for old age” holds true. Most people today are climbing the ladder to nowhere. Over 80 percent people don’t enjoy their work. But, Scott discovered a framework of three pillars which sets the remaining 20 percent apart. These pillars are in your control. And they can change your world if you decide to do something about it. This TED Talk will make you step back and look at how you live your life. Reflect on it, take action, and live a better life.

4. “Let’s Teach for Mastery — Not Test Scores” by Sal Khan

Sal Khan highlights a blunder we committed while growing up. But it wasn’t our fault. The educational system failed to address gaps in our learning. Instead of fixing them, it switched to a topic built on those gaps. But that doesn’t mean you must learn (or teach) like that now. In martial arts, you practice white belt skills as long as necessary, and then become a yellow belt. The same occurs when you learn a musical instrument. So, Khan explains how you can learn mastery. Not only does this make you learn better, but it reinforces the right mindset muscles. It makes you realize that if you don’t understand something fully, you’re not dumb; you should just keep working on it. Build grit and perseverance, and take agency over your learning. Rest assured, this talk will change how you think about learning.

5. “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by Shawn Achor

“If I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness”, Shawn Achor says. Reality doesn’t shape us. Instead, how our brain views the world shapes our reality. Achor has worked with schools and companies in more than 45 countries. He has found a common belief among them: that working harder leads to more success which, in turn, will lead to more happiness. But if we raise our positivity, our brain is more productive. That makes us happier. Thus, if we can become positive in the present, we can work harder, faster and more intelligently. Watch this talk to understand how we have got the correlation between success and happiness wrong, and how we can fix it.

6. “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain

If you are an introvert, this is a must watch. If you are an extrovert, watch it nonetheless. About a third to half of the world’s population are introverts. Introversion is not synonymous with being shy (though many introverts admit they are shy). It means that you respond to external stimulus differently. You prefer time in solitude, which is a crucial ingredient in creativity. In fact, psychologists have found that creative people are good at exchanging and advancing ideas. These creative people need solitude for sustenance. Solitude is the air thats some people (including yours truly) breathe. Watch this talk to affirm that being an introvert is okay. In fact, introversion has its own set of advantages, which you can use to chart out a better quality of life for yourself.

7. “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve” by Carol Dweck

Many of us believe that life will get better if people around us start treating us better. That’s a myth. People leading better (read, happier) lives are those who are always on a learning curve. This small set of people, according to Carol Dweck, harbor the most popular yet elusive mindset today – ‘the growth mindset’. They believe their abilities can be developed, and instill confidence and resilience in themselves. This mindset prepares them to get out of their comfort zone and become lifelong learners. Dweck, in this talk, shares how adding two simple words to your vocabulary can make you develop the growth mindset and pursue a meaningful life.

8. “How to Live Passionately – No Matter Your Age” by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is 71, but says she is still 17. She attributes a a large part of this unique aging process to living passionately. Aging is also about attitude and health, she says. Along the way of life, she has learned many lessons. Like being less dependent, for instance. And letting go of fears, and gaining the freedom of not needing to prove herself to anyone. Allende, in the brief TED Talk, says that being passionate cannot be willed. Instead, we must say yes to life and love. It doesn’t always work, but she keeps trying. As should we.

9. “The Day I Stood Up Alone” by Boniface Mwangi

Boniface Mwangi was brought up in a period when the poor of Kenya were five times more likely to be shot by policemen – the people meant to protect them – than by criminals. In 2006, an election in Kenya was followed by terrible violence and killings. As a professional photographer, Mwangi had to document this violence. Then, he quit his job and called out the president during the latter’s speech. He was beaten by the police and thrown in jail. But soon, a number of young people joined him in creating street exhibitions to show the images of violence across the country. People started talking about it, and media from all over the continent covered it. “There are two most powerful days in your life”, Mwangi says. “The day you are born, and the day you discover why. And the moment you discover your voice, you are no longer afraid……… there’s such a beauty in doing that.”


  1. Shailaja Vishwanath September 19, 2016
    • Vishal September 20, 2016
  2. Parul Thakur September 19, 2016
    • Vishal September 20, 2016
  3. Rajlakshmi September 22, 2016
    • Vishal September 22, 2016
  4. Ramya Abhinand September 24, 2016
  5. Ola Rybacka September 26, 2016
  6. Audra Harisson February 28, 2017

Leave a Reply