10 Must-Watch TED Talks That Have the Power to Change Your Life

By Mackayleigh O'HareLast Updated Jan 22, 2021 1:25:10 PM ET
D L12 Tbavbg0l2sfifirwlhulpg8hreuczub7ay3qnkojhbr Rrlwhcxcrnh0jdsj8 Ryscoxdecejgidsaemq2dl9wkmkt451nqvdab5ewe0klqfegchykbpbcv19ktbomkk6xmnh2 Gmuww
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

These days, just choosing a single topic list on TED Talks can be a tough decision. With hours and hours of content available on every subject under the sun, the site has become a boundless source of motivation and inspiration. When faced with the chance to listen to so many amazing speakers, how do you decide which TED Talks to check out first? Not only do we totally get it, but we've also assembled a collection of 10 talks that’ll help you take the plunge into the world of truly life-changing TED Talks.

10. Adam Driver (feat. Jesse Perez and Matt Johnson) | “My Journey from Marine to Actor”

These days, TED Talks seem to be an even better way to get to know celebrities than late-night talk shows. Adam Driver, a.k.a. Star Wars' Kylo Ren, reveals that before he got into show business, he served as a United States Marine.

Qlaawthhauk2gq36spxc9twzq03zewvybnvp0uxcqqqrql8i 4e9uhts4h3ipqk7pu8q3 Mujkndhwfvtrf Zstk8moteclsw1farwjf Vguzqtb4hzmxnucgrsb9g2wjv66xggc5z47nxdk6w
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

In addition to wielding a lightsaber on screen, Driver is the founder of a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces. In the talk, the Marine-turned-actor explains that, "Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder." The presentation even includes a bonus performance of "I am not Batman" by Jesse J. Perez and Matt Johnson.

9. Kelly McGonigal | "How to Make Stress Your Friend"

Kelly McGonigal, who is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, joins the ranks of other TED Talk speakers to reveal a surprising discovery about stress. She talks about a recent study that concluded that our views and reactions to stress actually determine how it affects our health.

Hh2owxnpw1g Sfsjcfrmxo3zoqkwrq736wejnvbs4pw2 Vkkncelha6 K7q0yteuzscae9nq0paxfxb5u3xktfwzsqonfpjs1xmpviqktzji4syeoqwdhmyzhptuavef3iyqg 7j Yzu8zoevw
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

As it turns out, stress itself isn't necessarily as big of a problem as the negativity that we attach to it. By reshaping your beliefs about stress, you can actually change the ways it impacts your body and overall health. This one sounds particularly useful these days, doesn’t it?

Advertisement

8. Sarah Kay | “If I Should Have a Daughter…"

Watch this one and you’ll know quite immediately why this TED Talk performance by spoken word poet Sarah Kay got two standing ovations at TED2011. Kay gives several powerful spoken word performances throughout her tale, which recounts how she grew from a young teenage poet into a teacher.

Yswaqlf7 Iri4gikpv8q8rnua Bflmixsxzw7pyasueyzvamuc2fktmepdvn4alxyzvc0ibxksflozr1cksss9srk5tcfqxi2zfz0dtzpd4w7b3bkxrk Pegskp Llfmzx00yiv1wi4w2igeha
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

She also discusses her work with Project V.O.I.C.E., where she now passes along her love of self-expression to the next generation. Particularly inspiring for creatives, this TED Talk leaves an indelible impression.

Advertisement

7. Sir Ken Robinson | “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

Among the most popular TED Talks of all time, this presentation by author and educator Sir Ken Robinson shines a light on our current education system. He points out that our schools are built around a specific type of learning — one that doesn't necessarily nurture creativity.

Q6zhah6sxqex Pj9vrwnfzrysy4uwvkseuhi Ncmnb8w8qwl8o6atvy9g Br1wrlrxr16bvc5adf7deimlbfxgrqxvdx1msuu47zklysq2rslio5evjmferbhtjwkbqzfb7mlnq0yovbieaamg
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

Robinson then proceeds to make a powerful argument about why we should consider reshaping the way we educate our children, so that our schools help encourage their natural creative impulses, as opposed to downplaying them. This one is great for students, parents and educators alike.

Advertisement

6. Brene Brown | “The Power of Vulnerability”

This TEDxHouston TED Talk by Brene Brown has garnered over 50,000,000 hits and is ranked among the best TED Talks of all time. An expert on human connection, Brown shares revelations from her research on emotions like shame and vulnerability.

Nccary3 Ilb6tcmi7i6v7mqsnpg Yjw Wsq2kvyrztr7ivipnx7shsetpjyuil7xtjz5oqz7zwrymgwqemxsyuov Vpxeia Jf3fam6qnu74ptn4vddh Vlyzoyeomzhrk7cvwbnqyg Muiyza
Photo Courtesy: TEDEd/YouTube

Throughout this inspirational and funny talk, Brown discusses how her quest to understand humanity took her on a deeply personal journal of transformation. Find out how her discoveries can help you understand difficult emotions and shape the way you connect to yourself and others.

Advertisement

5. Alejandro Aravena | “My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community Into the Process”

Alejandro Aravena is an urban architect who has a knack for thinking outside the box. When he took on a project that involved building housing for 100 Chilean families, he ended up finding inspiration from some surprising sources.

Mkcqre 5y36o8viwtxmev5xadlsmmxphymcg9ai3fblsuggd3wpcbhewkgvydxdbdal J P7it9 Tkzjujmb9f6v0ulk4k Tdad1tsis4riucmmfb25gf7qb2jvnl5gomquey Y6nh5wsresng
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

Join Aravena as he shares his designs for several projects, all while demonstrating how creativity can help find simple solutions to complex problems. Another highlight? This talk emphasizes visuals, from chalkboard notations to beautiful renderings of the architect’s designs.

Advertisement

4. Rutger Bregman | “Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character; It’s a Lack of Cash”

While it may be tempting to believe that poverty is an unsolvable problem, author Rutger Bregman says this is far from the case. Throughout this fascinating TED Talk, he delves into why poverty exists, all while dispelling common myths often associated with folks who live in poverty.

5zqs33k2m3bemjs65vm46urcfrp1mshfi Q0 J7ywvzx7 4ycygkhiffvhz7u92fckbobg6bny3nivgsizf1 2niecpc6phzghu7sgpozsbp Nfhcil Tuzf1hm9ee5czmlzc5xh 0gjuva2 G
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

Think guaranteed basic income is just a pie-in-the-sky idea? "Ideas can and do change the world," Bregman says in this provocative talk that focuses on just "how much energy and talent we would unleash" if we could just eliminate poverty for good.

Advertisement

3. Bryan Stevenson | “We Need to Talk About Injustice”

If you're ready to take an honest, insightful look at racial injustice in America, then this TED Talk by human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson is a great place to start. Stevenson breaks down the issue of race in the American justice system and explains why the cards tend to be stacked against Black Americans.

2mvhka Amcw2fsw8kk Okz8p6daec7rwwtqsdr4k4r Uj6twwqr9 Djelk Rbofoqqnzx36z Xj13iwkwxoqcobeo Ve C6k0jzerwrw6tug6fkwj9mexhd8wo Tcl Apr K5mofrfyhmtlna
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

As discussed in Stevenson’s talk, a third of America’s Black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives — and this injustice and imbalance is completely wrapped up in a history many white Americans refuse to look at honestly. By tracing injustices through under-examined moments in American history, Stevenson reveals how pervasive and entrenched racism really is in our country and its institutions.

Advertisement

2. Lizzie Velasquez | “How Do You Define Yourself?”

Author and motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare disorder that forced her to confront a great deal of negativity throughout her life. In this TED Talk, Velasquez shares the coping mechanisms she's developed, which have helped her turn negativity into a vehicle for growth.

Pde65rt67h6e7 Corvgsfxl9qt6r3sbmcoruwkgymdwegedzybudrvioorj36581aldrexsqp6tpdp8a3onbqt0hx9rgoul9erbpsu Z4xkfrk51l2nd1vqbklm69o8 Iqaw Ljnp Cu7tvkw
Photo Courtesy: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage/Getty Images

"Tell me those negative things," Velasquez says. "I'm gonna turn them around and use them as a ladder to climb up to my goals." Both powerful and funny, her presentation reveals a list of tools that everyone can use to release the hold negativity has over their lives.

Advertisement

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | “The Danger of a Single Story”

While we may think of stories as mere entertainment, acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reveals that they're so much more than just that. Throughout her talk, Adichie shows listeners how stories shape everything, from our individual lives to our views on other cultures and identities that are unlike our own.

Al5mkdttbll2147uawxwkabep2nn2 F1bodpulczpisi0m84xokiee9rj9id4wxnrji2jtt1enj51us6iguybm92mqjpmnynatmiv7rfzuwwnqucgdhlprmlq07rcegbpq0t8xx4ssete0lx A
Photo Courtesy: TED/YouTube

In addition to discussing how she found her "authentic cultural voice," Adichie delves into the way no work of art can be a monolith — can represent the whole of a person or culture. In doing so, she illustrates just how hearing a single story about another person or group of people actually increases our chances of embracing a misconstrued viewpoint — a viewpoint that leaves out countless critical details.

Advertisement

Honorable Mention: Joe Smith | “How to Use One Paper Towel”

If you're familiar with TED Talks, then you may already know that they can range from the innovative to the hilarious. This one is a mixture of both. In this short talk, Joe Smith explains the proper way to use a single paper towel to dry your hands and manages to make some great points about conservation along the way.

Yzxrcz9zcgqjdyvy3t Ul5py7txo4 Jyk4llth7tz 9lnhb1cmqt86bqmiuut7astp7wr5q2nvgrtavblaeiiumy3eegc2lohlwaqn6znk6rsnguptrwead0lm9tdspd9zy Bgytdbpfjxzea
Photo Courtesy: Tedx Talks/Getty Images