Are you a watcher of Ted? Do you have a list of favorite Ted talks, as I do?
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.”
It was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990.[ TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics.
The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Before 2014, the conference was held in Long Beach.
TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling.
The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.
Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.
TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” If this sounds like a philosophy you can relate to, then you’ll love TED talks. These informational 18-minute presentations are given at annual conferences by some of the world’s greatest thinkers.
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday morning. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work.
Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.
Before proceeding further, I heard a story about Joe DiMaggio. Let me tell you about it.
Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. A three-time winner of the Most Valuable Player award, DiMaggio was selected to the Major League All-Star team in each of his thirteen seasons. He is best known for his remarkable hitting streak during the 1941 season when he recorded a hit in fifty-six consecutive games—a record that still stands more than seventy-five years later.
The radio announcer explained a little-known story about how DiMaggio acquired his exceptional ability.
As the story goes, a journalist was interviewing DiMaggio at his home and asked him what it felt like to be such a “natural hitter.” Without saying a word, he dragged the reporter downstairs. In the shadows of the basement, DiMaggio picked up a bat and began to repeat a series of practice swings.
Before each swing, he would call out a particular pitch such as “fastball, low and away” or “slider, inside” and adjust his approach accordingly.
Once he finished the routine, DiMaggio set the bat down, picked up a piece of chalk, and scratched a tally mark on the wall.
Then he flicked on the lights to reveal thousands of tally marks covering the basement walls. Supposedly, DiMaggio then looked at the journalist and said, “Don’t you ever tell me that I’m a natural hitter again.” 
We love stories like this—stories that highlight how remarkable success is the product of effort and perseverance.
In recent years, the study of hard work has developed into a scientific pursuit. Experts have begun to refer to focused and effortful training as “deliberate practice” and it is widely considered to be the recipe for success.
Like this story, the aim of Ted talks is simple: To inspire ideas and change attitudes around the world. As of April 2014, there were over 1,700 of these incredible talks available free online to choose from.
Sadly, listening to them all would take 20 days solid. Happily, you don’t have to because I’ve picked 20 of my favorite life changing for you. Listen, learn, and enjoy.
The danger of a single story Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories.
Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Your body language shapes who you are Amy Cuddy
Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
My stroke of insight Jill Bolte Taylor
Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one.
An astonishing story.
TED … the best stats you’ve ever seen Hans Rosling
You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”
If I should have a daughter … Sarah Kay
“If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … ” began spoken word poet, Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011.
She tells the story of her metamorphosis — from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. — and gives two breathtaking performances of “B” and “Hiroshima.”
My escape from North Korea Hyeonseo Lee
As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee thought her country was “the best on the planet.” It wasn’t until the famine of the 90s that she began to wonder.
She escaped the country at 14, to begin a life in hiding, as a refugee in China.
Hers is a harrowing, personal tale of survival and hope — and a powerful reminder of those who face constant danger, even when the border is far behind.
How bacteria “talk” Bonnie Bassler
Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks.
The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.
TED … I think we all need a pep talk Kid President
Kid President commands you to wake up, listen to the beating of your heart and create something that will make the world awesome.
This video from SoulPancake delivers a soul-stirring dose of inspiration that only a 9-year-old can give.
Your elusive creative genius Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius.
It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
The art of misdirection Apollo Robbins
Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch.
In a hilarious demonstration, Robbins samples the buffet of the TED Global 2013 audience, showing how the flaws in our perception make it possible to swipe a wallet and leave it on its owner’s shoulder while they remain clueless.
Gaming can make a better world Jane McGonigal
Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes.
What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.
Looks aren’t everything. Believe me; I’m a model Cameron Russell
Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks.
In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.
Learning from dirty jobs Mike Rowe
Mike Rowe, the host of “Dirty Jobs,” tells some compelling (and horrifying) real-life job stories.
Listen for his insights and observations about the nature of hard work, and how it’s been unjustifiably degraded in society today.
A performance of “Mathemagic” Arthur Benjamin
In a lively show, mathemagician Arthur Benjamin races a team of calculators to figure out 3-digit squares, solves another massive mental equation and guesses a few birthdays.
How does he do it? He’ll tell you.
Why the universe seems so strange Richard Dawkins
Biologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for “thinking the improbable” by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe.
How schools kill creativity Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
To This Day … for the bullied and beautiful Shane Koyczan
By turn hilarious and haunting, poet Shane Koyczan puts his finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young and … different. “To This Day,” his spoken-word poem about bullying, captivated millions as a viral video (created, crowd-source style, by 80 animators).
Here, he gives a glorious, live reprise with backstory and violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson.
Greening the ghetto Majora Carter
In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx — and shows how minority neighborhoods suffer most from flawed urban policy.
Life lessons from an ad man Rory Sutherland
Advertising adds value to a product by changing our perception, rather than the product itself.
Rory Sutherland makes the daring assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value — and his conclusion has interesting consequences for how we look at life.
The moral roots of liberals and conservatives Jonathan Haidt
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center.
In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.
The bottom line
Well, what is your conclusion? Will you join the Ted watchers club?
If you see the world from a different perspective, let us know in the comments which of these talks were your favorites. You can also add the ones that we missed so that others can enjoy them too!
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of business. Find him on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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20 of My Favorite Ted Talks and Why I Liked Them So Much