By Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 17, 2019
We've all heard it: "You have to watch this Ted Talk!" These viral 20-minute orations have become a pervasive part of our culture, each promising fascinating information, life-changing advice, or keys to success. They are quick, easy, and accessible. But often they simply skim the surface of the topic and leave us wanting more. Fortunately, lots of these brilliant people are also authors who write books on the same topics. Here are seven of our favorite talks and the books that go with them.
French biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard speaks and writes about the importance of making happiness a primary goal in life. Why should we not pursue joy the same way we pursue things like wealth and fitness? Weaving together works of fiction and poetry, Western philosophy, Buddhist beliefs, scientific research, and personal experience, Ricard presents a way to rethink our realities in a fast-moving modern world. His book, Happiness, shares revelatory lessons and exercises for finding serenity in your life.
In addition to two great Ted Talks, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has also written several bestselling novels and short story collections. She is a magnificent storyteller, whether fiction or nonfiction. In her Ted Talk and book, We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie talks about her journey to happy, inclusive form of feminism and offers readers a unique definition of this oft-maligned term. Drawing extensively on her own life and her confrontations with sexual politics all over the world, she argues against stereotypical gender identities for both men and women.
Think you would work harder if you got paid more? Think again. In his Ted Talk, Drive author and motivation expert Daniel H. Pink explains the "fundamental mismatch" that exists between science and business. Citing abundant research that shows that external incentives don't work, Pink explains that people simply aren't energized by things like bonuses and perks. Instead, businesses that generate high levels of productivity give employees three key things: autonomy over their work, a feeling they can achieve mastery, and a larger sense of purpose. Learn how you can change the way you work or improve your company's operations by rethinking motivational factors.
What's the key to success? According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, it's Grit, a special combination of passion and perseverance. Whether you're struggling through daily tasks at a nine-to-five office job, or you're Pete Carroll leading a team to Super Bowl victory, this attainable quality plays a key role in accomplishing your goals. Based on interviews with everyone from National Spelling Bee winners to CEOs, she shares how grit changes the way people approach life. She also makes the case for why inherent talent isn't as important as some might think and, in fact, a lack of it can be easily overcome. See her Ted Talk here.
Sir Ken Robinson speaks eloquently about the ways in which schools are killing creativity. He makes the argument that with a focus on being correct and getting it right, learners are discouraged from taking risks. If nobody takes risks, then they can't possibly create something new and different, which is the very definition of progress and excellence. He argues that our greatest resource is in our children and youth and that we must change the way we are approaching their education if they are going to succeed in changing the world. In his book, Creative Schools, he goes into greater depth about the specific ways in which we can improve our educational system.
With her new special on Netflix and five bestselling books, including Daring Greatly, you may already be familiar with the research of Brené Brown, but if not, let us introduce you! Her speaking and writing focuses on the importance of letting down our barriers for human connection. Her research focuses on people who live, as she puts it, whole-heartedly, which means they allow themselves to be vulnerable. They dare to open themselves up and expose their weaknesses and in doing so, they become stronger, happier people.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. As a young attorney, he found himself extremely frustrated by the inequities of the US criminal justice system. As he puts it, it's a system that "treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent." In 1972 there were 300,000 people incarcerated in our country. Today, we're at 2.3 million, the highest rate in the world. Stevenson's talk and book, Just Mercy, focus on the ways in which our justice system is inherently flawed. He cites statistical and anecdotal evidence showing the damage this is doing to our whole society.
Do you have a favorite Ted Talk and/or a book by a Ted Talk speaker? We'd love to hear about it in your comments!