5 TED Talks That Have Changed How I Think About Life, Leadership, Happiness and Success - rocketMBA
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5 TED Talks That Have Changed How I Think About Li...

5 TED Talks That Have Changed How I Think About Life, Leadership, Happiness and Success

I have to admit that I’m a huge fanboy of TED Talks. Whenever I have some time to spare and don’t feel like binge watching the next big Netflix success show, I open the TED app on my iPad. Similar to the mood playlists on Spotify, TED has fantastic playlists and a “Surprise Me” feature that lets you pick whether you want to watch, for example, a courageous, beautiful or inspiring talk. Whatever your preferred mood, all speakers share “Ideas Worth Spreading,” following the mission of the TED conference.

While I usually watch talks I haven’t seen yet, there are a few that have stuck with me over the years and that I re-watch once in a while. These speeches, stories, and presentations contain ideas so incredibly powerful that they have changed how I think about life, leadership, happiness, and success. The following five talks are on top of my list and I’m sure they will also make you think differently.

1. Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

With more than 25 million views, this is among the most watched TED Talks in the world. In a very personal and lighthearted way Brené Brown shares her journey of studying what builds human connection and how she found that to feel close and intimate you need to embrace vulnerability. You have to open up to connect deeply with others – and to do that you need to overcome your shame of not being good enough. Interviewing thousands of people, she found that those who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe that they themselves are worthy of love, despite any shortcomings.

They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

2. Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe

Author and leadership expert Simon Sinek‘s first TED Talk about the importance for leaders to know their “why” to inspire action is a TED classic with more than 28 million views. Personally, I find his 2014 TED Talk even more inspiring. Telling some compelling stories and analogies, Sinek argues that leadership is a choice and not a rank and that the role of a leader is to put the safety and lives of the people he serves first.

We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so their people may gain, and when we do, the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us.

3. Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

For 75 years, the Harvard Study of Adult Development recorded the lives of 724 men and interviewed them about their professional and personal lives, their health, and happiness. Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger shares what kept these men truly happy and satisfied throughout their lives and what lessons we can learn from them.

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

4. Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory

In this talk, founder of behavioral economics and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman shares a few cognitive traps that make it hard to think about happiness in a straight-forward way. He distinguishes between experiencing happiness, i.e. being happy in your life, and remembering happiness, i.e. being happy with your life.

… in recent years, we have begun to learn about the happiness of the two selves. And the main lesson (…) we have learned is they are really different. You can know how satisfied somebody is with their life, and that really doesn’t teach you much about how happily they’re living their life, and vice versa.

5. John Wooden: The difference between winning and succeeding

We have written about the great life and business lessons from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden before, and this fantastic talk is full of them. With many anecdotes and some great poetry, Wooden shares what advice he gave generations of players to succeed on the court and in life. What stuck with me the most is his personal definition of success:

Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable. I believe that’s true. If you make the effort to do the best of which you’re capable, trying to improve the situation that exists for you, I think that’s success, and I don’t think others can judge that.

What are your favorite TED Talks? Share them with us below or on Facebook or Twitter!


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Before graduating from Stanford GSB with an MBA in 2016, Dan worked more than five years in media and communications. Dan grew up in Germany and now lives in Los Angeles where he enjoys being surrounded by more beaches, culture and coffee shops than one can ask for. He currently works as Entrepreneur in Residence at different properties of media company Bertelsmann.

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