If you look in the right corners, the Internet can be an all-you-can-eat buffet of motivational quotes. But when it comes to making real changes, clever wordplay doesn’t cut it. We need tangible actions and ideas to inspire us to break out of a rut.
That’s why we took a deep dive in the world of TED talks and found the best ones to help you kick ass at work (and also, you know, life)—from how to survive a meeting to the steps you need to take to stop screwing yourself over. Sure, it’s all easier said than done, but the stirring blend of science, anecdotes, and pregnant pauses delivered by charismatic experts makes us realize that the doing is a lot easier than we think.
1. Mel Robbins: How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over
Video (youtube): Lp7E973zozc Mel Robbins comes across like the mildly terrifying teacher who pushed you to be your best and wouldn’t accept anything less. The loving scold (“What do you want? And here’s the deal, I don’t want it to sound good to other people.”) is just as effective in front of an audience as it is in the classroom. The no-bullshit approach is enough to make anyone feel empowered to really go out and get what they want.
2. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work
Video (youtube): fLJsdqxnZb0 Shawn Achor’s talk is both hilarious and poignant, and it kept us glued to the screen for the entire 12 minutes. The takeaway? Happiness breeds success, and if you can tap into the “happiness advantage,” good things will follow. Concrete suggestions for becoming happier (the hard part) start around the 11-minute mark.
3. Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Video (youtube): Ks-_Mh1QhMc Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s talk on body langauge is an unlikely tearjerker, so make sure tissues are within arm’s reach before pressing play. Cuddy shares her personal story of overcoming the feeling of being an impostor in the world of academia as a way to explain how anyone can become more confident and feel more powerful—all thanks to some simple psychological tricks.
4. Alison Ledgerwood: Getting Stuck in the Negatives (and How to Get Unstuck)
Video (youtube): 7XFLTDQ4JMk Do you see the glass as half full or empty? Most people tend to see either the positive or negative, and that’s just the way it is. Or is it? Social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood decided to investigate and found that when bad things happen, the harsh vibes tend to stick around longer than the elation we experience after hearing good news. Luckily at 7:35, Ledgerwood tells us how to turn it around.
5. Laura Sicola: Want to Sound Like a Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right
Video (youtube): 02EJ1IdC6tE There’s nothing like the frustration of having a truly great idea but not being heard by the powers that be. Vocal coach Laura Sicola says one way to avoid these hair-pulling situations is to focus on your executive presence—your appearance, communication skills, and gravitas. As superficial as it might seem, the delivery makes a difference.
6. Scott Dinsmore: How to Find and Do Work You Love
Video (youtube): jpe-LKn-4gM Scott Dinsmore’s fairytale story of quitting his pencil-pusher job in corporate America and moving to San Francisco to do work that really matters to him might not be possible for everyone. But his takeaway is widely applicable: Know what you want, know you’re in control, and know what you’re made of.
7. Nigel Marsh: Work-Life Balance Is an Ongoing Battle
Video (youtube): SXM7MpoVAD0 Self-help author Nigel Marsh has spent a lot of time over the past decade thinking about work-life balance. One thing is abundantly clear to him: We can’t let corporations be in charge of that balance. We need to be the ones sailing that ship. But that doesn’t mean making drastic changes. Instead, he says the smallest investment in the right places can lead to that well-lived life we’re all striving for.
8. David Grady: How to Survive Meetings
Video (youtube): F6Qo8IDsVNg David Grady wants us to start thinking of ineffecient meetings as time that your co-workers are stealing from you. The information security manager teaches us how to say no to any pesky meeting request and how to make necessary meetings more productive.
9. Ivan Joseph: The Skill of Self-Confidence
Video (youtube): w-HYZv6HzAs Ivan Joseph is the athletic director and head coach of the varsity soccer team at Ryerson University. When he’s recruiting players, he doesn’t look for the one who’s the fastest or has the best kick. Instead, he looks for kids with self-confidence—and he explains why it’s a necessary skill, no matter what stage of life you find yourself in. Sure, it’s slighty corny, but it’s also something we all need to hear.