I recently came across a list of 33 inspiring TED talks on the Week Hack website. Upon reading through it, I was struck by the fact that my list would look very different. I invited my social media friends and followers to share their most inspiring TED talks, promising that I would do the same. Here are six of my favorites, presented in no particular order:
“Why Our IQ Levels are Higher than our Grandparents.” During his lengthy research career, intelligence researcher James Flynn examined IQ test scores from different eras and parts of the world. In doing so, he uncovered a remarkable finding, now known as the Flynn Effect: Test scores have increased steadily over time. These increases are fairly linear and consistent across settings and types of tests used.
Here, Flynn offers a possible explanation for the increase. Although his delivery is a bit dry, I find this talk inspiring because it serves as an important reminder not to underestimate ourselves. Whatever we think we are capable of doing, thinking, or being, there is always more. Each generation makes new strides with respect to abstract and moral reasoning. The Flynn Effect is one of many reasons to have hope for the future of humanity.
“Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Since giving this groundbreaking talk, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy has been harassed by academic colleagues who seem obsessed with dismissing her research findings on what she calls “power poses.” In no way does this criticism detract from the power or veracity of Cuddy’s message in my view. Her basic message that our body posture affects our mental state is perfectly consistent with my own research into the effects of Repose. In this fascinating talk, Cuddy explains how assuming a position or stance that makes you seem bigger also makes you feel more confident, relaxed, and powerful—qualities that others observe in you during social interactions. She shows us how our bodies can change our minds in as little as two minutes. The power poses that Cuddy has designed and tested are effective. I know this from my own experience and from my observation of hundreds of others that I have introduced to these poses. There is no doubt in my mind about the validity or usefulness of Cuddy’s work, regardless of what the doubters might say.
“What if We are Wrong about Diabetes?” I love it when someone challenges basic assumptions, as surgeon Peter Appia does in this beautiful, touching talk on the underlying causes of diabetes. Appia describes his judgmental attitudes regarding his obese patients with Type 2 diabetes until he himself was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome—an important precursor of diabetes—in spite of his careful diet and rigorous workout regimen. Here, Appia suggests that insulin resistance causes obesity and not the other way around, as the medical establishment has assumed. He ends his talk with a moving, heartfelt apology to an obese patient he had judged in the past. The reason I find this talk so inspiring is that it combines intellect and heart in ways that lead the audience to challenge their own assumptions.
“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This classic “last lecture” by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer at the time, is one of the first Ted talks I ever watched, and it is certainly one of the more inspiring. I do not consider most of Paush’s observations or conclusions about following one’s dreams to be particularly fresh or earth-shattering, but there is no denying the passion or conviction with which he delivers this talk. At the end of the talk, he reveals that the lecture is intended for his three children as his parting gift to them. Through his words, Pausch left a precious legacy not just for his family but for millions of viewers who have benefited from his compassionate message.
"Carrot Clarinet." In a powerful five-minute demonstration of creativity, Linsey Pollack builds a clarinet out of a carrot and then proceeds to play it, producing a wonderful, jazzy melody. What’s not inspiring about that?
Sometimes, music speaks louder than words. Hearing ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the uke will blow you away!
So, that's my take. Now, feel free to share yours! What are your favorite TED talks? You can post your choices in the Comments section below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.