Being an entrepreneur is tough. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had a team of the world’s best and brightest minds to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey?
Well, thanks to TED Talks, you can.
TED Talks are, hands down, one of the best tools you could possibly add to your entrepreneur’s toolbelt. Each talk dives into a topic (or, as TED calls them, “ideas worth spreading”) that will not only make you a better entrepreneur, but potentially a better person.
What makes TED Talks unique is that they’re not just the straightforward business and marketing tips you might find elsewhere. TED Talks embrace soft skills—like being a good listener; embracing the talents of your team; building trust and showing empathy—and show that they are just as important to success as knowing how to reach your target audience or raising funding for your startup. And the best part? There’s literally a TED Talk for every entrepreneur, no matter who you are, where you are in your business or what you’re struggling with.
Seriously, if you’re not watching TED Talks to brush up on your entrepreneurial skills, you’re missing out. Big time.
Thanks to the insane variety of TED Talks, it can be hard to sift through them and find what you’re looking for, so we decided to make it easy for you and put together a list of 11 TED Talks that will make you a better entrepreneur (Oh yeah, and they’re all available for free in our YouTube playlist):
1. Listen, learn… then lead, Stanley McChrystal
Celebrated four-star general Stanley McChrystal has spent decades as a leader in the US Army. Over the years, he’s had the unique challenge of leading teams of vastly different ages, backgrounds, and skill sets and uniting them under the common purpose of serving our country.
In the military, it’s imperative that the entire team works as a unit; it’s literally life or death. And in order for the team to work as a unit, they need a strong leader they can stand behind. And McChrystal’s secret for being that leader?
By listening to and learning from his team.
In his speech, McChrystal talks about the importance of taking a step back and focusing on listening to your team before you attempt to lead them. By listening to your team and adjusting your leadership style to meet their needs, not only will you drive better results from your employees, but you’ll become a stronger, better leader in the process.
2. How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek
In order for any business to be successful, it needs a team of people working towards meeting its goals.
Many entrepreneurs focus on the “what” or the “how” of their business; they get caught up in products, services, processes, and systems. Which is important, but you’re never going to motivate a team to work tirelessly to bring your vision to life based on a “what” or a “how.”
If you want to motivate people and inspire action, your focus needs to be on the “why.”
In his talk, motivational speaker and marketing consultant Simon Sinek talks about the “Golden Circle” that makes up all business: what, why, and how. Sinek says that in order to truly motivate and inspire action in your team, you need to focus on the “why;” your true motivation for bringing your business into the world.
So why is the “why” important? Once you’ve gotten your team on board with the “why”—your motivation—they’ll be much more willing to work towards the “how” and the “what”—the products, services, processes, and procedures you need to build your business. This is essential if you want to build and grow your business.
3. Got a meeting? Take a walk, Nilofer Merchant
Meetings are a necessary evil in the business world. But if you’re spending all of your meetings with your butt glued to a chair, not only are you dropping the ball on productivity, but you’re also doing some serious damage to your body and health.
We’ve become a sedentary society, and it’s killing us. People spend an average of 9.3 hours per day sitting and is so bad for your health it’s been called the “smoking of our generation,” leading to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and a whole slew of other health problems.
So, in a nutshell, sitting = bad. And if we want to be healthier, we need to get up and get moving. So why not get up and get moving during your meetings?
In her talk, author and product innovation expert Nilofer Merchant talks about the importance of movement throughout the workday and how her institution of “walking meetings” has not only helped her up her walking activity to the tune of 20 to 30 miles a week, but also helped her and her team come up with new and innovative ideas they might never have discovered while chained to their desks. So, if you want to inspire the same kind of innovation at your company – and keep yourself from falling victim to the health dangers of too much sitting – you should give this talk a listen and give walking meetings a try, too.
4. The happy secret to better work, Shawn Achor
Most of us think being productive and moving forward at work will make us happy.
But what if we have it backwards? What if the key to being productive is being happy, and not the other way around?
That’s what positive psychology expert Shawn Achor argues. In his talk, Achor discusses why we would all be better served to focus on increasing our happiness than increasing our productivity, because when we’re happier, we’re more productive, but when we’re more productive, we’re not necessarily happier and eventually, our productivity will suffer.
This talk is especially helpful for nose-to-the-grindstone entrepreneurs who believe that working around the clock will bring them the fame, fortune, and happiness they crave but often feel let down or overwhelmed by their busy-busy-busy lifestyles. After this TED Talk, you’ll be inspired to shift your focus to being happy instead of being productive—and, as a happy and somewhat ironic byproduct, watch your productivity skyrocket.
5. 10 ways to have a better conversation, Celeste Headlee
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to talk to people. A lot. You’ll have to talk to investors to get them to invest in your company. You’ll have to talk to your team to inspire their best work and move your company forward. You’ll have to talk to customers to find out what’s working about your products and services and what could stand for a little improvement.
You’ll be having conversations pretty much all day, every day. And if you’re terrible at conversing? Well, you’re not going to get very far.
But don’t worry! You’re not alone. In her talk, radio host Celeste Headlee talks about why most people are generally awful at conversation and gives her top ten tips for improving your conversing, and getting better results from your conversations.
This talk is a must-listen for any entrepreneurs who have to regularly converse with their team, their investors, their friends, their family…. Literally, this talk is for everyone. Watch it. You—and the people who have to talk to you every day—will thank us.
6. What is success, really?, Jamie Anderson
What does success mean to you? Is it having other people view you as successful? Or is it following your passion and doing what you love, no matter what it takes?
In his talk, professional cyclist, author, and speaker Jamie Anderson talks about the meaning of success. After spending two decades building a wildly successful career in business management, working at the most prestigious universities in the world, Anderson realized he was miserable, absent from his family, and miles away from his original dream of being a professional cyclist. So he walked away from the money, the prestige, and the “success” to redefine success on his own terms.
This talk is an excellent reminder for entrepreneurs that success isn’t about seeming successful according to someone else’s definition; it’s about actually being successful on your own terms. If you struggle with doing things because you think it’s what you’re “supposed” to do or what others expect you to do, definitely watch Anderson’s talk. It just might be the kick in the butt you need to run your business—and your life—your way.
7. The art of diplomacy, Tayo Rockson
As an entrepreneur (or, let’s be real, as a human) it can be easy to forget that you’re not the center of the universe. There’s a whole big world out there with different ideas, different customs, different languages and different people. And the more you can understand those differences—and find the commonalities that exist within them—the better off you (and your business) will be.
In his talk, Tayo Rockson, CEO of strategic consulting and leadership firm UYD Management, talks about his experience growing up the son of a diplomat on four different continents and how you can embrace the art of diplomacy to better your relations with all types of people with all types of backgrounds, strengthening your business in the process. This talk is so, so, SO important for every entrepreneur and business owner to listen and pay attention to; fostering diversity in the workplace—and making sure that every person, no matter their background, feels comfortable, understood, and valued—is arguably the best thing you can do for your company. The more types of people you have working for you, the more ideas they bring to the table—and the more your company benefits.
8. Go with your gut feeling, Magnus Walker
Sometimes, the logical and rational part of your brain tells you to do A. But in your gut, you feel—no, you know—that what you really need to do is B. Some people side with their logical and rational side. But others trust their gut. And according to entrepreneur Magnus Walker, trusting your gut is the key to success.
In his talk, Walker shares his experience following his gut feeling and how it led him to create three wildly successful businesses and turn all of his dreams into a reality, even after leaving school at the age of 15. If you’ve ever ignored that small voice or that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you what you should do next, you need to give this TED talk a watch. Because the best decisions in your business? They’re going to come from that little voice. And if you don’t listen, you’ll kick yourself later.
9. How to stop screwing yourself over, Mel Robbins
100 million Americans claim to be dissatisfied with their lives. And according to career and relationship expert Mel Robbins, the reason they’re dissatisfied, stuck and unhappy with their day-to-day existence? The reason that so many people across the world just can’t seem to get what they want? The biggest obstacle in their way on the road to happiness?
In her talk, Robbins talks about how you hold yourself back from reaching your highest potential and how you can stop self-sabotaging, screwing yourself over, and making getting what you want about 10,000 times harder than it needs to be—a helpful lesson to reach your goals in business and in life.
Getting in your own way can seriously stunt the growth of your business. But on the flip side, learning to get out of your own way can seriously catapult your business to new levels of success. So watch this TED Talk, get out of the way, and give your business the space to flourish.
10. The difference between winning and succeeding, John Wooden
When we think about success, we often think about winning. But are they one and the same?
In his talk, famed UCLA Coach John Wooden talks about the differences between winning and success and why winning isn’t the be-all-end-all on the road to success. In fact, Wooden offers a different way to look at success, which he defines as “peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” In other words, it’s not about winning or losing; it’s about doing the best you can with what you have—a classic but timely lesson for any entrepreneur.
If you struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up to the competition, give this talk a listen. It’ll help you reframe success and separate the need to win from the need to succeed on your own terms—and your business will benefit as a result.
11. 4 lessons in creativity, Julie Burstein
Creativity is a key component to starting a successful business. But creativity isn’t for the faint of heart.
Tapping into your creativity is difficult in the best of times. But what about the hard times, when you’re facing loss, self-doubt, insecurity or failure? In her talk, Julie Burstein—a radio host who interviews creatives—shares four lessons on creativity and how to harness your creative power in every moment (including the dark ones).
This talk is a must-watch for anyone who’s ever had any low moments in their business (or, you know, everyone) to learn how to transform those challenging moments into creative inspiration.
Don’t see a TED Talk for you? Don’t worry – it’s out there
Don’t see a TED Talk on this list that resonates with you? It’s all good! There are literally thousands of talks on TED’s YouTube channel on every topic under the sun, so do a little digging and find the talk that’s going to give you the boost you need to get from where you are to where you want to go on the journey of entrepreneurship (or on the journey of life).
What’s your favorite TED Talk? Let us know in the comments below!
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