5 TED Talk Ideas That Will Obliterate What’s Holding You Back

Image via Unsplash/Christopher Campbell

TED Talks aren’t popular because we like listening to strangers talk for hours about random topics. They’re popular because they provide a desperately needed shift from stale, negative perceptions to useful new ones. Some of the supposed “rules” we repeat to ourselves are the only things that hold us back. Like, “once I can afford this one thing I’ll be happy,” or, “people can’t have fun at work.” These “rules” are actually just beliefs, and they may be barring you from genuine happiness.

1. Happiness means making others happy.

How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes” by Adam Leipzig.

This Yale graduate was surprised to find two groups of people at his college reunion: those who were content and sure of their purpose, and another much larger group that was lost and unsatisfied. There were five reasonably simple questions that the happy group could answer and the other couldn’t:

Who are you?

What do you do?

Who do you do it for?

What do those people want or need?

How do they change as a result of what you offer?

These questions can help anyone who is unsure about the direction of their career. If you can’t answer them, you’ve got some thinking to do. If you can honestly answer each one, there’s pretty much no way you could be unclear about your career.

Once you think about these questions, you’ll find yourself in 1 of 3 possible scenarios:

1. You confirm that you’re happy in a career that suits you.

2. You realize where you need to be, and now your task is to find or create that position.

3. You can’t answer the questions and have to experiment in different roles to figure it out.

2. Follow your inner child to a profitable career.

How to Retire Before Your 20” by Kristin Hadeed.

This is a great talk for anyone who is hesitant to start their own business, or wants to help people but doesn’t know where to start. The message is simple: Follow your inner child. This doesn’t mean you have to start acting like a hippy. A simple assessment of your childhood will give you some clarity.

Curiosity and creativity aren’t bad things, though we often discourage ourselves from these things in the workplace. By pursuing things that genuinely excite us (and things that drew our curiosity as children), we can create sustainable careers as adults.

3. What you thought made you weak makes you strong.

The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown.

This talk raises an interesting question: Why do we see ourselves as weak when we’re vulnerable, but others as strong when they are?

We’d never tell a friend that they’re weak for sharing something personal. In fact, we’d probably applaud them. But when it comes to doing something scary or saying something no one else has, we freeze up. We think about the potential criticism involved and completely ignore the fact that what we’d like to do or say might be admired – it might actually change things for the better. If we could see our own ability to be vulnerable as a strength and a character builder, growth wouldn’t be such a struggle.

4. Unhappy? You might have too much.

A Rich Life with Less Stuff” by The Minimalists.

If you have a career that pays well and tons of stuff to show for it, yet you’re completely miserable, you’ll have a lot in common with the minimalists who host this talk.

A lot of people work long hours, rise to the top of the tax brackets, and “have it all” – but they end up miserable, unhealthy, and empty. This is the point at which people need to look at themselves and what actually makes them happy. If your life is devoid of anything meaningful, you can work your way up the corporate ladder forever, finding nothing but more ladder.

5. Follow the boring folks.

The Habits of Highly Boring People” by Chris Suave.

Have you ever laughed at someone who is extremely set in their ways with the little things? E.g., they eat the same lunch every day, or walk their dog at 8 a.m. on the dot?

This talk gives convincing reasons for why boring habits lead to successful people. Why? Because people who live by routines manage to get life’s daily menial tasks down to a science. This frees up more time for creativity on projects that matter. In a sense, it’s a small sacrifice with a big payoff. Why waste your spontaneity on things that don’t matter much? The more effort, thought, and time that is wasted on these tasks, the more they cut into your reserve of creativity. So in a way, smart people are boring – they only focus on being exciting and innovative where it counts, like in their careers and relationships.