Five Ted Talks You Need to Watch

As a non-native English speaker, I owe much of my familiarity with the language to my mother, a tiny teacher who held the knowledge of languages with high importance. In order to encourage me to improve my English (and to feed my head enough brain food), she made me watch one Ted Talk every single day after my homework.

After watching a fair amount of them through the years, I’ve compiled a small yet varied list of Ted Talks you can enjoy during these unentertaining lockdown times!

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator – Tim Urban

Master procrastinator Tim Urban knows a thing or two about leaving things undone until the last minute. In his hilarious talk, Urban discusses the things we really need to think about when procrastinating.  

Personally, I am okay with deadlines. The “panic monster” Urban speaks of sets of ringing alarms way before I even need to think of a deadline, so my friends would rarely consider me a procrastinator. The reality is that I’ve always felt like I struggle with never accomplishing things I truly want to do, which is why this talk stuck with me. 

Urban separates between two types of procrastinators; your normal leave-the-essay-until-the-day-before procrastinators, and the, not as often discussed long-term procrastinators. Though I rarely struggle to meet a deadline, it’s the things without a deadline I can never manage to do. Using comedic images created in MS Paint, Urban shows the potential solution to miserable, long-term procrastinators.

The power of introverts – Susan Cain

Susan Cain, bestselling author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, discusses the power that introverts hold in a world that prizes extroverts. 

Growing up, I was incredibly shy. Thus, my mother made sure to do everything in her might to make sure I came out of my shell, because, as Cain explains, the world seems to prefer outgoing, social personalities. Though I’m now a never-ending chatterbox and comfortable with socialising and speaking publicly, I believe myself to be more reserved by nature. If I didn’t feel pressured, I would always pick a quiet evening in over a night in the ever-bustling town. 

Cain’s talk made it easier to accept the quieter side of my ambivert self, one I’ve always found tiring to deal with. She raises an incredible point about how we view introverted and extroverted people. Though I am endlessly appreciative of my ability to be extroverted when I need to, I think Cain’s points show us that introverts can teach us a thing or two about independence. 

The danger of a single story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Photo credits: Mamadi Doumboya

Novelist Achimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her own cultural voice and warns of the dangers of only hearing a singular story. Her talk is incredibly relevant in a day and age where representation is strongly needed. 

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity,” she says in her talk. 

Like Adichie, I grew up reading books by white people about white characters with white experiences, an experience that has shaped my worldview. I am, without a doubt, not the only one. Like many of the people I grew with, I had the same assumptions about cultures and people I didn’t know, which I discovered to be untrue as I grew up. In her beautiful talk, Adichie explains that this is due to ‘The Single Story’ and our failure to see it from a different perspective.

“That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

The lie that invented racism – John Biewen

Photo credits: TED

“What’s up with us white people?” Journalist John Biewen asks.  

 “I’m not talking about those white people, the ones with the swastikas and the hoods and the tiki torches. They are a problem and a threat. They perpetrate most of the terrorism in our country, as you all in Charlottesville know better than most. But I’m talking about something bigger and more pervasive. I’m talking about all of us, white folks writ large. And maybe, especially, people sort of like me, self-described progressive, don’t want to be racist – good white people. 

Biewen takes us on a journey where he delves into the origin of racism and lays out a path for effective allyship in his relevant and interesting talk. 

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance – Angela Lee Duckworth

I wanted to include this final, short talk as a motivation for everyone to keep going despite times being tough at the moment. It can be difficult to want to keep persevering in the face of hardship and, now more than ever, loneliness, but Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk on ‘grit’ might cheer you up. 

In her research, Duckworth has found that ‘grit’ is the key to success rather than IQ or even social standing. Though the two other factors are important and have a say in how easy success can come to you, Duckworth found that in spite of lower IQ levels or background, students, employees and people generally were to be more successful if they had grit. 

Her talk shows that failure is not a permanent condition and that if you pick yourself up and persevere, anything is possible. 

Header image credit: Torrens University