5 inspirational TED talks to help us level-up for new opportunities

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

I started collecting lists of my favorite TED talks to use as powerful teaching tools for my public speaking classes. I have talks I use to teach storytelling, persuasion, delivery, and humor. Shockingly (JK, not surprising at all) most of my all-time favorite talks are by women. They share messages of empowerment or tactical strategies that help us feel more confident, tell our stories, grow our networks, go after what we want, and shatter glass ceilings. I’ve seen most of these speeches at least 50 times, and I still walk away each time feeling uplifted, inspired, and ready to apply something new and helpful to my life.


I pulled together this list for everyone standing at the verge of the next big thing. Whether you’re prepping for a job interview, pumping yourself up for a promotion, taking your life in a new direction, entering an exciting relationship, or trying to be intentional about your next step, I hope you find something from each of these talks that helps you to make your magic happen.


1. Amy Cuddy, Your body language shapes who you are

This is great advice for everyone hoping to show up confidently to interviews, meetings, or pivotal conversations. It’s all about rewiring our brains to best cope in high-pressure social situations and to feel less stress-reactive. (Being less stress-reactive is my life's goal.) I love this because it’s not just another motivational talk about why confidence is important, it dives into the science and physiology of how are bodies can help us to feel more powerful.


Favorite line: “Fake it until you become it.”


2. Meg Jay, Why 30 is not the new 20

Before you skip this based on the title, it is not a lecture on how 20-somethings are wasting their time and Millennials have ruined everything. (Thanks, but no thanks.) It’s actually a really practical guide on how to be intentional with experimenting in our twenties in meaningful ways that pay off later in life. I listened to it the first time when I was 30, and I still use the advice--especially about growing an intentional network.


Favorite takeaway: We have to leverage our “loose ties.” The loose ties in our networks (outside of our tight-knit, isolated friend and family groups) are the overlooked places where we find new career opportunities and important relationships. For me, this has been true in every step of my career.


3. Brene Brown, The power of vulnerability

I could tell you to immediately consume everything Brene Brown has ever written, but that’s for another post. This is that talk that made her famous; the one that went viral within a few days of TED posting it and now has over 41 million views. Why? Maybe it’s because Brene reminds us that we are enough, worthy of love and belonging. Or, maybe it’s because she swears and makes us laugh. Either way, it’s worth watching over and over again. I have.


Favorite line: “Stories are just data with a soul.”


4. Shonda Rhimes, THR Sherry Lansing Award acceptance speech on shattering the glass ceiling

This isn’t a TED talk, but it might be my all-time favorite speech. It makes me want to run around high-fiving every woman who has worked toward being the first or the only one in the room. It makes me challenge my own tendency of pursuing sure things and safe bets to try to be a change-maker instead. It makes me want to be Shonda Rhimes (or, at least be in the same building as her one day).


Favorite part: (5:30) “Think of them. All of the women, white, black, brown, who woke up like this... heads up, eyes on their target, running. Full speed gravity-be-damned, toward the thick layer of glass that is the ceiling. Crashing into it, and falling back. Crashing into it, and falling back. Everyone running, everyone crashing, everyone falling. How many women had to hit that glass before the first crack appeared?”


5. Angela Duckworth, Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

The title pretty much sums it up. (Three cheers for concise copywriting, Angela Duckworth!) It’s a great reminder in our time of life hacks and overnight Instagram success stories (spoiler alert: they’re never overnight) that resilience and perseverance can carry us beyond our talents, skills, and circumstances.


Come-to-Jesus moment: Watching this one for the first time a few years ago made me realize something not-so-amazing about myself: I’m not very gritty. I sailed through a lot of moments in my life (primarily school) without developing much resilience. I’ve distanced myself from things that don’t come naturally to me. I’ve left tough jobs when they became too uncomfortable. I'm in a chapter in my life now, though, where grit is the thing that gets me through the day. (Grit, and wine.) And you know what? I'm getting grittier. (I mean that in a good way.)


Parenting is a daily grit boot camp. Building a business requires time, experimentation, follow-through, and resilience like no other job I've had. I want to give my clients and students habits and strategies that make them magnets for opportunities. I’m willing to work really, really hard for it to grow into the potential that I know it has. That kind of passion is stamina-building, and Angela Duckworth's talk reminds me to stay in it for the long run.

Liz Navarro + Co

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