Ted Talks for Your Best Year Ever
Because the year ahead is unpredictable, these six TED Talks will have your back, no matter what life throws at you.
By Olivia Wickstrom, Portland State University
I was first introduced to TED Talks my junior year of high school.
At the time, I found the video discussing 18th century literature incredibly boring and left the classroom thinking, What kind of name is TED? But it wasn’t until I started to explore the website that I discovered the magic of these online lectures. TED’s mission is to “spread ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18-minutes or less).” And you can find anything on the website, from lectures discussing the future of virtual reality, to slam poetry on racism in America.
So, with a new year ahead, I decided to curate a TED playlist for all you university students in the audience. No matter what 2017 brings, with these TED Talks you’ll be prepared.
1. When You Sit Next to a Cute Boy in Class: Why You Should Talk to Strangers
Once, I walked up to a boy at a pub in Scotland and asked him his name. He told me his, I told him mine, and we ended up falling in love. Sure it was nerve wracking, but something in my gut told me that I had to do it, so I took the risk and did it.
Kio Stark gives a phenomenal TED Talk that reminds us of the beauty in this risk of talking to strangers. More importantly, she reminds viewers that amazing things can come out of these random interactions. Whether you have the intention of asking them out for a coffee, or just brightening their day, as Stark says: “When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life — and theirs.”
2. When You Have to Choose Between Interning at NPR and Backpacking Through Thailand: Should You Live for Your Resume…Or Your Eulogy?
We all know them—the people who work too much, who don’t spend enough time with family, who let business take over the personal. I’ll admit, this is something I’m guilty of. I’ve studied abroad twice, I’ve interned three times and I’m still continuously asking myself: What else? What else can I do before I graduate, how else can I make my portfolio stand out?
But how far are we supposed to go to prepare for life after graduation? At what point do we start to make choices for our personal happiness, instead of our futures.
David Brooks addresses all of these questions in this TED Talk. He reminds us to make decisions for ourselves, for our happiness, and not just for our resumes. He notes that when we do this, we achieve “connection, community, love — the values that make for a great eulogy.” Balancing the self that desires success, and the self that desires happiness, is perhaps the path to success and happiness themselves.
3. When You Thought It Was a Costume Party: The Beauty of Being a Misfit
Lidia Yuknavitch is a badass. The award-winning author has written a number of books featuring characters who don’t fit into “normal” categories when it comes to gender, class or mental health. Her stories tackle the turbulence and self-discovery in these misfits’ lives, and cause audience members to reflect on their own sense of belonging and acceptance.
In her talk, Yuknavitch discusses her personal history of being a misfit, noting the drug rehab, failed marriages and years of homelessness that have made her stand out from other women and authors. But Yuknavitch reminds herself, and us misfits, that “you, yeah, you. You belong in the room too.”
Whether you were the only one in class who didn’t do the homework, or you’re trying to decide the right place and time to come out to your roommate, Yuknavitch’s talk will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt out of place.
4. When You’re Reading “Study Breaks” Articles Instead of Studying: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator
Everybody talks about procrastination during university, but some do it on a relatively mild level. A friend may jokingly complain about a paper due in two weeks that they don’t want to start and are so behind on, while I, on the other hand, am seriously stressing about a midterm exam that I have in seven hours and haven’t even considered studying for.
After watching Tim Urban’s talk, I think I actually cried out in joy: “I’m not alone!” Urban is the definition of procrastination if there ever was one. He discusses his 90-page senior thesis that he’d planned on taking a year to write, but instead wrote in 72 hours.
He also discusses why procrastination happens and why procrastinators make the seemingly irrational choices that they do. And somehow, Urban makes you feel better about waiting until the last possible moment to finish the assignment you’ve been dreading. If you’re looking for something to do at 1 a.m. the night before a chemistry exam when you should be studying, procrastinate with this TED Talk.
5. When Your Tinder Date Ghosts You: What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection
Jia Jiang is my hero. In his talk, he tells the story of childhood rejection turned into a life experiment. To get more comfortable with the feeling of being rejected, Jiang decided to do one thing a day, for 100 days, that would result in rejection. He asked a stranger if he could borrow $100; he asked a hotel if he could get a free room; he asked a girl out on a date.
Jiang makes the embarrassment of rejection fun, and reminds us that the act doesn’t necessarily have to chip away at our confidence. Instead it can make us more confident, bold and fearless.
6. When You’re Crying After a Breakup: The Psychology of Your Future Self
This is my go-to talk during fights with my friends, after a breakup or on the nights that I feel like I peaked in high school. Dan Gilbert’s lecture has one repeated moral: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
So say you don’t get that internship you wanted, and you get anxious because you think that there are no other opportunities out there. Say your girlfriend breaks up with you, and you get sad because you can’t imagine anyone loving you the way she did. But as Gilbert says, this is just an illusion, and it happens because of “the ease of remembering versus the difficulty of imagining.”
Instead of using our imaginations to picture the possibilities ahead, we revert to the comfort of our past. So when something doesn’t go your way this year, don’t get too upset. There’s plenty of change and new opportunities ahead, we just need to imagine the opportunities.