4 TED Talks to get you focused & motivated at work

In honor of TED2019 happening in Vancouver this week, here are a few TED Talks meant to inspire you at work, school and life in general. Some of these are classics, and some of these offer a new approach or way of thinking (as all TED Talks do). Also included are a couple of personal anecdotes that I hope you enjoy! TED2019’s theme is “Bigger than Us” so please check out these talks below and send over the TED Talks you love – will post a follow-up showcasing more and including your own favorites!

Amy Cuddy – Your body language may shape who you are

It’s no secret here at MBAchic we are huge fans of Amy Cuddy. Her work has inspired us time and time again, but most influential is this TED Talk from TEDGlobal 2012. A few years ago, I was part of a human capital program at work, hosting onstage interviews with senior leadership across the bank (discussing their career paths and how they got to where they are today). We worked to diversify our programming, and my teammate secured an official TEDx license to host our own TEDx event. I found myself walking into that meeting a couple of minutes late and somehow missed / misunderstood the premise of our event (I thought we were showing a TED Talk to the audience and then hosting a panel discussion. I was wrong.). I was “voluntold” to be part of it, not realizing I just signed on to give my very own speech to a room full of colleagues (that would be broadcasted to thousands of my colleagues worldwide. OKAY.). I have no problem hosting talks where a guest is the focus, but these were unchartered waters. I gathered myself and started researching how on Earth you prep a TED talk (TBD if I share the Talk anytime soon, haha).

During the couple of months of research and prep, one thing that really grounded me and helped me get ready to speak to my experiences was Amy Cuddy’s “Your body language may shape who you are.” It’s no surprise this has become the second-most viewed TED talk of ALL time. She speaks to the importance of positioning yourself (literally) to feel most powerful, and how certain poses communicate with your brain to affect your body chemistry and how you will perform. It’s a fascinating talk, and totally worth the watch. Find her works and more at www.amycuddy.com.

Sheryl Sandberg – Why we have too few women leaders

This is another famous TED Talk, and one that we’ve shared before here on MBAchic. I first read about Sheryl Sandberg in a Vogue piece, and then found this TED Talk from TEDWomen 2010. It was a combination of this talk, and her 2011 Barnard College Commencement Speech (also previously shared on MBAchic), that influenced me in negotiating my first salary. I was searching for a job for a *long* time, and finally found an opening through good old networking. Eventually, I secured a job offer. Because I was fired up from Sandberg’s talks and advice, and had done a ton of research suggesting I could be getting a bit more for the role, I countered their initial offer with a higher number. Four agonizing days later (cut to me kicking myself, thinking I’d completely screwed myself out of a job I truly wanted), they came back to me with a number that was slightly higher (!!!). (I should point out that the difference between the offer I accepted and their initial offer was not enormous, but the principle really taught me not to take the first offer if it’s not in line with what you know you’re worth.) Sheryl Sandberg’s talk inspired me not to just take what I could get and be quiet / be happy, but not to be afraid of negotiating and getting what you’re worth.

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

I remember years ago, watching UPenn psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth’s Talk from TED Talks Education, and latching onto this finding that grit is a predictor of success. The idea of living life like a marathon and not a sprint. Of hanging on, just a bit longer, when things are difficult. This was inspiring and motivated me at the time to continue pursuing my degree and “keep my eye on the prize.” Regardless of your role, your location, your background, your industry, this one characteristic sticks out as really making a difference in your academic progression, your career advancement, and overall success. It’s hard to teach it, but you can start by developing a growth mindset and instilling the belief that your ability to learn is not fixed. It’s one of the shorter TED Talks out there, but really sticks with you. Don’t miss it.

Carla Harris – How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work

Love this Talk from TEDWomen 2018, in which Wall Street icon Carla Harris describes being part of a roundtable discussion around promotions and compensation at first her job out of business school. She discussed how her colleagues were brought up and categorized into top, middle or bottom buckets. It was there where she clutched her pearls and realized that in evaluating team members, there’s never really a 100% meritocratic system; there always seems to be a human element. You can have mentors and champions, but really, the person who you need, the one to pound the table on your behalf in closed-door meetings, is your sponsor. There are two types of currency in the sponsor relationship: performance and relationship currency, and she talks about exactly how to secure and make the most of both at work, and how to grow your power, wherever you are.

TED Talks Brittany Packnett speaks at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 - 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED
Brittany Packnett speaks at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 – 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Photo: Bret Hartman / TED – stay tuned for her TED Talk on Confidence. We’ll share it here!

What are your favorite TED Talks to get you focused & motivated at work or school? Have any inspired you to make a change in your career, your education, or your life? We want to know! Email or DM on Instagram, we want to share your recs!