The six talks below will help inspire you to take action, face failure, and find your passion.
Larry Smith: “Why you will fail to have a great career” (TEDxUW)
In a passionate talk that borders on a performance, economics professor Larry Smith explains the three simple reasons why you will fail to have a great career. We come up with excuses, like we’re not lucky enough, smart enough, or weird enough. We settle for being interested in our jobs rather than passionate about them. And we decide that relationships are more important than career, effectively making our loved ones our “jailers.”
Smith is obviously passionate and weird himself, and I have a feeling he loves his job. If you want a jolt of inspiration, watch this video and learn the power of the little word “unless…”.
Steve Jobs: “How to live before you die” (Stanford University)
Not technically a TED talk, this commencement speech was featured on the TED site around the time of Steve Jobs’s death. He tells three stories from his life, and draws three lessons – lessons that we’ve all heard before, but are somehow transformed when spoken by Jobs.
1. The winding pathways of your life only makes sense looking backwards, not forwards. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference,” he says.
2. Love keeps you going during the hard times. “Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did,” says Jobs, talking about being fired from Apple in the 80s.
3. Death gives us the motivation to truly live. Every morning, Jobs would look at himself in the mirror and think, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer was no too many days in a row, he knew something had to change. “Stay hungry. Stay foolish,” he urges the crowd.
Meg Jay: “Why 30 is not the new 20” (TED)
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay encountered a troubling paradox. On one hand, researchers have found that your 20s are crucial: you are determining your lifetime earning potential, meeting the person who will probably be your future partner, finishing your brain growth and most of your transformative life experiences, and shaping your personality. Yet experts seem to trivialize the 20s: they have coined terms like “kidults” and claimed that 30 is the new 20.
Having counseled many 20-somethings through this rough time, Jay wants to quash once and for all the notion that the 20s don’t matter. She tells them three things:
- Get identity capital: Do something that adds value to who you are.
- Branch out of your social network: That’s where jobs and new opportunities will come from.
- Choose your partners wisely: If not, you may end up at 29 and settling down with whomever you’re dating at the moment.
Click Your Fortune (TED Ed)
This isn’t a TED talk, but a series of vidoes created by TED Ed where professionals answer career-related questions submitted by the TED community.
It’s called “Click Your Fortune” because it’s interactive, “choose your own adventure” style. You watch one video with one question, then click on the question you’d like to hear answered next. The first episode features Jennifer Healey, research scientist at Intel; Nate Mook, founder of Localist and BetaNews; Gillian Martin Mahers, learning practitioner; and Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa, head of GoThinkBig. They answer questions like these:
- What job that doesn’t exist today do you think will be one of the world’s “top 10” jobs in 10 years?
- What careers did you imagine for yourself when you were in grade school?
- What skills are most important for people to have for jobs available in 10 years?
Michael Litt: “Why you have to fail to have a great career” (TEDxUW)
In response to Larry Smith’s talk, entrepreneur Michael Litt’s cleverly titled talk explains why failure is crucial to figuring out a career. Most of the video explains an epic failure he had with his unsuccessful company, Litt Energies.
Alain de Botton: “A kinder, gentler philosophy of success” (TEDGlobal)
Like a good philosopher, De Botton starts with a paradox: “It’s perhaps easier now than ever before to make a good living. It’s perhaps harder now than ever before to stay calm, to be free of career anxiety.”
He believes that societal views of success and failure are to blame: we judge each other based on our jobs, and our notions of meritocracy mean that people who fail probably deserve it. We have high expectations for our own careers, then envy people who do better than us.
The solution, for de Botton, is changing those views. We should judge people less quickly for their failures or mediocre careers, recognizing the role of chance and accidents. We should recognize that we can’t be successful in everything, and make sure the path we choose is our own rather than what’s expected of us. And we could use a little Shakespeare-style tragic art to make those who fail seem sympathetic, rather than ridiculing failure in the media.