Whenever I feel I need a dose of inspiration and I have extra time on my hands, I will tune into TED and listen to or watch one of their short audio or video sessions of an expert talking about some world problem and their solution for it or someone presenting a theory about a topic that makes me think. TED is devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. TED is owned by a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation. Their agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.

Here are some of my favorite TED talk gurus and my comments about each:

Amy Cuddy
She is a Social Scientist who has a theory that body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. She demonstrates how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

(I can tell you that I have stood in front of the mirror and practiced this power posing and it works.)

Simon Sinek
He has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” He explores how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change. His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers.

(I have first hand experience with this kind of leadership, in my former life as a Corporate Marketer.  I had a boss who was a very inspirational person and when he spoke, he had a profound affect on everyone in the company from the top partners of the firm to the mailroom guy.)

Dan Gilbert
He is the author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” a book that is considered to be one of the 50 key books in Psychology. It challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. Gilbert’s central thesis is that, through perception and cognitive biases, people imagine the future poorly, in particular what will make them happy.

(This concept was powerful to me because I tend to be a pessimist and can let myself imagine the worst scenarios for the future)

Brené Brown
She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
Her talk is about How we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?  Also how we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

(This is a theory worth embracing for us perfectionists who didn’t get a lot of nurturing as children)

I listen to TED talks on NPR while I am driving and also on my iPad.  Even though it is only about 20 minutes, a TED talk helps me think about the bigger problems and issues in the world rather than focusing on my own little world.

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