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TED Talk Advice Every Student Should Hear

The four most inspirational, life-changing TED talks for students

Angela Lee Duckworth says that what separates the successful from the unsuccessfulTED

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about TED talks, 18-minute mini-lectures from professors, artists, entrepreneurs and other “thought leaders” that have the potential to inspire — and go viral. Speakers range from various careers and walks of life, and offer knowledge on a range of topics as broad as business and entertainment or as specific as bullying or Buddhism. And they often offer valuable life lessons, particularly for students. Here are some of our favorites.

Live life like a marathon, not a sprint

Inspired by and curious about achievement difference among her students, Angela Lee Duckworth left teaching to study psychology in graduate school, where she conducted research on what made students successful. She discovered that success is not about intelligence, but about grit. “Grit,” Duckworth states, “is passion and perseverance for very long term goals... Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Know your biases

Mechanical engineer and social advocate Yassmin Abdel-Magied sparks her audience’s interest by asking them, “What does my headscarf mean to you?” In a talk about unconscious bias, which credits a major reason for lack of diversity in the workplace, Abdel-Magied stresses the importance of pushing past our initial perceptions. Students will be challenged to step outside of their comfort zone when they begin school, or work, and should follow Abdel-Magied’s three steps to looking beyond bias: identify it, acknowledge it, and mitigate it. She says, “If you want to create a world where the circumstances of your birth don’t matter, we all have to be part of the solution.”

Fake it till you become it

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has researched body language and how it shapes people’s perceptions as well as body chemistry. In Cuddy’s talk, students can learn how “power posing” can make one more confident in a presentation, job interview and other everyday interactions. At first, power posing can seem unnatural. Cuddy advises: “Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. Fake it ‘til you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize [it]... Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”

A thank you can change a life

Jarrett J. Krosoczka was writing children’s books when after a visit to his old school he was inspired to write a series about school cafeteria employees, in which he depicts them as heroes despite them being underappreciated or unnoticed in school communities. The "Lunch Lady" series sparked an appreciation day in many schools called School Lunch Hero day, where students make creative projects for their lunch staff. Krosoczka says, “I hope you remember how powerful a thank you can be. A thank you can change a life. It changes the life of the person who receives it, and it changes the life of the person who expresses it.”
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