The 5 Best TED Talks To Watch Today

Tune into these compelling talks for you daily dose of inspiration.

I remember the very first TED Talk I ever watched—I was hooked.

I had recently finished a graduate program, and I was a few months into a new job. I was learning so much every day in my new career, and yet, I felt like something was missing.

TED actually stands for Technology, Education, and Design. Though organization really picked up steam when their videos began to take off on the internet, TED has been around since 1984. I never would have thought I’d go on to give not just one, but two TEDx Talks, and the experience of being in the company of speakers like Guy Kawasaki was beyond words for me.

Watching TED Talks is still something I make time for because not only do I just plain love them, but I also think that the format is fantastic for learning and professional development.

Here are five TED Talks I tuned into recently that I think will really get you thinking and help you grow your mindset in your career.


1) Paco de Leon, “The Secret To Being A Successful Freelancer”

When most people think of TED, their mind immediately goes to the classic keynotes and events that we all know and love. But these days, TED is bringing amazing content in many different forms. One great example of this is the video series The Way We Work. This video series is a collaborative effort with Dropbox and features speakers who offer quick and compelling ideas on the world of work and how workers are adapting to the ever changing landscape of technology, the economy and the workforce.

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying these bite-sized TED Talks, the latest season of which features guests speaking remotely. It is a fun change of pace to see speakers dialoguing comfortably from their own spaces, in contrast to the usual stage and spotlight. It also does a great job of illustrating that you don’t need to speak for so very long for your message to be impactful.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 12–15 minute keynote, but brevity can definitely be your friend, especially these days when so much of our interactions are happening remotely, and we don’t have the in-person “wow” factor to keep our listeners engaged.

A Deloitte paper on the challenges of work during Covid-19 noted that increased screen time can cause your attention span to fatigue. These short and sweet talks are a very useful reminder that you can pack a real punch into a few clean minutes.

De Leon’s TED Talk focuses on the challenges for freelancers in the current economy. She notes that freelancers, especially creatives, can often struggle to make ends meet in a challenging economy. In fact, 63% of freelancers surveyed consider themselves to be less financially stable after going freelance, and 43% of freelancers admitted to drawing on savings each month.

De Leon is herself a creative, a musician who worked in finance before pivoting to founding her own financial planning agency, The Hell Yeah Group, which is specifically tailored to freelancers and creatives. She shares several points of quick and salient advice for creatives and freelancers on how to become financially empowered and turn their freelance work into a successful business.

Even if you’re someone who has a thriving freelance business, de Leon’s fresh take and excellent advice is worth the time.

2) Rob Cooke, “The Cost Of Work Stress And How To Reduce It”

I found this TED Talk to be particularly resonant, because I am really passionate about the issues of stress and burnout in the workplace. So often clients come to me, and I can tell from the first five minutes of speaking to them that they are truly at the end of their rope, not just emotionally, but physically. According to research, an actual burnout changes the chemistry of your brain—that’s why it feels even harder to work, because you’re operating out of a different brain.

Data shows that 40% of workers find their jobs to be anywhere from very stressful to extremely stressful. What seems even worse is that 25% report that their job is the number one reason for stress in their lives.

Stress in the workplace wouldn’t be such a burden if we could simply leave work at work, but if you’re anything like me, you know how difficult it can be to put aside work and its related stressors when the clock strikes 5 p.m. Work-related stress can have many negative effects outside of the work environment, with 54% of American workers noting that stress from work can impact their home life. A further 83% state that work-related stress has had an impact on their personal relationships.

No matter how demanding and challenging our jobs may be, no one should be internalizing stress at work to the point of it negatively impacting their mental health.

All this to say, Rob Cooke is speaking my language! Cooke is uniquely positioned to speak to this particular issue because he has such a strong background in health, wellness and in the often high-stress world of finance. Cooke is currently a premier banker and relationship manager with Wells Fargo, where he interfaces daily with high-level clients.

But the interesting thing about Cooke’s talk is that he isn’t necessarily only approaching the issue of workplace stress from the perspective of the impact on workers and their mental health. He applies a broader lens to the issue, highlighting the fact that when you combine all of the negative factors that come with high workplace stress, you find that this issue could be costing the U.S. economy an estimated 300 billion dollars a year!

Cooke does an amazing job of illustrating how workplace stress can create cyclical patterns that perpetual poor health and bad nutrition, and how these factors compound up themselves to create more stress, decreased productivity and ultimately a tremendous detriment to the economy.

What’s missing, Cooke says, is a culture of personal care and wellness. His solution starts with three things. But, this isn’t CliffsNotes, and you’ll have to watch the talk to find those out for yourself.

I loved Cooke’s TED Talk because not only is the information so pertinent, but Cooke himself has such an ease with his words and humor. If he can be so zen speaking in front of a thousand people, he must be doing something right!

3) Nicaila Matthews Okome, “This Is The Side Hustle Revolution”

Nicaila Matthews Okome’s piece “This Is The Side Hustle Revolution” is another fantastic short-form talk from the the Way We Work series.

Okome is a podcast host and marketing specialist hailing from New York City. She is the host of the Side Hustle Pro podcast, which shares her own experience of turning her “side hustle” into a thriving business. She also highlights the journeys of Black women entrepreneurs. The podcast has garnered over 3 million listens since its launch in 2016.

This fascinating talk highlights the history of the term “hustle” and “side hustle.” Did you know that the term “hustle” was first used in African American newspapers as early as the ’20s to refer to less-than-legitimate work? By the ’50s, papers were using the term “side hustle” to refer to honest work.

Okome uses this history as context to define what truly represents a “side hustle.” Unlike a second job, a “side hustle” is rooted in your passion, and in an aspirational spirit.

I love this video because not only does it showcase the fascinating history of the terminology that has become an everyday part of how we talk about freelance and the economy, but Okome also provides some really valuable advice on how a “side hustle” can turn into a full-time business, and how to use your growth as an experience to learn about yourself as a potential business owner.

There are so many meaningful ideas in this talk, and it really gave me a new perspective on the idea of creating a “side hustle.” Tune in to discover so many pearls of wisdom.

4) Erica Joy Baker, “How Do We Bridge The Anxiety Gap At Work”

In this very meaningful TED Talk, Erica Joy Baker shares her personal experience of being made to feel like an outsider in her own workplace as a woman of color and a software engineer in the tech industry. Being made to feel as if you are the “other” in a workspace is an experience all too common for people from underrepresented groups.

It’s very moving to hear Baker describe the many questions and doubts that she and others face in entering into a workspace due to this culture of “othering.” Baker shares how a tremendous amount of anxiety can result from having to continually second-guess yourself and question whether your identity is playing a role in how you are being perceived and treated in your work space. Many workers are forced to simply “survive,” and not given the opportunity to “thrive.”

While much conversation has been devoted to discussing diversity in the workplace, and how companies can implement more equitable hiring and workplace practices, it is difficult to quantify and address some of the more subtle ways in which a workplace may not be creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.

For this reason, I think that Baker’s talk is so important to hear. She discusses how, as a manager, she strived to create a “psychologically safe” environment in which all members of her team are able to thrive.

Tune in to this powerful talk to hear more of Baker’s insights. To move forward progressively toward a more equitable workspace, we need to be listening closely to the perspective of brilliant people like Erica Joy Baker.

5) Reshma Saujani, “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection”

This one is a little bit of a throwback, but I have returned so many times to Reshma Saujani’s 2016 talk, “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.”

Saujani is a fascinating woman whose career as a lawyer and in finance touches on everything from pro bono and human rights legal advocacy, to private equity and investment banking, to politics. She is also the founder of Girls Who Code, an organization with the mission of closing the gender gap in technology education. Since its inception, the organization has provided technology education to over 300,000 students.

I knew I liked Saujani after only a minute of her TED Talk because she led with something unusual for the format, a story of what many would consider a personal failure. In 2010, Saujani ran in a Democratic Congressional Primary, only to garner a mere 19% of the vote. This story ultimately isn’t about winning or losing, but in fact about having the bravery to stand up to face unfavorable odds. And in its telling, Reshma Saujani displays the same bravery, the bravery to share a story of a personal failure.

Bravery is of course at the core of this talk, in particular, the need to instill this sense of bravery in girls from a young age. Saujani highlights the fact that so often, while boys may be encouraged to take risks and approach difficult situations with bravery, young girls are encouraged to strive for perfection, and this perfectionist attitude can hold them back from taking risks.

I can’t tell you how much this resonated with me when I first listened. I speak and write often about the pitfalls of perfectionism. I believe that perfectionism is one of the biggest enemies to action, and it can deeply hinder your ability to take the risks required for steps in the right direction. I even discuss this idea in my own TEDx Talk, “How To Figure Out What You Really Want.” Instead of striving to be perfect in our career, it can be helpful to try to think of your professional life as something of an experiment—taking risks along the way will help us find our way to real clarity.

However you identify, this talk is a beautiful listen to begin to undo some of the damage that a perfectionist mindset can inflict.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of these talks as much as I did. Next time you have a free hour, curl up with a warm drink and treat yourself to a jump down the TED rabbit hole.

And if you’re inspired, my TEDx Talks are called “3 Questions To Unlock Your Authentic Career,” and also “How To Figure Out What You Really Want.” I would love to hear what you think!

I’m a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you’re excited about and aligned with. This may look