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TED Tuesday Talk

Visual Thinking: Temple Grandin’s TED Talk and a Book List to Give You Perspective

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April is National Autism Awareness Month, and it’s worth it to take a minute to celebrate the innumerable ways people are unique. Animal behavior pioneer Temple Grandin has been an Autism advocate and activist for years, and in her talk from TED2010, she shares her distinctive outlook on the world. She breaks down the main ways people on the “continuum” of Autism can develop as thinkers, and expands on her own experience as a visual thinker. For Grandin, her visual thinking allowed her insights into detail-oriented problem solving that the people around her missed – and in this talk, she makes it clear that young people today on the Autism spectrum have just as much potential as she did. In…

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Curb Procrastination: Tim Urban’s TED Talk Inspires a Motivational Book List

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Procrastination plagues the best of us. In this TED talk from TED 2016 in February, Wait But Why blogger and sorta-kinda professional procrastinator Tim Urban takes us inside the minds of serial procrastinators. He breaks down three distinct voices in our brains related to procrastination: the “rational decision-maker,” the “instant gratification monkey,” and the all-powerful “panic monster” that leaps into action as soon as a catastrophic deadline creeps up on us. However, what starts out as a comical breakdown of what’s perceived as a goofy, bad habit becomes an examination of what happens when we procrastinate the big-picture life stuff that doesn’t have deadlines, like reconnecting with family, working on relationships or getting fit. Urban pushes viewers to tackle those challenges without…

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TED Talks: How Does Theaster Gates Revitalize Crumbling Neighborhoods?

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How to you rebuild a crumbling neighborhood? For Theaster Gates, the answer can be found in art and community building. Gates, who is a potter by trade and a social activist artist by vocation, discusses his inspiring method for reviving his Chicago neighborhood in this talk from TED2015. By teaming up with community members and rebuilding old and abandoned buildings into artistic hubs, like museums and movie theaters, Gates discovered his neighborhood changing for the better. This passionate talk shows that using what you’ve got to create culture and beauty can be an amazing catalyst for social change. Recommended reading: Theaster Gates (Contemporary Artists), Carol Becker, Achim Borchardt-Hume and Lisa Yun Lee (Phaidon Press, October 2015) This is the first…

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TED Talks: Oscar Schwartz’s Computer Can Write Poetry

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It seems like a silly question: Can a computer write poetry? But then, after writing a poem, will that computer then take over the world? Oscar Schwartz is less concerned with the speculative danger surrounding artificial intelligence – instead, he’s using algorithms to help us figure out what it means to be human. In this intriguing talk from [email protected] from May 2015, Schwartz (who by the way is hilarious on Twitter) discusses his Bot or Not project. The project was started as a website he and his colleague Benjamin Laird created that tests users by having them guess whether or not a poem was written by a human or a computer algorithm. Running these tests, he’s encountered some unique results, and some…

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TED Talks: Bryan Stevenson on Identity and Injustice

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Black History Month ends in just a few days, so this week’s installment of TED Talks Tuesday is one of the most elegant examinations of race in America ever given on the TED stage. Human Rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s moving talk from TED 2012 paints a hard picture of America’s criminal justice framework – but he does more than illustrate the obvious problems with our current system. Stevenson urges people to become more aware of what he calls “the dark and difficult things” in today’s society, and argues that history judges societies by how they treat their most disenfranchised populations. It goes beyond the political, and moves into the realms of morality and cultural self-awareness with a grace, courage and…

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TED Talks: Chip Kidd on Literally Judging Books by Their Covers

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What do stories look like? That’s the question book designer Chip Kidd answers on a daily basis. In his hilarious and passionate talk from TED 2012, Kidd discusses the magic that goes into the book covers we judge regularly. Kidd has designed some of the most famous book covers ever, and his delightful talk focuses on the ways first impressions impact the way you perceive a story. Along with a plea against impersonal e-readers, which lose the “comfort of thingyness – a little bit of humanity,” Kidd tells the story of some of his most recognizable book covers to illustrate a greater point about the importance of imagery. If you want to see some of your favorite books in a…

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TED Talks: Amy Webb Hacks Online Dating!

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Valentine’s Day is coming up. Either you’re a romantic who loves all the hearts everywhere, or you’re not looking forward to your loneliness-induced hangover. Whether you’re a Valentine’s Day lover or hater, Amy Webb’s talk from TEDSalon NY 2013 will put a smile on your face. Webb, who specializes in big data, tells the story of the way she used her knowledge of algorithms to hack the online dating scene – with surprising results. This talk is undeniably hilarious, heartwarming and uplifting – the perfect way to greet one of the most dreamy and polarizing holidays. Recommended Reading: Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked The Online Dating Code To Meet My Match (Plume, 2014) Webb’s book tells largely the same story…

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TED Talks: Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Knocks Down Stereotyping

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Stories are everywhere – our perspectives on culture and our own lives depend on the stories we hear, create and share. In her amazing talk from TEDGlobal 2009, Nigerian novelist and Beyoncé collaborator Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the importance of stories in the ways we build our perspectives about other people – and the critical disconnects that can occur by only listening to one story. Drawing from personal experiences with judging others and being judged for being Nigerian, she draws the parallels between single stories and stereotypes. In her words, “The single story creates stereotypes. And, the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” This…

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TED Talks: How Past Failures Inspire Elizabeth Gilbert’s Creativity

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What’s the secret to continued success? For author Elizabeth Gilbert, the answer came from remembering times of failure, which she discusses in this talk from TED2014. After her big break, the internationally bestselling Eat, Pray, Love, she had no idea how to maintain the high level of creativity that brought her renown. As time went by, she started identifying more with the feelings she had before her success—when her life was punctuated by rejection letters in her quest to become published. As she describes in this inspiring and heartfelt talk, she discovered that, whether nervous about continuing success or overcoming failure, the answer to continued creativity is to power through negativity and continue working hard. Recommended Reading: Big Magic: Creative…

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TED Talks: Why Raghava KK Has a 200-Year Plan

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What is the single most important force defining your identity? For artist Raghava KK, it’s your creative legacy. In this engaging and insightful talk, from TEDxSummit 2012, Raghava describes the 200-year plans he and his wife design in order to put their unique stamp on the digital legacies they leave for their family in the future. Raghava also explores the ways the internet allows us to export our memories, and our ability to pick and choose what about our pasts we choose to remember and forget. As Raghava puts it, “Creativity is the most important tool we have. It lets us create who we are and curate what is to come,” as we look back and as we look forward.…

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TED Talk: Do Soul Mates Hold the Key to Human Happiness?

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What makes people happy? We have been searching for answers to this age-old question for millennia. In his talk at TEDxBeaconStreet from November 2015, Dr. Robert Waldinger details the findings of a 75-year Harvard study tracking the lives of two disparate groups of men and their levels of happiness. The study, which evolved to include more than 2,000 people during its run, found that the most substantial factor determining someone’s happiness is relationships with other people. Having happy, healthy relationships leads to a happy, healthy life — and while this may seem too romantic to be true (Could your soul mate actually exist?), decades worth of data supports the notion that people are fundamentally social animals and having friends does…

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TED Talks: Amy Cuddy Suggests Striking a Pose to Adopt a Better Alter Ego

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Have you ever wished for a life hack that had the power to make you more confident and comfortable in your own skin? Look no further than “power posing,” developed by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy as discussed in her TED Talk from the Global conference in 2012. In this informative, moving and motivational talk, Cuddy talks about her philosophy of tiny tweaks leading to big life changes, and the power of “faking it ‘til you become it” rather than “faking it ‘til you make it.” In addition to discussing her own personal challenges, Cuddy describes her “power posing” practice, which she researched extensively. Essentially, she found that if you hold a confident pose for two minutes, your brain chemistry reacts…

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TED Talks: Lisa Bu Shares How Books Help Us Discover Identity

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What was your childhood dream? Growing up in China, Lisa Bu wanted to be a Chinese Opera Singer – but her parents didn’t approve. In her TED Talk from TED 2013, Bu describes how books helped her discover her identity and branch out within her own culture. She also discusses how books transformed her thinking and helped her adapt to life in the United States. Most profoundly, she speaks about how books taught her the true purpose of dreams and aspirations: “‘Coming True’ is not the only purpose of a dream – its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can…

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TED Talks: Cameron Russell on How Physical Appearance Impacts our Happiness

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Have you ever woken up in the morning, looked at your crazy bedhead, and wished you were a prettier, sexier version of yourself? The idea that external beauty will make a person happy is nearly universally accepted as truth, but in her TED Talk from TEDxMidAtlantic in 2012, activist and Victoria’s Secret model Cameron Russell takes the other side of the argument. She frankly admits that she won “the genetic lottery,” benefitting from a culture biased to value beautiful, young, slender, white women, and also draws attention to the ways physical appearance negatively impacts the lives of non-white people every day. It’s one of the most popular TED Talks of all time for Russell’s startling honesty and her ability to…

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TED Talks: Sarah Lewis Embraces a Near-Win to Achieve Success

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Think about it – isn’t it maddening when you come close to success only to have it slip through your fingers? In her TED Talk at TED2014, historian and curator Sarah Lewis argues that those times when we are just shy of realizing a goal, “near-wins” in her words, are the moments that drive us towards mastery. In this inspiring talk, Lewis encourages everyone to take the near-wins in their everyday lives and use them to reach their full potential. As she puts it, “Coming close to what you thought you wanted can help you attain more than you ever dreamed you could.” She motivates viewers to see that with tenacity, failure is just another step towards greater success. Recommended…

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