14 TED Talks for career change

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton

Learning from Masters

TED is one of my favorite organizations on the planet.

What their 2- to 18-minute-long talks have done for the distribution of ideas, disruptive thinking and creativity is something I’ll never fully be able to get my head around.

I credit TED for much of the inspiration and ideas that have come to life through Live Your Legend – and just about everything else I do.

They’ve helped me launch businesses, run ultra marathons, connect with world-changers and even kept me from having a breakdown from time to time…

Aside from ideas and inspiration, I believe a good TED Talk is one of the fastest ways to start surrounding yourself with passionate world-class experts.

That is priceless.

I often watch at least a few a week and always have some saved on my iPad or iPhone for bus rides to the office, flight delays, whatever.

The list below was very hard to make, as I’ve seen hundreds of talks and so many deserve our attention.

So please look at this list as merely a starting point.

Every one of the below have had a profound effect on my career and approach to the world – and for our purposes today I’ve only chosen the ones that cover the various steps of making the transition to doing work you love.

Why more people aren’t taking advantage of this stuff will forever baffle me.

If TED hasn’t been a part of your daily life before now, I hope that one of the people below will cause that to change.

These are some of the best story tellers in the world (a skill that one is never done mastering). Pick one for now and follow up with the rest throughout the week.

Enjoy the show… and share your own favorite talk in the comments so we can keep learning!

1. Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action (& how to rally the world behind a common idea or movement)

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This single sentence of Simon’s has been the most profound concept I’ve learned in at least a few years, if not ever. I built LYL from the ground up based on his idea of starting with Why. I literally take it into account with almost every interaction I have – business or personal.

He lays out a blueprint for finding purpose and building a movement around your vision. I’ve watched this at least 15 times. He also did an interview on LYL last year: Simon Sinek Shares the #1 Business Principle that Changes Everything.


2. Steve Jobs – How to Live Before You Die (& not spend your life hating what you do)

I believe this is hands down the best career talk ever given. Ever. I’ve watched it over a dozen times. Not originally a TED talk, but now one of their top videos.


3. Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (& how to create confidence and influence out of thin air)

Whether you want to land your dream job or attract the hottest guy or girl at the bar, Amy’s ideas are gold. A huge part of our Connect with Anyone course. “Fake it until you become it.”


4. Brené Brown - The Power of Vulnerability (& how to become the most memorable person in the room)

It’s impossible to find and do work you love if you don’t represent who you actually are – both to yourself and to the world. This is the foundation of any genuine connection or passionate career. No more puffing your chest out. Let it all hang out (or at least most of it…).


5. Elizabeth Gilbert – Your Elusive Creative Genius (& how to create content and value in a sane, consistent way)

Harnessing creativity can be terrifying, especially as an artist or entrepreneur. Elizabeth’s alternative approach to this is brilliant.


6. Jonathan Fields – Turning Fear into Fuel for Brillance (& how to not let uncertainty kill your progress)

There’s going to be fear no matter what – and even more of it when you’re pursuing what matters. Jonathan turns that on its head. This and his book, Uncertainty, saved me more than once. His stories also give me chills.


7. Sir Ken Robinson – School Kills Creativity (& how to educate and learn in a way that nurtures innovation)

Most school systems are set up to kill a passion long before it has a chance of becoming a career. If we’re going to seek out the solution, it helps if we better understand the problem. Ken offers both.


8. Larry Smith – Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career (& a more worthy alternative)

This dissects the problem of why I believe the Live Your Legend movement is so damn important. Hilariously told too. As Charlie Munger says “Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.”


9. Rory Sutherland – Perspective Is Everything (or how to become a marketing genius)

Every world-changing career involves plenty of marketing, selling, persuasion and influence. I’ve never seen a more genius approach (or comical delivery) for positioning your product, service or yourself in a way that actually interests people.


10. Benjamin Zander – The Transformative Power of Classical Music (& what it looks like to be madly in love with what you do)

When transitioning to passionate work, it helps to see people who have already found it. This is one of the most brilliant displays of a man deeply in love with the work he does. I never thought classical music could make me cry.


11. Jamie Oliver – Teach Every Child about Food (or how to mount & lead an international revolution from a standing start)

On par with Zander, the passion Jamie has for the revolution he’s leading proves that anything is possible when your Why, purpose and passion are deep and congruent enough. Jamie won the TED Prize in 2010. I watch this and Simon’s before every talk I give.


12. Cameron Herold – Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs (or a realistic approach to getting the next generation to do work that actually excites them)

Doing work you love is not just about you or me. It’s about the people who look up to us whom we can inspire to take a path they actually care about. That is all of our role as mentors, friends and parents. I believe Cameron’s approach will be a huge part of the solution. I look forward to raising my future children with this as the blueprint.


Honorable Mentions (and still very well worth your time):

Chip Conley - Measuring what makes life worthwhile (and how to love jobs that most people would hate)

Daniel Pink – The puzzle of motivation (and how to incentivize yourself and others for peak performance and fulfillment)

Ben Dunlap – The life-long learner & talks of a passionate life

Jason Fried – Why work doesn’t happen at work

Nigel Marsh – How to make work life balance work


No one does anything alone.

I owe these people (and many others) more than I’d probably care to admit. They are responsible for much of what exists today, and their ideas certainly served as my foundation when I got the chance to give my own TEDx talk in 2012 on How to Find & Do Work You Love. None of that would have been a dream, let alone a reality, if it weren’t for my surroundings.

The resources, ideas and people available to us today are priceless. Yet they also happen to be 100% free.

The question is, what are we all doing with it?


P.S. Thank you all who chimed in with your favorites over Facebook and Twitter this week – I so wish I could have listed all of them!

For the comments: What did I miss – what talk is a must for the LYL community? Please share the link in the comments and teach us something new! I plan to watch them all…eventually ;).


Leave a Reply

66 Responses to “The 14 Most Powerful TED Talks for Disruptive Career Change & Making a Difference”

  1. Michael says:

    Hey Scott,

    Awesome post! Good recommendations.

    • Scott says:

      Glad you liked em! Would love to see your favorite too! Just leave it in the comments if you’re game.

      • Jesse says:

        Hey Scott,

        You missed out this super inspiring TED talk, which I thought is totally inline with what your site is about

        “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes” – Adam Leipzig


        Totally powerful in inspiring 10 min video

        hope you enjoy! (if you havn’t already seen it)

        All the best!


  2. Danny Lennon says:

    Have just spent my whole morning watching all the talks I hadn’t seen before as well as re-watching those I had!

    Now have about eight A4 sheets of scribbled-down notes in front of me.

    Completely worth it and truly valuable.

    Thanks for compiling this list Scott!

    • Scott says:

      Love seeing you dive straight into this Danny! What about you – what talk did I leave off that you think we have to see??

  3. Ben says:

    Great idea for a post and a great resource.
    The first time you shared Simon’s talk it made a powerful impression on me, and I can’t wait to check out some of others you’ve shared here.

  4. Julia Harris says:

    Thanks for this Scott, I’ve only previously seen the first 2 but I LOVE them both (I just love Simon Sinek in general)

    I like to watch TED talks while I’m ironing and I have plenty of ironing to do at the moment so I think its time to stop putting it off now I’ve got a new play list!

  5. Scott,

    Awesome TED selections.
    Great post. There are some which I’ve not watched in this list. Gotto watch them.
    Thanks for sharing them.

  6. Jason Gracia says:


    You put so much time and effort into your posts, and this one is no different. Thank you for taking the time to compile this life-changing list.


  7. Great selection, Scott. Thank you.

    Fantastic to see these inspiring talks here, all in one place.

  8. Now you’ve done it, Scott. Do you realize that there are thousands of LYL people who are going to get less done today and a lot more done tomorrow… and every other day after that? Such is the power of watching a great TEDTalk.

    I was scrolling through your list, happily moving along. “Yep, seen it (awesome!)… Yeah, I watched that one too (thrice).” And then you ran off a string at the end of talks I’ve never seen but, based on your write up and street cred ’round these parts, I gotta watch now. Thanks for being my TEDTalk curator, bud! We all need awesome curators in our lives.

    P.S. I’m going to refrain from sharing my favorite TEDTalks since it would take me longer than I have to provide the context like you’ve done.

    • Scott says:

      Ha ha. I love the point you make. Here’s to getting less done today and more tomorrow :). Please do write up your list and share it with us. Make it your own blog post and put the link in the comments here if you want. I know you’ll have plenty of new ones for me!

  9. Casey Berman says:

    Hey Scott

    Great collection. The Larry Smith video just stopped me dead in my tracks. What a powerful talk. Confirmed and re-affirmed a lot for me.

    Thanks man

  10. Scott – You nailed it!

    Awesome beginners guide to a fantastic resource to LYL. This is like a personalized DVR playlist for Ted Talks. I have seen most of these, but there are some that I can’t wait to watch.

    Thanks for putting this together, Scott!

    for the next list: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0snNB1yS3IE


    • Scott says:

      Susi!! That talk is amazing. I actually thought of including it. Re-listening to it again right now is giving me chills. Great addition!

  11. Rishi Desai says:

    Thank you so much Scott. It’s like a treasure worth trillion dollar value.

    Hope to inspire others with these videos.

    Thanks again.

  12. As always, your posts are terrific. But indeed, you forgot two: Yours and mine!

    Yours: How to find and do work you love http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpe-LKn-4gM

    and mine: Passion Trumps Fear

    Keep up the good work!
    Larry Jacobson

  13. Larry Taylor says:

    What an incredible collection. I have seen many of these before, but one that I’ve not seen that really impacted me is Benjamin Zander.

    What a delightful, artful story teller. And the ‘shiny eyes’ is something that will stick with me forever. This is one that I will put on my iPhone and watch anytime I’m going to meet with, or speak to a group of people.

    One of my favorite Ted Talks is ‘My 3 Cents On Cancer’ by 15 year-old Jack Andraka.

    He tells an inspiring story of determination interwoven with some other more subtle themes.

    Thanks for posting these.

  14. Sharon says:

    Love all of these Scott! Thank you for gathering. I’ve heard a lot of these but some are new to me. And I could listen to Sir Ken all day, he’s amazing.

  15. Nikki Smith says:

    Oh my Oh my Oh my, how fantastic is TED. Thank you thank you for your top 10+
    In the spirit of “adding value” Thanks to your Connect with Anyone course I have been sending TED talks to clients and friends for some time now.
    I clearly need to watch 9. 10 and 12. The others I have seen and think are fabuloso!
    I was at a peer group meet up last night and there were two members there who still hadn’t heard of TED talks. Just shows how important it is to share what you know. As you will have introduced a whole host of people to the concept!
    Woo hoo
    The TED talk that blew my mind that isn’t on your list yet is
    Shawn Anchor – The happy secret to better work – loco insightful with real life results. You can’t help but talk about positive psychology after watching this one. :)

  16. Teddy says:

    Hello, peeps! I’ve searched for Morgan Spurlock’s (the guy who directed, produced, wrote and starred in the film Super Size Me.) TED speech and here’s the link:


    I hope that all of you who will watch this will enjoy the video! :)

    Have an uber fun day!!!!

  17. Hannah Shad says:

    Hi Scott –

    I’m new to your site and I’m wondering what articles, videos, tools, etc. you can point me to regarding a recent college graduate trying to start their new life? Most of the information on the site relates to people who have been working for years who are looking for change. What can you share with someone just getting started who wants to start the /right/ way?

    Thank you. You’ve been such a lifesaver already.


    • Debashish says:

      Hey Hannah

      I understand that most of the stuff comes across as ‘meant for working people looking for a change’. Even though I’m not a recent graduate (been 4 years) I feel more lost than I was just after graduation.

      Do check out this website, by Jenny Blake. She focuses on (as you can tell), life after college. Scott uses some of her stuff in his course material too.

      It’s wonderful that you’ve come across this website just when you’re on the verge of a major change in life. Congrats, and all the best for the future.

  18. Grant says:

    Hey man thanks for this awesome post!

    I love ted talks, especially ones that revolve around these kinds of topics so it’s create that you compiled them.

    In fact you’ve resurrected some of my favorites (and reminded me to watch them again) and pointed out some great ones I am getting a lot out of that I had never heard of before.


  19. Debashish says:

    Awesome post. Thanks Scott, for compiling a list of TED talks. I came to know about TED through your work, so a list compiled by you definitely makes my day.
    This talk is by a Korean author, about why every one should be an artist. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/young_ha_kim_be_an_artist_right_now.html

    This talk is by an awesome person, who lost both legs but, found a way to be a professional snow boarder, in spite of it. Super-inspiring.

    My salute to TED, and to you Scott, for inspiring the world.

  20. Sheree says:

    Just went to look for the email that I saw earlier this week to watch some inspiration and, low and behold, I’d just minutes before received a second email with the links. I like to think there’s a reason the email showed up in my box at that moment.

  21. Michael says:

    This is wonderful and inspiring

  22. Michael says:

    This is marvelous

  23. Maeda says:

    I’m still watching Simon Sinek vids. AMAZING! At this rate it will be weeks before I make it to the bottom of your list. =P Thank you so much, Scott!

  24. Orly says:

    1. This is a great post. 2. I cannot believe you didn’t have ANY Dan Ariely talks in there. Almost every lecture he gives is inspiring to me. Not to mention the man himself, his life story is the embodiment of the “inspiration” concept. Of particular interest is this talk, focusing on how much meaning and purpose are crucial for people to enjoy the work they do – http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_what_makes_us_feel_good_about_our_work.html

  25. Lukas says:

    Dear Scott,
    thank you for posting a great collection of TED Talks! The thing that is amazing for me about every TED Talk is that speakers always stand behind their idea 100% and are making a really powerful impact (by inspiring others, –> Simon Sinek ;). And I believe this is the point of LYL, so people can find the thing they are so passionate about, that they could give a TED Talk about it themselves.
    The problem for most is still to find their passion, as they learned to follow curriculums and not passions in school. And this is the overall point of most of the talks posted here for me: Follow the thing you love instead of what other people might tell you or expect.
    The job for all of those who want to be disruptive, innovative and change existing patterns is to support each other in swimming against the tide and having the courage to make a real impact. So let’s all do that!

    I would like to share three talks about science (even though they are about much more than that):
    Dan Gilbert:

    Clifford Stoll:

    Hans Rosling:

    Best regards from my psychology class in Germany,

  26. Nihaad says:

    Thank you for your post,those are awesome Ted Talks. The one that I have found the most inspiring (but is not on the list) is a talk by Caroline Casey titled ‘Looking past limits’. I would highly recommend watching this .

  27. JCov says:

    I <3 this list!! I haven't gotten to watch them all yet, but I most certainly will. Thank you for putting them all together. I saw you were asking "what did you miss" and I was thinking there is one Gary Vaynerchuk "TedTalk" I like. Turns out it wasn't a TedTalk it was a Web 2.0 talk. Let me know if you want the link, I wouldn't dare mess up the purity of this TedTalk theme without your permission :) Thanks so much Scott!!

  28. Vane SM says:

    Hi Scott & LYL community! It’s a great list indeed, have to see some of them yet. Thank you a lot!
    I wanna be brief and just share with you one TED Talk about, not doing the work you love, but living the life you love. Though, it’s all the same, isn’t it?
    Here, by Louie Schwartzberg : Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. #TED : http://on.ted.com/jcFP

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  31. Lola says:

    great list and even better introduction! you summed up my thoughts and experiences with Ted. looking fwd to watching these videos, thanks for sharing!

  32. Suzi says:

    Love this compilation, Scott! I bookmarked it when it was first published and continually refer to it when I need a boost. Thanks for sharing this!

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  35. Emily D says:

    I would add this talk on finding your tribe and gearing your message towards them: https://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead. Thanks for the list!

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