The 14 Most Powerful TED Talks for Disruptive Career Change & Making a Difference

Written by Scott April 30, 2013

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 ;).


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“It was 18 months ago when I came across Live Your Legend and it just completely blew my mind. I was living this life thinking I have to kind of just do this. Then it was like a kid on Christmas Day with my wife thinking ‘we don’t have to do this anymore.’ It was literally a life change. It opened so many doors. Thanks for everything you’re doing.”

- Simon P., Singapore