Being an entrepreneur isn’t always easy. That is why sometimes we need a little bit of outside inspiration from people that have been there and done that already, and come out successful on the other side. Fortunately, you can find 10 of the most inspirational TED Talks that entrepreneurs are bound to benefit from below.
The talks are split up into two sections with the first covering more general topics relevant to all entrepreneurs. The second, however, includes TED Talks with a more specific focus on things that impact entrepreneurs who are female and women of colour.
Keep reading to find the inspiration you need, today!
Section 1: Inspirational TED Talks That Are Suitable For All Entrepreneurs
Leadership is a skill all entrepreneurs need, even if for the time being the only person they are leading is themselves. However, as Sinek points out in his video, sucking at leadership is more common than excelling at it.
Happily, Sinek’s video, watched almost 40 million times, doesn’t leave us without some advice on how to become better leaders. In essence, Sinek’s suggestion is to learn how to inspire your team and have a great reason why you are doing something.
For example, Sinek might suggest that selling a product like a jar opener is much easier if your team is motivated by the fact that they will be helping people with mobility issues live an easier or richer life. This is inspirational, and makes people feel good about themselves so inspires action.
Grind culture is something that most entrepreneurs are familiar with, especially if what you are currently working on is a side project. However, staying up all night with the help of energy drinks and coffee to increase the amount of time you spend working on your business, may not be the best idea in the long term. Indeed, this is precisely what sleep expert and neuroscientist Russell Foster suggests in his TED Talk: Why do we sleep?
Foster states that even small reductions in our sleep schedules can have huge consequences such as reduced cognitive function, and increased risk of showing negative behaviours and emotions including anger, impulsivity and substance use. All of this matters because not only do such things run the risk of ruining your personal life, but as an entrepreneur, they can seriously impact your business decisions and success as well.
Indeed, Foster’s advice to make time for rest and sleep, and to do the same for your employees is the crucial point you will take away from this video.
Entrepreneurs are all about the ‘good ideas,’ but having an understanding of where they spring from is crucial to consistent success. That is why everyone should watch Steven Johnson’s TED Talk: Where Good Ideas Come From. In this talk, Johson discusses how good ideas are rarely a single Eureka moment springing from nowhere. Instead, Johnson suggests that the best ideas tend to be collaborative and take time to slowly develop and take form.
To illustrate this point Johnson uses some great historical examples including our modern GPS systems which were slowly built on the shoulders of giants including the famous 20th century actress Hedy Lamarr.
For entrepreneurs, motivation can often seem thin on the ground, especially when you are trying to motivate others to carry out your vision. This leads us to Daniel Pink’s TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, which covers how motivation comes in different forms such as extrinsic and intrinsic, and that not all types of motivation are equal.
In his video TED Talk The Puzzle of Motivation, Pink suggests that intrinsic motivation is always better than extrinsic. What this means is that externally motivating factors such as punishment and reward will only get you so far as an entrepreneur. Instead, to motivate yourself, or those that are working under you it’s best to find the intrinsic factors that cause someone to want to do something.
Pink states that intrinsic motivational factors include things like mastery, and autonomy, which can be used to leverage high performance in yourself or those that you work with.
Entrepreneurs can often feel as if they are a jack of all trades, having to learn to do a wide range of jobs and roles to get their ideas off the ground. However, learning to do things well can be tricky, especially when you are already limited in terms of your time and the energy you can contribute to the process.
The good news is that in Eduardo Briceño’s TED Talk, How To Get Better At The Things You Care About you can find out all about how getting in the learning zone can help you with this task.
Briceño discusses the difference between the learning zone and the performance zone, and how they affect our ability to adopt a growth mindset. Indeed, when we are always in the performance zone we do not allow ourselves to grow, learn and make mistakes which can make picking up new skills, and the life of an entrepreneur much more difficult.
Briceño also suggested switching between the learning and performance zones, as the former helps us to build the skills we need to succeed as an entrepreneur, which we can then use to our advantage in the latter.
Goal setting is something that will be more than familiar to the entrepreneur. However, according to John Doerr’s TED Talk titled Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals, it’s something that many of us are getting wrong.
Doerr highlights that the issue with getting goal setting wrong is that it can sabotage your entire operation, causing failure where otherwise there might be success. Doerr’s solution to this problem is to use OKRs or Objectives and Key Results which can better help us define not only what we want, but how to measure it as well.
Indeed, Doerr’s OKR approach has not gone untested, as some of the biggest and most prosperous businesses like Google use this approach to great success.
Author of the 4-Hour Work Week, and podcaster Tim Ferriss is well known in the entrepreneur community for out-of-the-box thinking and problem-solving. Unsurprisingly then he offers another unique take on a vital aspect of business goal setting in his TED Talk Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals.
Yes, that’s right, in his TED Talk Ferris discussed how the most useful thing you can do when trying to run a successful business is to list out and visualize the things you are scared of that might happen. Feris reminds us that all entrepreneurs and business owners need to triumph over several fears to succeed. The value of thinking about these fears, Ferris suggests, is in getting to know them, permitting them, and having a proactive solution to put in place in case they happen. Enabling you to solve any issues as they arise and also feel more confident in forging forward with your business as an entrepreneur.
Section 2: Our Top TED Talk Picks for WOC and Female Entrepreneurs
In this last section, we devote some space to TED Talks that are not just useful to all, but have specific applications to females, and in particular entrepreneurs that are women of colour.
In her TED Talk Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable Luvvie Ajayi’s message is all about getting outside of your comfort zone. This is especially important for female and WOC entrepreneurs because we have been unwelcome and discriminated against in so many areas of business. However, by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can begin taking up our rightful place in spaces that have traditionally been less than welcoming.
In particular, Ajayi whose experience as what she describes as ‘a professional troublemaker’ puts her in an excellent position to discuss the value of speaking hard truths and speaking up rather than staying silent.
Irene Mora’s TED Talk champions a woman’s right to have a career and be a mother. Her credentials to speak on this subject are top notch too as a mother, and Tommy Hilfiger Executive, she has had plenty of experience balancing the demands of a high-performance career with those of motherhood.
Mora is especially concerned with the way that we set our expectations for the next generation of female entrepreneurs, suggesting that just like her own mother, a CEO of a multinational pharmaceutical company, it is up to our generation to normalise the idea that both a successful career and motherhood are possible.
Last of all, female entrepreneurs should check out the incredibly popular TED Talk by Dame Stephanie Shirley titled Why do ambitious women have flat heads? Famous entrepreneur and founder of the predominantly female software company known as Xansa, Dame Stephanie is currently worth over $3 billion! Due to her experience of sexism in the business world, Stephanie regularly went by the name Steve.
Spoiler alert: Dame Stephanie suggests that ambitious women have flat heads because they are always being patted on the head in a patronising way. She also says that the solution to this as an entrepreneur is to make sure you’re surrounded by people who recognise your worth and that you get on with in a professional sense.