5 Ted Talks that helped me live out my mantra in 2017

How many times do you have to do something for it to be considered a tradition? Last year I shared a list of TED Talks that I thought were ideas that should continue to be spread. This year I thought I would share TED Talks that helped me to live out my mantra.

I have undergone a lot of personal and professional growth in the past 18 months. These changes would not have come about unless I stuck to my mantra – get comfortable standing in uncertainty.

Earlier this year I sat down with a colleague. I needed change but more importantly I needed the courage to take a leap not knowing if I would land on my feet. With the above mantra in mind and a pile of book recommendations, I left our lunch meeting with a flipped mindset and some actions. I started pursuing opportunities that could see me move around the state and throwing myself from heights that scared me. To clarify, in this context that last one is definitely a metaphor and a killer lyric. I learned to stretch my comfort zone, not snap it.

Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way. Here are five Ted Talks that motivated me to live out my mantra in 2017.

My year saying yes to everything by Shonda Rhimes

If you thought writer and producer Shonda Rhimes was putting the dream in dream job, you’ve got to listen to her talk. Her perspective made me comfortable in owning being a workaholic. You see being a workaholic is not a negative characteristic, but a sign that my work brings me joy and fulfilment. And that is ok.

After committing to a year of saying yes, Rhimes explains her concept of ‘the hum,’ being a titan and questions what happens when the hum stops.

Lasting quote: ‘If the song of my heart ceases to play can I stand the sound of silence?’


Are you a giver or a taker by Adam Grant

What is your workplace personality? Are you a giver, taker or a matcher? Are you a taker who gave too many times? Do you help others so much, that you don’t get your own work done?

If research shows that givers are the highest performers in organisations, how do we create work cultures where they can succeed? How do we protect against burnout and make asking for help ok?

I used to be a giver until I realised people take my kindness for granted. That is when I decided to be a matcher. If someone was exceling, I would strive to match them and lift those around me; if someone was falling behind I would try support with strategies to approach their load, without entirely alleviating them of it. A bit like ‘teach a person to fish’ analogy.

Key take away: success is about contribution. It is about who you can spare five minutes to support today, so that they perform better for the organisation tomorrow.


Get Comfortable with being uncomfortable, by Luvvie Ajayi

If you recall what my mantra for this year was, you will know why this talk from TEDWomen 2017 drove straight into my core.

In order for dominos to fall, one has to fall first. That’s what drives author, speaker and digital analyst Ajayi to be the first to speak out against systemic issues. Since 2003 she has been blogging and raising unpopular opinions. That is how change starts – one voice willing to take the brunt of being first. By pursuing that which scares her she started climbing her own mountains and owning her fears. There were so many knowledge nuggets in this TED talk, watch it for yourself here.


Why you should define your fears instead of your goals by Tim Ferris

Fear-setting, it is like goal setting for your fears. Define it, prevent it and repair it. This is what productivity coach Tim Ferris presents in his TED talk. This is a quick listen (although he does have another longer version on a similar topic.)

Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree, for some it is crippling whilst for others cognitive behaviour therapy can help overcome the monkey brain. By laying out your fears, they can suddenly become more manageable and tangible; they can be overcome through a series of actions.

Never let your fears define or inhibit you.

Philosopher quote drop of the year: Ferris reminds audiences that ‘we suffer more often in imagination than in reality’ (Seneca).


Reclaiming Social Entrepreneurship by Daniela Papi Thornton

Oxford University researcher, Daniela Papi Thornton argues that the social entrepreneurship education model is broken. She emphasises the importance of teaching students to apprentice a problem and develop an understanding of the systems that need to be redesigned, rather than teaching students to create and pitch social businesses.

Thornton wants to see a new education model that produces more systems change leaders and less heropreneurs. She wants to see individuals married to problems and designing coordinated efforts between not-for-profits, corporates and governments to create sustainable change.

I have to agree with her, not every problem needs a new social business. I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, until someone told me I was one. I say social entrepreneurship chose me more than I chose it; it was just another label to help others make sense of what I do.


There are hundreds of TED Talks produced each year in both Big Ted and independently organised events. These are just some of the ones that made it to my saved list.

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