If you have a few minutes to spare, you can connect with innovative speakers and learn something new about life — that’s the core premise of TED Talks. These short educational videos introduce viewers to new ideas and ways of thinking through curated presentations from experts and thought leaders. Thousands of TED Talks are freely available online, and have been viewed more than 1 billion times collectively.
This format of quickly transferring knowledge from one inspired individual to the masses evolved out of a 1984 conference centered on technology, entertainment, and design — the inaugural TED event. The nonprofit TED Foundation now offers global and local events, fellowships, awards, programming for educators, mobile apps, a radio show, and more. But the most famous TED offering remains its free online videos, which garner an average of 17 views every second. The presentations on everything from gardening to physics to self-love have been translated and transcribed into more than 100 languages, and continue to inspire new listeners daily. Here are 10 quotes pulled from some of the most powerful TED Talks through the years.
I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.
— Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a research professor who explores courage, shame, empathy, and other powerful human traits and experiences. In her talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she discusses how being vulnerable and authentic is a necessary part of connection, love, and happiness.
Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.
— Ron Finley
“Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley is an urban farmer who inspired a local fresh food movement in a California food desert. In his talk, “A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA,” he discusses his love for gardening and how it serves as a solution to food insecurity and social inequity.
I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us when we simply take the time to listen.
— Dave Isay
Dave Isay is a radio producer and the founder of “StoryCorps,” an initiative to interview and preserve the stories of everyday people. In a talk at TED2015, Isay spoke of the rich value of each human life and voice.
My contention is that creativity, now, is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.
— Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson was an author and educator who gave TED’s most-viewed talk to date, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” In this presentation, he upholds creativity as an essential trait that schools must do a better job cultivating and supporting.
There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.
— Susan Cain
Susan Cain is the author of the best-selling book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” In her TED Talk, she extols the undervalued gifts of quiet and introspective people, and explains how introversion is different from shyness.
Sometimes the true nature of reality beckons from just beyond the horizon… maybe we will always be asking questions and never be able to fully answer them.
— Brian Greene
Brian Greene is a physicist and mathematician who explores the mysteries of space-time, multiverses, and other existential topics. In his talk — “Is Our Universe the Only Universe?” — he tackles dark energy and theoretical extra dimensions of space, while acknowledging the importance of curiosity and humility in the pursuit of cosmic understanding.
All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm, and clarity in your life.
— Andy Puddicombe
Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk, a meditation teacher, and the cofounder of the online meditation company Headspace. In his TED Talk, he discusses how mindfulness sessions — even very short ones — can have a significant positive effect on our minds and our hectic modern lives.
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
— Robert Waldinger
Psychologist Robert Waldinger is director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a 75-year research study. In his talk, “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness,” he shares striking findings on the pivotal importance of social connections to our well-being.
It’s OK to not be dominating, [it’s] OK to have feelings and emotions, [it’s] OK to promote equality, [it’s] OK to have women who are just friends, [it’s] OK to be whole… my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.
– Tony Porter
Educator and activist Tony Porter cofounded the nonprofit A Call to Men, which works to prevent violence against women and create healthier models of manhood. In his presentation, he discusses the possibility of freeing boys and men from harmful gender norms, which he calls the “man box,” for the benefit of people of all genders.
[Whatever] happens to other beings is happening to us… that leads to a new orientation in life where we live equally for ourselves and for others, and we are joyful and happy… Compassion makes you happy.
— Robert Thurman
Buddhist scholar and monk Robert Thurman often speaks and writes about aligning our personal, inner wellness with a larger societal wellness. In his TED Talk on expanding one’s circle of compassion, he provides instructions on how to access empathy and love for other beings, as well as how to act productively on those feelings.