I started listening to a TED talk every day a year ago. Since then I've watched over 150 hours of them.
Sometimes I'll watch it as I drink my coffee in the morning, or just before bed, or in the afternoon as I try to stay awake. Some days I listen to more than one. But every day, I find between 15 minutes and an hour to hear someone speak.
Each of the talks gives me access to the knowledge of people I will never have a chance to speak with. They are people I would be lucky to have the chance to ask for advice or to pick their brains. I listen to talks by people who are successful in a range of areas - writing, marketing, teaching, psychology, music, sociology, etc.
Here's a relevant quote from the film-maker Jim Jarmusch:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
That's the reason why I do this. Each talk gives me new ideas to absorb. Each one teaches me something. They can be challenging, confusing, infuriating, moving or anywhere else on the emotional spectrum.
Doing the same thing every day can soon become dull. Finding a means of learning (outside of an academic context) is a habit unlike any other. The actual act of sitting down and choosing a talk to watch is a habit. But the content varies so much that it seems odd to see it as a habit as such. It feels like an integral part of my day.
Here are 20 of my favourite talks which have all had a big impact on my life and which I often rewatch.
Not all are from TED- 99u and Google talks are also fantastic. I recommend bookmarking each one, or adding it to a playlist and watching one per day. I also suggest not watching too many in one go, as that makes it harder to absorb the messages within them.
What do we truly need in our lives? - Mathias Lefebvre
The myths of the overworked creative- Tony Schwartz
Depression, the secret we share - Andrew Solomon
Without the doing, dreaming is useless - Rilla Alexander
Get rid of the unnecessary to get down to basics - Colin Wright
The habits of highly boring people - Chris Sauve
Purpose is the new bottom line - Casey Gerald
The realist's guide to changing the world - Franklin Leonard
How I went two years without spending any money - Shantanu Starick
How to turn stress into an advantage - Kelly McGonigal
How YouTube changed the essay - Evan Puschak
How to quit your life (and reboot) - Priya Parker
What culture teaches about Utopia - Richard Howells
Quit social media - Dr Cal Newport
High school stories - Casey Neistat
Focus is a muscle - Connor O'Leary
Happiness by design - Stefan Sagmeister
Learning from dirty jobs - Mike Rowse