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10 Terrific TED Talks for Eager Entrepreneurs

Written by on February 17, 2020

Whether you’re now starting out on your entrepreneurial journey or you already have several years under your belt, it never hurts to take a little time to absorb the wise musings of others.

I believe it was Plato who said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools because they have to say something.” And after indulging in the talks below, I think you’ll agree that each and every speaker had something even the wise Plato might consider very important to say.

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The time you invest for each viewing will never surpass 20 minutes, but the takeaways will be invaluable.

How to build a business that lasts 100 years

Time investment: 14 minutes 46 seconds 

Think tank strategist, Martin Reeves, deftly uses contrast to the human immune system in order to share statistics about declining corporate life spans. He has noted that though companies today usually survive for an average of 30 years, any company has a 32% chance of lasting five years or less before dissolving. 

To help combat disintegration, he has developed six principles that business owners can learn from living organisms in order to build resilient enterprises more capable of withstanding the test of time. Take a break from your busy schedule and listen to him explain just how redundancy, diversity, modularity, adaptability, prudence, and embeddedness can be applied for your long-term business survival. 

“It’s no longer about optimizing a stable, predictable game, and knowing your competitors and the industry. It’s about surviving and thriving in an unpredictable game…today’s agile startup is tomorrow’s big company.”

Time investment: 18 minutes 52 seconds

Neuroscientist, Matt Walker, enthrallingly repeated what we already know. That is: sleep deprivation hurts.

It hurts our immune systems by rendering us less able to fend off sickness. It causes us to be more forgetful and less capable of learning new things. It makes us more likely to suffer from dementia and heart attacks. Lack of sleep disrupts hormonal balance and leads to premature aging  And his list goes on and on and on.

Walker ultimately concluded that “the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.” He highlighted how imperative it is to stop considering needing sleep as a sign of laziness or weakness. As an eager entrepreneur, it might be tempting to try and emulate the habits of some of the greats, like Obama and Musk, who claim to sleep only a few hours at night. But don’t. Let adequate sleep be your superpower.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology…Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.”

The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed

Time investment: 6 minutes 33 seconds

Incubator founder, Bill Gross, was curious about why some startups succeed while others failed. So he went about gathering data from hundreds of companies to be able to rank each company based on five key factors.

Through a process of elimination, he explains that he found the biggest reason for startup failure to be timing, which accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure. Tune in for a bit and let him explain just how important it is to try and execute your good business ideas when consumers are really ready for them.

“Be really, really honest about it, not be in denial about any results that you see, because if you have something you love, you want to push it forward, but you have to be very, very honest about that factor on timing.”

The power of believing that you can improve

Time investment: 10 minutes 11 seconds

Professor Carol Dweck a prominent researcher of the idea that humans are able to grow their brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. The growth mindset requires you to believe above all else that you can improve upon your abilities.

Your mindset will either propel or prevent you from fulfilling our potential. Professor Dweck used the example of children in school responding to challenging problems to highlight the difference between growth and fixed mindsets. Some embraced the challenge of not yet knowing, whereas others viewed it as tragically catastrophic.

Responses to two simple words “not yet” can say so much, but ultimately everyone is capable of switching over to embrace a growth mindset.

Do yourself a favor, watch the video and then start delving a little deeper to understand and improve upon your own mindset.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Time investment: 13 minutes, 55 seconds

Blogger and procrastinator Tim Urban humorously shares insights on some universally relatable procrastinator tendencies. He speaks about the key role of deadlines and highlights that if you want to pursue a career that requires you to be a self-starter, there will be virtually no deadlines on things at first. This is because nothing really happens until you build up the momentum for your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Even if you have a healthy relationship with deadlines, it’s still totally worth watching this TED talk. You’ll come away with a much better understanding of the dynamic between each human’s instant gratification monkey, panic monster and relationship with deadlines (or lack thereof).

 “It’s this long-term kind of procrastination that’s much less visible and much less talked about than the funnier, short-term deadline-based kind. It’s usually suffered quietly and privately. And it can be the source of a huge amount of long-term unhappiness and regrets.”

How to make stress your friend

Time investment: 14 minutes 18 seconds

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal used her TED Talk to stress on the fact that stress should be seen as a positive. Her research found that people who believe stress is bad for them actually have a higher mortality rate than those who view their stress as a healthy physiological response to an external factor. It’s all about perspective.

Handling stress effectively is something you’ll have to work on every day as an entrepreneur.  But don’t worry, she also prescribes the best cure for stress reduction – reaching out to others. Be sure to watch this talk if you’re feeling stressed out. You owe it to yourself to change your body’s response to stress.

“How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress…I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress. Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you strength and energy. And when you choose to view stress in this way, you’re not just getting better at stress, you’re actually making a pretty profound statement. You’re saying that you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges. And you’re remembering that you don’t have to face them alone.”

The surprising habits of original thinkers

Time investment: 15 minutes 15 seconds

Organizational psychologist and ‘pre-crastinor’ Adam Grant focuses here on ‘originals’, the thinkers who drive creativity in the world. In his TED talk, he shared three things that tend to define exceptional originals.

What it boils down to is that originals and mere mortals are not that dissimilar. Being quick to start, but slow to finish, actively engaging with idea doubt and being afraid of failing to try are the most common traits of originals.

Your tendencies to feel fear, doubt and procrastinate can be what helps you to succeed and be original. Check out this truly immersive talk for more detail on how to forge ahead as an original.

“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most because they’re the ones who try the most…You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

5 Ways to kill your dreams

Time investment: 6 minutes, 3 seconds

TED Fellow and Brazilian entrepreneur, Bel Pesce, quickly highlighted the following five easy to believe fantasies that are guaranteed to make your dreams a non-reality.

  • Believing in overnight success: regardless of what is oftentimes depicted, success basically always requires preparation, diligence and an opportunity.
  • Believing that someone else has the answers for you: your dream requires your input and your decisions. Soliciting advice is all fine and well. Plus many people will have opinions they feel the need to share. But at the end of the day, you have to choose your path and make your mistakes. The stumbles along the way only serve to strengthen you further.
  • Decide to settle down when growth is guaranteed: it’s easy to grow complacent in life. And it’s safer to stick inside your comfort zone. But if you have unattained dreams, it’s never okay to settle. Like Bel, you must constantly aim to continuously improve.
  • Believing the fault is someone else’s: it’s your responsibility and your responsibility alone to make your dreams come true. Sure, you’ll need some help along the way. But you need to develop a high degree of self-awareness and own your failures as well as successes.
  • Believing that the only things that matter are the dreams themselves: reaching goals feels incredible, but a dream is much more than a single fleeting moment in time. Life is never about the goal in and of itself. Your experiences and lessons learned along the way make up the dream journey.

Take a few minutes to hear these points outlined directly by her. Your dreams, present and future, will be glad you did.

“Achieving a dream is a momentary sensation, and your life is not. The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of your journey. That’s the best way.”

How I became an entrepreneur at 66

Time investment: 6 minutes 51 seconds

Co-Founder and CEO, Paul Tasner proves that age really is just a number. After being unexpectedly fired at the age of 64, he became his own boss. He founded a start-up and combined an engineering background with his concern for the environment.

He now designs and manufactures biodegradable packaging from paper, agricultural and textile waste. His clean technology is already making a real difference in the reduction of toxic single-use plastics. Despite having footwear older than some of his techy startup funding competitors, he’s persevered and finds himself doing the most rewarding and meaningful work of his life.

Take a moment to ingest his undeniable words of wisdom and call to action for seniors to pursue new ventures.

“I can tell you there are lots of resources available to entrepreneurs of all ages, but what I really yearned for five years ago was to find other first-time entrepreneurs who were my age. I wanted to connect with them. I had no role models, absolutely none…”


In case you’re in the mood for some light reading after all the video binging, be sure to check out these highly recommended books for entrepreneurs. You can afterward give your eyes a rest by immersing your ears in some enlightening episodes from these helpful business podcasts.

Happy entrepreneur-ing!

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