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The 11 Most Inspirational TED Talks of 2016 (So Far)

Technology, Entertainment, Design. There’s a lot of great stuff to be discussed across those three topics, and as you might expect, few resources deliver us those discussions in a more comprehensive and engaging way than the TED Talks series.

TED Talks educate us, enlighten us, and even make us laugh. The presentations that really resonate over the long run, however, are the ones that inspire us; the ones that open us up to new hope, new health, new appreciation, and new confidence. Anything that can do that is always worth 10 to 20 minutes of our time.

Here are the most inspiring TED Talks of 2016. So far…


Michael Bodekaer: This Virtual Lab Will Revolutionize Science Class

If you think science is making progress now, just wait until you consider the possibilities enabled through intelligently and meticulously designed virtual reality environments. More engaged students, more effective learning, and if all goes according to plan, more 15-year-olds developing low-cost tests for pancreatic cancer.

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Hugh Evans: What Does It Mean To Be a Citizen of the World

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Think globally, act locally.” According to research, though, of the people who do think globally, only about 18% of them act anywhere. There is complexity in the way, but as Evans says, “We, as global citizens, now have a unique opportunity to accelerate large-scale positive change around the world.” You can start by watching this TED Talk.

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Adam Grant: The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

Do you know someone who tends to procrastinate? Someone who suffers from doubts and fears and has been known to fail on several occasions? Well, they might just be what Adam Grant calls “originals” – and they just might be the next ones to improve the world.

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Dan Pallotta: The Dream We Haven’t Dared to Dream

“Instead of going up to the person everybody wants to meet, go up to the person who is all alone and ask them if they want to grab a cup of coffee… imagine living in a world where we simply recognize that deep, existential fear in one another and love one another boldly because we know that to be human is to live with that fear.” Feel free to get a little soggy in the eyeball during this one.

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Dan Gross: Why Gun Violence Can’t Be Our New Normal

While we don’t have it nearly as bad up here in Canada, it’s hard not to be concerned about the way things are headed with respect to gun legislation as a reflection of a much larger character of our neighbour, “the most powerful country in the world.” Dan Gross gives us some much needed metrics, anecdotes and reassurance that things might be moving in the right direction.

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Reshma Saujani: Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

I’ve written about this topic in the context of aesthetics, and Saujani does a great job of illustrating its significance in the context of commerce, technology and, ultimately, our culture as a whole. For those who care about the well-being of our friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, this is one speech worth watching because, as Saujani puts it, just “trying harder is not going to fix a broken system.”

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Adam Foss: A Prosecutor’s Vision for a Better Justice System

“We stick to an outdated method, counterproductive to achieving the very goal that we all want, and that’s safer communities… we complain, we tweet, we protest about the police, about sentencing laws and about prison. We rarely, if ever, talk about the prosecutor…” If watching Making a Murderer hasn’t already inspired you in some way, this just might.

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Travis Kalanick: Uber’s Plan to Get More People Into Fewer Cars

Many of us use subways and buses, drive cars, and freak out about gas prices. Just about all of us love Uber. But few of us appreciate the global significance of the innovation and trends that arise in the transportation industry. As Robin Chase, co-founder of ZipCar, said to me explaining her interest in the field, “I could impact the quality of people’s lives in a profound way as well as address the biggest issue of our time.” Kalanick shares some incredible numbers show us that innovations from companies like Uber don’t just represent a road to profitability, but an avenue for us to reclaim a healthier planet.

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Shonda Rhimes: My Year of Saying Yes to Everything

No, this talk is not based on the Jim Carrey movie. And yes, it’s much more inspiring. As young professionals, we are always struggling with the delicate balance of work-life integration and Rhimes does an excellent job reminding us that work doesn’t work without play.

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Matthew Williams: Special Olympics Let Me Be Myself – A Champion

Those who have had the opportunity to participate in the motionball Marathon of Sport, or have simply donated to the motionball charity in Canada, will know how beautiful and widely fulfilling an experience it is to support athletes who participate in the Special Olympics. If you want an idea of how much that support truly means, listen to what Matthew has to say.

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Tim Harford: How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative

Young professionals are no strangers to stress, mess and frustration. With some astonishing anecdotes and eye-opening insights, Tim Harford reminds us that from a little bit of chaos can come a great deal of success.

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