5 TED talks that will help to inspire and reinvigorate your career

Do you love the job that you do, or is it just ‘okay’? If you’ve been working in the same profession, or job, for 10 years or more, it’s likely that you’ve become a little bored or disillusioned with certain aspects of it, and maybe your output is no longer your best. Often we continue to ‘make do’ simply because we worry that making changes could be risky, or push us too far outside of our comfort zone.

But considering we spend at least 40 years of our life working, it’s important that we’re doing something we enjoy. The good news is if your career has become a bit stagnant and dull, there are a variety of steps you can take (some big, some small), which can help you to either view your existing job from a fresh perspective, or seek out new work that you will love.

Knowing where to begin is often the tricky part, so we’ve put together a playlist of five inspirational TED Talks, by individuals who have either challenged their existing careers or taken more radical steps towards change. Ultimately they’ve found ways to make their work more fulfilling and enjoyable, and their approaches are ones we can learn a lot from…

1. Stefan Sagmesiter: “The power of time off”
Length: 17:40

Sabbaticals are common in academia, but less heard of in the professional world. I’ve often wondered why, as when we’re stuck on the daily treadmill, it can be hard to think creatively or have the chance to learn new skills.

Designer Stefan Sagmeister, who runs a studio in New York, recognised that he was getting bored with work, despite combining his two loves of music and design. So he decided to try something radical and close his studio for a year-long sabbatical, to rejuvenate and refresh his creative outlook.

Within his TED talk he explains: “Every seven years, I close it for one year to pursue some little experiments, things that are always difficult to accomplish during the regular working year. In that year, we are not available for any of our clients. We are totally closed. And as you can imagine, it is a lovely and very energetic time.”

2. Dan Ariely: “What makes us feel good about our work?”
Length: 20:26

What it is that motivates you to work? While many would answer “pay”, behavioural economist Dan Ariely looks more deeply at the factors that can help us to feel good about our work. Through a series of eye-opening experiments, involving Lego, a shredder and origami, he reveals that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

“If you think about mountain climbing as an example, it suggests all kinds of things. It suggests that we care about reaching the end, a peak. It suggests that we care about the fight, about the challenge. It suggests that there’s all kinds of other things that motivate us to work or behave in all kinds of ways,” Ariely explains.

Within his enlightening talk, he argues the importance of finding meaning in what we do through “creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc.”

3. Scott Dinsmore: How to find work you love
Length: 17:47

Eighty percent of people don’t enjoy their work (Deloitte), but how many of those would have the guts to quit a job that was making them miserable? Well that’s exactly what Scott Dinsmore did, eight years ago, which seemed to have a butterfly effect among the people he was interacting with.

He would say to them: “Why are you doing the work that you’re doing?” And so often their answer would be, “Well, because somebody told me I’m supposed to.” And [he] realised that so many people around us are climbing their way up this ladder that someone tells them to climb, and it ends up being leaned up against the wrong wall, or no wall at all.”

Within his talk, Dinsmore outlines a three-step passionate work framework, which he claims draws on the elements that world changers have in common. The first part is becoming a self-expert and understanding yourself, finding out what our unique strengths are, so that you know what you’re looking for. The second step is figuring out our framework or our hierarchy for making decisions. The third step is to pay attention to our experiences, learning about what we love, what we hate, what we’re good at, what we’re terrible at.

His talk ends with a very poignant and memorable quote:

“I have just one question to ask you guys, and I think it’s the only question that matters. And it’s what is the work you can’t not do? Discover that, live it, not just for you, but for everybody around you, because that is what starts to change the world.”

4. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days
Length: 3:27

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to it?

Matt Cutts is head of Google’s web spam team, but a few years ago he found himself stuck in a rut with his career, and so decided to follow in the footsteps of American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days.

This short, light-hearted talk cannot fail to inspire. Cutts has taken on several 30-day challenges, including writing a novel, hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro and giving up sugar. He’s seen his self confidence grow, he’s become more active, he’s made more memories, and his challenges have got tougher!

Overall, he learned that “when I made small, sustainable changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There’s nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they’re a ton of fun. But they’re less likely to stick.”

What are you waiting for?

5. Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career
Length: 15:15

When you analyse the excuses people make (me included!) for not following their passion in life, they really do seem very absurd. This is exactly what Larry Smith does in his highly entertaining TED talk, where he cuts straight to the chase and calls people out for failing to pursue their passions. His straight talking may be just what you need to hear, if you feel that you’re pursuing a career which is “interesting”, but comes nothing close to “following your dream”.

As the title suggests, this TED talk is seeped in irony, but hopefully you can draw from it the meaning that’s intended, and be inspired to go out and find your one true passion in life.


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