5 Must-Watch TED Talks From 2016 You Cannot Miss

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On universal principles of courage, doubt, identity and beauty.

1. TIM URBAN: INSIDE THE MIND OF A MASTER PROCRASTINATOR 

If you tell me you have never whiled away hours in a vortex of YouTube videos and Wikipedia pages, peppered with half-hourly visits to the fridge you’re lying. You have. We all have. It’s called procrastination and it’s a modern epidemic.

Tim Urban astutely and hilariously explains this condition, which of all us can be guilty of in one way or another. Whether it’s pulling a few last minute all nighters to write a 90 page thesis, ignoring that ever-growing folder of ‘too-hard to deal with right now’ emails or a constant hesitance to make a yearned for change in your life, it seems to be a habitual part of human nature.

But why?

Well, Tim has identified a couple of key players that battle in our brains – the rational decision maker and the instant gratification monkey. The latter loves all things easy and fun and can get a little carried away when given the steering wheel. While the former knows the difficult but important stuff needs to be taken care of. Throw in a third party – the all too familiar ‘panic monster’ – and you’re in for a real mental treat.

We’ll let Tim elaborate.

2. CASEY GERALD: THE GOSPEL OF DOUBT

This talk may be titled ‘The Gospel of Doubt’ but there is absolutely no doubt that Casey Gerald was born to be an orator. After the Harvard Business School graduate gave this momentously stirring speech at his Class Day ceremony in 2014 it found its way into newsfeeds around the world and he quickly became a much sought after keynote speaker at events such as SXSW 2016 and TED, just a few weeks before.

As a co-founder of social movement, MBAs across America, Casey and three friends took a road trip through the United States a couple of years ago, meeting hundreds of small businesses who had made purpose their bottom line. The Ivy League alumni set out to share their own learnings, skills and experience to help these businesses and businesspeople grow and prosper.

Be captivated by his reflections on faith, hope, action, capitalism, defeating the odds, the transformative power of education and the need to question everything.

 

3. RESHMA SAUJANI: TEACH GIRLS BRAVERY NOT PERFECTION

In 2012 Reshma Saujani ran for congress. A decision that was ridiculed by many and celebrated by a few but ultimately ended in a devastating loss. No matter whether it was a smart or stupid move as various newspapers commented, it was an unquestionably brave one.

This experience led Reshma to examine the differences between how men and women – or rather, young girls and boys – are primed for their professional and personal lives.

From years of talking to, teaching and working alongside both sexes in her political and social work, she deduced there’s a strong tendency for women to gravitate towards careers they know they will be great at. Females are more likely to avoid risk and potential failure because they’ve often been encouraged to play it safe. She claims men’s risk-taking is usually rewarded, while women’s can be considered reckless.

In essence, Reshna believes society has been raising girls to be perfect and raising boys to be brave; and this stark difference in approach has led to a great economic deficit as women are notably underrepresented in all sorts of areas where they could be adding tremendous value and innovation.

In direct response to this void, particularly in tech, she founded Girls who Code, a national non-profit working to close the gender gap in the digital sector. 20 girls were enrolled in the program when it began four years ago and now the 2016 class is comprised of 40,000 girls in all 50 states.

 

4. LIDIA YUKNAVITCH: THE BEAUTY OF BEING A MISFIT

Lidia touches upon an identity some people may never experience, while some others know all too well, the notion of being a ‘misfit’. A word she says couldn’t be more literal in its meaning – to miss fitting in.

She recounts her own journey as a so-called chronic misfit – two failed marriages, two college drop-outs, two ‘staycations’ in jail, a period of homelessness and an infant bereavement that sat at the heart of her pain.

In her eyes, Lidia failed at fitting into every category – as a daughter, a wife, a scholar – instead, subscribed to a life of self-sabotage and the constant feeling of being an imposter, especially as a talented writer.

Thankfully, she found a way out of her debilitating sense of shame and shared this moving talk on worthiness and belonging.

5. ANGELICA DASS: THE BEAUTY OF HUMAN SKIN IN EVERY COLOUR

Angelica Dass grew up in a household where her father had an intensely dark chocolate tone, her grandpa was porcelain, her grandma a vanilla and strawberry yogurt shade, her mother was cinnamon (the daughter of hazelnut coloured woman and coffee with a dash of milk coloured man), while one aunt’s skin colour resembled toasted peanuts and the other, a pancake.

Needless to say, none of these varying appearances made an ounce of difference – they were simply family.

But in the outside world in which Angelica lived, colour was still of strange importance and shaped every perception, presumption and discrimination.

Frequently mistaken to be a maid, a prostitute or a social outsider, she made it her mission to debunk racial conceptions, combining her love of art, photography and humanity with her personal experiences to create a project called Humane, which matches people’s skin tones to pantone colours in a collection of powerful portraits.