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The Talk: The Best Ted Talks for Creatives

Updated: Oct 10, 2018

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.

Ted Talks unleash fresh ideas from both public figures and local communities in the form of short powerful talks. This list of 10 classic TED Talks is the first in a series of posts that will introduce you to our most beloved speakers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Stefan Sagmeister, Shonda Rhimes, Mark Ronson and Chimamanda Adichie.

"We've completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked, and that artistry in the end will always ultimately lead to anguish — are you guys all cool with that idea?" Elizabeth Gilbert's talk aims to shift the way our society thinks about creative genius, hoping to to help artists manage the emotional risks that often come hand-in-hand with creativity.

Mark Ronson established his reputation as a stylistic visionary largely through his solo albums and much-heralded production work — most notably alongside Amy Winehouse on the late singer’s monumental 2006 breakthrough Back to Black. The English musician, however, got his start as a fixture in New York City nightclubs, DJing and remixing hip-hop cuts and culling from a love of Nineties East Coast hip-hop samples. Ronson proved to be a fitting choice then to deliver a TED talk on the power and influence of sampling in music, explaining to an enraptured, if not slightly bewitched, crowd how the practice has impacted music over the past 30 years. 

Following an opening performance, during which he drops a visceral remix incorporating TED’s signature chiming theme music with previous TED speeches and on-point vinyl scratching, and moved on to deliver a heartfelt 15-minute oration that both traces the history of sampling in music and explains his personal predilection for excavating from the musical past.

Chip Kidd doesn't judge books by their cover, he creates covers that embody the book -- and he does it with a wicked sense of humor. In one of the funniest talks in recent years, he shows the art and deep thought of his cover designs.

We're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave, says Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. Saujani has taken up the charge to socialize young girls to take risks and learn to program -- two skills they need to move society forward. To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population, she says. "I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection."

Before writer and showrunner extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes decided to spend a year saying yes to everything, public speaking was not her bag. Luckily for us, her “year of yes” — which became the inspiration for her recently published memoir of the same name — has changed all that. “The very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear,” explains the TV powerhouse behind the likes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” in an inspirational TED talk she delivered earlier this week. 

In this moving talk, Shonda Rhimes, the creative mind behind the hit television shows "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away With Murder," shares the power of saying yes and how she rediscovered joy in what matters to her most.

Rhimes begins by detailing the frankly mind-boggling amount of work — and money — that goes into maintaining her ever-expanding TV empire. “I’m a titan,” Rhimes says. “I don’t tell you this to impress you; I tell you this because I know what you think of when you hear the word ‘writer.'” “I don’t hack at a computer and imagine all day,” she jokes. “A dream job is not about dreaming — it’s all job.”

From its humble beginnings in his home, Roman Mars’ podcast and radio show 99% Invisible accumulated a massive following to become a broadcast and internet phenomenon. Its premise -- 10- to 20-minute episodes focused on a single compelling story -- subverts public radio’s reliance on long, strictly formatted shows, and has garnered national praise.

Over a series of three runaway crowdsourced fundraising campaigns, 99% Invisible generated over $1.2 million, making Mars the most successful crowdfunded journalist in Kickstarter history.

Roman Mars is obsessed with flags — and after you watch this talk, you might be, too. These ubiquitous symbols of civic pride are often designed, well, pretty terribly. But they don't have to be. In this surprising and hilarious talk about vexillology — the study of flags — Mars reveals the five basic principles of flag design and shows why he believes they can be applied to just about anything.

In the 1970s (and decades following), TV producer Norman Lear touched the lives of millions with culture-altering sitcoms like "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times," pushing the boundaries of the era and giving a primetime voice to underrepresented Americans. In an intimate, smart conversation with Eric Hirshberg, he shares with humility and humor how his early relationship with "the foolishness of the human condition" shaped his life and creative vision.

Kelly has been treating stress as a disease that makes people sick, but has now changed her tune. A study assessed people’s feelings of stress, their attitude towards stress, and correlated against public death records. The people most likely to die were more stressed, but they also believed that stress was harmful to their health. People who were highly stressed but didn’t believe it was harmful were the least likely group to die. The study shows it isn’t stress that kills people, it’s the belief that stress is harmful. By reshaping how you think about stress, you can retool your body’s response.

Susan Cain is a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant -- and a self-described introvert. At least one-third of the people we know are introverts, notes Cain in her book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Although our culture undervalues them dramatically, introverts have made some of the great contributions to society -- from Chopin's nocturnes to the invention of the personal computer to Ghandi's transformative leadership. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperament -- but because of them.

Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there's a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life -- serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you -- gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Esfahani Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.

The Wrap

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