The 26 Best TED Talks for Men: Improve Your Manly Thinking
No, I’m not referring to the late night bro-downs you used to have with your teddy bear as a kid (I won’t tell anyone, promise).
I’m talking about the global conference powerhouse, TED which stands for Technology, Entertainment Design. TEDx refers to events run independently (yet similar in structure to TED) and can be organized by anyone who secures a free licence from the conference.
TEDx is sort of like when your little brother was jealous of your Birthday party so he decided to have his own mini-party in the treehouse. Except so much better.
And yes, I’m really liking the coming-of-age analogies today
So what is TED all about?
For some time now TED and TEDx have been creating and curating a series of uniquely inspiring talks, seminars, and stand-up routines designed to open your mind up to the world around you. Within their extensive catalogue of videos, posted freely on their website and Youtube pages, the modern man is free to find out all kinds of interesting information to better himself in any number of ways.
And do you want to know the best part about them? They’re restricted to 18 minutes in length which promotes a concise yet thought-provoking articulation around a single idea.
Absolutely packed with tips to enhance your mental health, physical health, creativity, love life, or your work life, a lot of these short talks are well worth a look. At the very least, they are sure to provide you with some superb conversation starters.
Here are 26 of our best, most stimulating TED talks to improve your thinking. If you’d like to become a better man, lover, boss, employee, artist, Elvis impersonator, or whatever else you aspire to be, give these bad boys a watch.
Drum roll, please…
1 Do Schools Kill Creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson
This one is highly viewed and is certainly one of the more popular TED talks. You’ve probably heard it bandied about by your friends who dropped out of school (even though they didn’t watch it).
What Ken Robinson is actually questioning is not education itself, but what we value about learning. Is it rote facts or their applicability?
2 How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative | Tim Hartford
If you are a guy trying to enhance his creativity, TED talks can help you excel at this.
Tim Hartford gives an excellent speech on why speed bumps and obstacles within your creative life are actually a blessing in disguise.
3 Be An Artist, Right Now! | Young-ha Kim
On the subject of creativity, this TEDx talk from Seoul, South Korea is a true inspiration.
Watch this talk and I promise that your inner child will come to the surface and demand for you to
give him a popsicle unleash your creativity. What I also liked is that Kim takes the time to dispel some myths that all artistic talent is innate, or that it’s not a ‘worthy’ use of your time.
4 Why Some Of Us Don’t Have A True Calling | Emilie Wapnick
Don’t let the title put you off. Emilie Wapnick is the champion for a generation of people who just don’t know what they want to be “when they grow up”.
The best part? That’s absolutely fine. She deals with the same anxiety everyone feels from time to time.
5 The Art of Choosing | by Sheena Iyengar
Similarly, as modern men venture into the wider world of the unknown, everyday choices can become as much a hazard as the choices we face as men in life.
Sheena Iyengar lays down a funny, touching speech about understanding how and why you make choices from the most trivial to the most crucial.
6 Keep Your Goals To Yourself | by Derek Sivers
While it sounds a bit like a sassy comeback, “Keep Your Goals To Yourself” is Derek Sivers way of asking people to be more introspective and to, well, keep their ideas to themselves.
When you tell someone a goal, you feel like you’ve already done it – and thus are less likely to succeed.
Inspiration and Motivation
7 The Surprising Thing I Learned Sailing Solo Around The World | Dame Ellen Macarthur
Dame Ellen Macarthur is a picture of dedication. From the moment she first learnt to sail, she put everything she had into achieving her dream of sailing around the world.
Here Macarthur reflects on that epic achievement with some inspirational truths about the world and what she learnt from her solitude.
8 How To Start A Mass Movement | by Derek Sivers
This talk, again by Derek Sivers, has become a firm favourite for me.
He takes the medium of a very short video (one that tells it’s own tale), and adds running commentary to show how anyone, in the right conditions, with the right people by their side, can become a leader.
9 Why It’s Time To Forget The Pecking Order At Work | Margaret Heffernan
Using an interesting metaphor of chickens, Margaret Heffernan argues that workplaces need more cohesion, not competition, between their employees in order to thrive.
She continues that the “pecking order” that places a value on some over others is more damaging than you think.
10 How To Speak So People want to Listen | Julian Treasure
“How can we speak powerfully, to change the world?”, Justin Treasure asks at the beginning of this talk.
Bad, weak, or false speech is a sin we are all guilty of, and any man in their right mind has to work hard with what they say in order to be listened to, be appreciated, and to be a valuable part of wider society.
11 Inside The Mind Of a Master Procrastinator | Tim Urban
Arguably, watching a procrastinator talk about procrastinating in a video you are likely procrastinating by watching (still with me?) is a little too meta for my taste.
But Tim Urban’s story is so close to the bone it’s hard to hear. It’s hilarious and posits an argument that will force you to think about how your own mind works.
12 Dare to Disagree | Margaret Heffernan
Everybody has a fighter inside of them, Margaret Heffernan argues, and they should not be afraid to bring them out. The best colleagues and partners are not the ones who are just “yes men”, and in conflict, everyone has a chance to grow.
13 Why The Best Hire Might Not Have The Perfect Resume | Regina Hartley
Although she speaks like she’s talking to bunch of 5-year olds, Regina Hartley’s talk should make any credible employers sit up and wonder whether they should reconsider unconventional candidates over the ‘silver spoons’. The reason? The could be missing out on someone truly exceptional.
The reason? The could be missing out on someone truly exceptional.
14 Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe | Simon Sinek
Kicking off with a story of the heroic Captain Swenson, Simon Sinek’s talk will take you through a rollercoaster of manly emotions.
In this short seminar, he (as well as drawing a very neat circle) talks about how leaders could take a leaf out of military textbooks to learn a bit about self-sacrifice.
15 Your Body Language Defines You | Amy Cuddy
Although it has been disputed at many levels since being released, Amy Cuddy’s speech remains one of the most popular TED talks to date for the fact that it is both shockingly powerful, and easy to follow.
In a very short space of time, she gives an incredible checklist of physical stances that people can perform to immediately feel more confident. Does it work? Yes, but it depends on how well you apply it.
16 Why Are We Happy? Why Aren’t We Happy? | Dan Gilbert
With a title that reads like the daily conversation I have in my mind, Dan Gilbert actually teaches a very shortened version of mindfulness.
It’s described as a sort of Buddhist concept about accepting reality as it is, and why your psychology is out to deceive you.
17 A Simple Way To Break A Bad Habit | Judson Brewe
Every man who ever wanted to stop smoking or overeating would be well advised to listen to this talk.
Judson Brewer covers the psychological aspects of addiction, including how, evolutionarily, we are predisposed to create habitual behaviour that is perversely supposed to be beneficial.
18 How To Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed | Daniel Leivitin
Daniel Leivitin knows that stress is one of the hardest things to counteract. Ever more, when you’re deeply stressed or preoccupied, you’re the worst one to recognise this.
In a funny speech, he talks about the ‘Pre-Mortem’ we can all do to help us itemise our lives in times of deep stress. A stress-free man is a great man to be around.
Your Physical Health
19 How to live to be 100 | Dan Buettner
What is the secret to a long life?
Diet? Genes? A glass of red wine every day?
Dan Buettner gives us the answers we’re all ‘dying’ to know by visiting communities of elderly people and assessing their lifestyle and finding out what keeps them going.
20 Healthier Men, One Moustache At A Time | Adam Garone
You’ve probably got a friend growing a weedy little moustache for Movember. Maybe you’ve even tried it yourself? Here, founder Adam Garone highlights just what a good cause it all is – as well as how his interest in men’s health began, and grew.
Becoming A Better Man
21 Claim Your Manspace | Sam Martin
Sam Martin’s talk is an incredible study of the ultimate boy’s room. No, it’s not the bathroom. It’s the man cave.
Through a series of photos, he shows some of the incredible spaces that some men have made. He also goes through the often surprising rationale behind their existence.
22 A Call To Men | Tony Porter
One of the most repeated phrases a man might hear throughout his life is, “Be a man.”
In this talk, Tony Porter is asking people to challenge that notion. It’s an interesting argument, and very much goes against traditional notions of manhood.
23 What 10,000 Years of Progress Has Cost Men | Owen Marcus
This is a talk that I believe a lot of guys could relate to. Owen argues that the majority of modern men lack the ability to connect emotionally due to the loss of brotherhood which was present to a much greater extent when we coexisted in tribes some 10,000 ago.
Check out Owen’s website here where he has created a fantastic resource centred around “tools for men to build a smart life” and his core mantra of Masculine Emotional Intelligence in which he is attempting to bridge this emotional gap.
24 10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation | Celeste Headlee
The skill of conversation is a hallmark of any successful man.
“Every conversation has the potential to devolve into an argument,” begins Celeste Headlee.
She laments the polarisation of American politics, and how conversation is changing (and devolving) thanks to technology. Through watching this, you’ll immediately want to be more sociable and you’ll feel as though you now have the ability to have a conversation with anyone.
25 The first 20 hours: how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman
Josh Kaufman’s life changed when he had a baby – he found he, like most parents, had almost zero spare time to do anything.
If you’re like him, you’re a guy looking for a shortcut to success in endeavours. In this fantastic talk, Kaufman reveals the surprisingly short amount of time it takes to get reasonably good at something.
As he says, “You’ll be astounded.” I certainly was.
26 Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue | Jackson Katz
I found this one to be really powerful. Jackson Katz argues that violence is not a female problem “that a few good men help out with”, but rather, is an issue that is centrally about men.
Katz’ message is a heartfelt plea to every modern man to take more notice of these often lazily labelled ‘women’s issues’ and understand their own role in gender dynamics.
So there you have it. These are the best TED Talks for men in my opinion. Do you think I missed any?
No matter who they’re delivered by, TED talks have a great power to challenge and teach the modern, adult man how to improve himself.
Whether it’s an inspirational story or the conclusion of years of research, they are an amazing resource for anyone who’s ever needed to develop improved creativity, more focus, or generally become a better individual.
If you’re up for a little more visual manliness, be sure to check out our list of YouTube resources guaranteed to make you a better man.
Thumbnail image courtesy of urban_data on Flickr.