“Share seamlessly, steal shamelessly.”
Four simple words that sum up the value of TED Talks.
We love these quick, easy-to-digest videos with just the right amount of important information to entertain and educate in just a few minutes.
It’s free, high-quality wisdom from industry leaders — what’s not to love?
Below are the top seven videos that every hopeful, driven, focused entrepreneur needs to watch before diving into the American Dream.
Take notes, assess your ideas and business model, consider what your strengths and weaknesses are, then when you’re done watching and thinking — watch all of them over again.
1. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Simon Sinek explains what he calls "The Golden Circle," which illustrates the "why, how and what" of an organization.
According to Sinek, it’s not the product, service, or plan that’s most important — it’s why you, as the entrepreneur, think the product, service, or plan is important. Once you can identify your true motivation (and it better go beyond just making money), you can inspire those around you — including your team and your customers.
Once they’re on board and aligned with your why, they’ll work toward the how and what, or the processes and products, of your organization.
If you skip the important step of clearly identifying and articulating this point, you can only hope to inspire temporarily, which doesn’t make for a great business model in the long run.
People respond to a cause, a purpose, a passion, a mission — not a plan.
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2. Sarah Lewis: Embrace the Near Win
Sarah Lewis distinguishes mastery from success as being able to reproduce a victory again and again.
Mastery is a constant pursuit. It’s a race with no finish line. It’s like a mosquito bite between your shoulder blades that you can’t quite reach. It’s exhausting and elusive, but also the driving force behind competitive entrepreneurs.
The pursuit of mastery is what drives you forward when you just barely missed out on first place, when your product is not quite right, or when you can’t seem to replicate perfection.
Lewis describes, in those moments of “near win,” that once you accept the silver medal you can allow that near win to motivate you as you pursue your next race.
Near wins allow us to see our future victories with a new sense of clarity and precision.
“We thrive not when we have done it all, but when we still have more to do.” — Sarah Lewis
Masters realize there is no end. As an entrepreneur, you’ll probably never be completely satisfied. There will always be more to improve, more to grow, more to offer.
If you’re OK never reaching that finish line, you may be ready to begin the race.
3. Seth Godin: How to Get Your Ideas to Spread
Seth Godin is a marketing genius. He offers those rare gems of simplicity that make us all think, “Well duh! Why have I not thought of that?”
Godin explains how incredibly underwhelmed your audience is. Inboxes are full of static and spam, and your messages are just another fish in that overpopulated sea.
So how do you successfully reach your clients?
You must choose the correct audience, and you must stand out. You have to say or do something “remarkable.”
No, he means this literally: You must offer them something to remark about.
So what about choosing the right audience? Don’t we want to reach as many people as possible? Seth challenges that presumption. He challenges us to initiate the radicals—those way to the left (including innovators and early adopters) and those way to the right (who are considered laggers).
It’s on those two ends of the spectrum that you find your Chatty Cathys.
It’s those talkers who will essentially act as your marketing team. They’ll be the voice for your product, spreading the word and reputation for you. With them on your side, you can win over the middle, larger moderate group.
When you have something remarkable, tell the radicals and let them go to work spreading the word.
Are you worth talking about? Are you worth a status update, a tweet, a mention? Is your product or service worth stopping for? Are you worth water cooler talk?
4. Bill and Melinda Gates: Why Giving Away Our Wealth Has Been the Most Satisfying Thing We've Done
I know what you’re thinking: “I’m barely able to finance my dream. Maybe I’ll give when I’m making more money.”
Whether you’ve won the jackpot or are just able to make ends meet, there’s plenty of opportunity to give back—and it doesn’t have to be limited to finances. The Gates explain why this act of service is so very important.
It’s about changing the world on a global scale, and sometimes starting with those around you.
It’s important to realize that, as an entrepreneur, you have an arsenal of skills that most people don’t. Leverage those skills, talents and natural attributes—don’t doubt that you can make a difference.
You can start small, experience the joy of giving back to others, and then magnify your reach. It may be the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do.
And remember this about wealth: You can’t take it with you.
If Bill and Melinda Gates can wrap their heads around that, then certainly we can as well.
Are you taking the same drive that fuels your business and pouring it into helping others? Do you have a goal to help give back to the world, whether it’s a local cause or a global one?
5. David Brooks: Should You Live for Your Resume ... or Your Eulogy?
Someone once advised me to look at my life as a comprehensive timeline and to not focus just on my career.
David Brooks reminds us of this point as he discusses the ongoing, internal conflict happening within each of us. He explains that there are two competing sets of virtues: the resume virtues, seeking success, prestige, and accomplishment; and the eulogy virtues, which is who you are in relation to the community; how you love and connect with those around you.
Brooks acknowledges that both are important.
He encourages us, however, as driven entrepreneurs to not neglect the attention we dedicate to our eulogy virtues. Too often, as a result of our natural ambition coupled with our success-driven society, we become unbalanced in which virtues we dedicate our energy.
Do you see the value of balancing these two selves appropriately? Are you rushing to stack your resume without considering your eulogy?
6. Margaret Gould Stewart: How Giant Websites Design for You (and a Billion Others, Too)
Gould Stewart has quite the portfolio, having designed for many of the world’s top websites, but understands that it’s not her designs that draw the numbers. It’s having a finger on the pulse of the audience that allows her to create, edit, and re-create successfully.
In this TED Talk, she reminds us that quantitative data, while important, only tells half of the story. Qualitative data is the other half needed for success. There’s value in pilot-testing, in listening to your audience and experiencing their realities.
She goes on to explain that in order to design to scale, you must be able to meet the users where they are — even if that means through dated technology. When designing for Facebook, she can’t just consider the millennials of America with their smartphones and Wi-Fi. She also has to consider users in other countries in rural areas who may not even have access to electricity to charge their flip phones.
She challenges us to allow the users to guide our decision-making and to honor their obstacles and discomforts as changes and updates take place.
Gould Steward’s talk is an excellent reminder of who we should prioritize as we make decisions for our businesses, and how we balance our customers’ obstacles while still being innovative and progressive.
7. Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success
Grab a cup of coffee and get amped up for this 3:30 talk that’ll quickly inspire you and make you believe that you’re ready to pursue your business plan.
This is my personal favorite because of its quirky humor, fast pace and easy-to-digest tidbits of wisdom. St. John outlines the 8 traits that allow people to reach success.
A downside to this TED Talk? For me, it’s when it ended.