The 5 Most Popular TED Talks of All Time

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Happiness, vulnerability and orgasms. These are few of the TED Talks themes that people love most.

Add to that viral mix soul-stirring speeches about education, inspiration, and revelation, and you have the stuff of the most-watched TED speeches of all time, the cream of the presentation crop with millions upon millions of views and growing.

Related: 5 TED Talks That May Change Your View on Life

Whether you’re looking for outstanding orators to emulate for an upcoming speaking engagement, or whether you’re in the mood for Crossfit crunches for your brain just because, here are the top five TED Talks of all time. Feast your mind.    

1. Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity

Children are naturally creative, right up until we educate the raw spark of wonder out of them. In his witty, 18-minute takedown of the talent-squandering treadmill that is the traditional public education system, Sir Kenneth Robinson challenges us to “radically rethink” the way we teach our children. He invites educators to encourage kids to dance, experiment and make mistakes.

Related: 7 Public Speaking Tips From One of the Most-Watched TED Speakers

Business leaders can apply Robinson’s outlier theories to inspire their teams in much the same way. Start by allowing your employees to make mistakes. They’re not bad. They’re gateways to innovation.

2. Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

If you’re a habitual arm crosser, watching Amy Cuddy’s body language 101 might convince you to drop the habit -- and your arms -- right away. The social scientist, who kicks off her speech with a “free no-tech life hack” that will probably turn your frown upside down, says our body language speaks loud and clear to those around us. And it might just have a lot to do with our success. One thing’s for sure: You’ll walk a little taller and sit up a little straighter after you take Cuddy’s 20-minute “power posing” crash course. Remember, “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”

Related: Inspiring TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

3. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Extolling the trailblazing, renegade spirit of iconic historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Wright brothers, ethnographer Simon Sinek dares people be rebels, to “think, act and communicate” in ways that are “the complete opposite of everyone else.” In his talk, the author of the motivational classic Start With Why (Portfolio Trade, 2011) describes what he calls the “golden circle.” It’s a means of communicating “from the outside in,” a way to passionately talk about what you care about and believe. He says Apple does it -- obviously to great success -- and your company can, too.

Related: Why TED Talks Are Impossible to Resist

4. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Humiliation, embarrassment and shame are the fields of study that Brené Brown specializes in. Not many people talk openly about those kinds of feelings, let alone in front of thousands. In her touching, often funny speech, the University of Houston research professor and author of five bestselling self-empowerment books, reminds us to be true to ourselves. How? By embracing our imperfections, something society pressures us not to do, at home and at work. Instead, Brown asks you to be you, to be real and really vulnerable. When you are, you’re kinder to yourself and to others. It’s not easy, but once you accept who you are -- not who you think should be -- flaws and all, Brown says you’ll connect with others in deeper, more meaningful ways. And P.S. -- Stop beating yourself up already. You are enough.  

Related: An Oft Unspoken Key to Success: Put Aside Your Ego and Be Vulnerable

5. Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight

When Harvard-trained brain researcher Dr. Jill Bolte says she had a stroke of insight, she means it literally. One morning, at the age of 37, she suffered a devastating cerebrovascular accident. A blood vessel in her brain suddenly burst. She could only speak “like a Golden Retriever” when calling for help. Her right arm “went totally paralyzed” and her world came crashing down.

You won’t believe Taylor’s first thoughts upon realizing she was suffering a stroke: “Wow! This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?" Amazing, right?

In her deeply personal talk, Taylor pulls us into her eight-year recovery journey. She describes learning to walk, talk and think again -- from scratch. And, of course, she also reveals her biggest “stroke of insight” as a brain hemorrhage survivor. It’s simple but so complex: our right minds can be gateways to nirvana, but only if we choose to step out of them.   

Related: 4 Motivating TED Talks to Help You Bounce Back From Failure

Related: 3 TED Talks That Will Convince You to Get More Sleep

Edition: October 2016

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