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3 TED Talks to Inspire Better Communications

It’s the most talkative time of the year.

We often think of the holidays as a time to give thanks. ‘Tis the season to feel grateful and let others know how much they matter to you.

As such, it’s also the season of communication. We are sending cards and chatting around the dinner table. This time of year is all about words and actions.

Whether crafting the perfect thank-you note, making a heartfelt toast, or building meaningful connections online and in person, strong communication matters.

Check out these three TED Talks for inspiration.

Remember to say thank you

The right words can light up a room, lead to a special moment, and create deeper connections and greater understanding between people.

As a therapist and coach, that’s what Dr. Laura Trice believes. In this timely three-minute talk she shares “the importance of praise, admiration and thank you, and having it be specific and genuine.”

Try it! Think of someone who has done something special for you. It could be big or small, but the gesture will be great either way.

How can you change someone’s mind?

Trust, values, knowledge and beliefs. Hugo Mercier is a cognitive scientist whose curiosity and studies have led him to consider why arguments sometimes work, and sometimes fail.

A dinner party brainteaser launches his cerebral TED Talk.

The future of storytelling

Think big and think beyond simple communication by wondering how storytelling works and what may come tomorrow.

“Obviously, I think good stories are never going to change,” says American TV producer Shona Rhimes in this TED Talk conversation. “The need for people to gather together and exchange their stories and to talk about the things that feel universal, the idea that we all feel a compelling need to watch stories, to tell stories, to share stories.”

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4 Quotes to Inspire Your Strategy

Good leaders keep us on track.

Leadership and strategy are closely linked. Without a captain and destination, we would be aimlessly paddling about.

But a good leader knows setting a strategy isn’t about merely creating a to-do list. First, a good leader needs to gather information. It’s important to talk with clients and colleagues. Then, it’s time to make informed decisions on where to go.

Need inspiration? Here are four quotes to help inspire you as a leader.

Get ready to set your business and marketing strategy!

1. Remember you are part of a community

As leaders, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure we are building a world in which every individual has an opportunity to thrive.

Andrew Ng in Harvard Business Review

2. Think about what sets you apart from the crowd

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.

Michael Porter in Fast Company

3. Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight

Social media requires that business leaders start thinking like small-town shop owners. This means taking the long view and avoiding short-term benchmarks to gauge progress.

Gary Vaynerchuk in Entrepreneur

4. Take ownership of your vision (and see it through!)

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.

Jack Welch in CNBC
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3 TED Talks To Calm Tech Fears

Don’t be afraid of technology.

For some people, that might be easier said than done. In our fast-paced, tech-driven world, it can be hard to keep up with change. As a result, we might fear it.

How do we continue to explore, keep a healthy level of skepticism, and remain excited for what’s next?

Here are three TED Talks that inspire us to not be afraid of the future. Once you listen to their advice, you might feel excited about the future or want to start an experiment yourself.

Don’t fear superintelligent AI with Grady Booch

As a kid, IBM’s Grady Booch was thrilled to see technology show up in Hollywood blockbusters and play with the imagination. As an adult, he notes, some of the technologies that were fantasy are becoming a reality.

He’s not afraid of what’s next. Instead, he thinks we’re on the cusp of an exciting adventure.

“We are on an incredible journey of coevolution with our machines,” Booch says in this TED Talk.

How can technology transform the human body with Lucy McRae

Lucy McRae is “fascinated with the idea of what happens when you merge biology with technology.” McRae trained in classical ballet and has a background in architecture and fashion.

In her collaborations and experimentations, she combines those interests and considers how technology and the human body could connect. For instance, how might clothes, tattoos and technology intersect?

To find out, listen to McRae share her curious creations in this TED Talk. Afterward, you might be thinking what you would create.

Why good hackers make good citizens with Catherine Bracy

Are all hackers to be feared? Not necessarily. For some tech-driven folks, being a hacker means being inquisitive and looking for a problem to solve. When you change your perspective, you might be surprised to find out what hackers are up to.

“For every hacker that’s trying to steal your identity there’s one that’s building a tool that will help you find your loved ones after a disaster or to monitor environmental quality after an oil spill,” Catherine Bracy shares in this TED Talk.

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Be an Inspired Lifelong Learner

Illustration of yellow lightbulbs up and down in playful rows

Keep learning from the best.

School is back in session — and it can be for you, too. Whether you’re a recent graduate or recently retired, learning never goes out of style.

Here are three TED Talks we like that remind us what we can learn when we stay curious and make the world our classroom.

3 rules to spark learning with Ramsey Musallam

After 13 years of teaching, a life-threatening condition led high school chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam to reexamine how he taught students.

“Student questions are the seeds of real learning, not some scripted curriculum that gave them tidbits of random information,” Musallam shares in his TED Talk.

In marketing, we’re always talking about building and crossing the “curiosity gap” — or keeping eyes and ears engaged so they gain new information. As Musallam learned, curiosity can lead others to ask tough questions and gain important information, and this is something we too can get behind.

The nerd’s guide to learning everything online with John Green

YouTube can be your classroom, author John Green says in his TED Talk. As a young student, he wasn’t a very good student himself. Then, he found himself in the right learning environment.

“I found myself surrounded by people who celebrated intellectualism and engagement, and who thought that my ironic oh-so-cool disengagement wasn’t clever, or funny, but, like, it was a simple and unspectacular response to very complicated and compelling problems. And so I started to learn, because learning was cool,” Green says.

Today, Green says that same community can be found online. So, listen to Green’s talk and then explore your world by learning with others who think learning online is pretty cool.

Smash fear, learn anything with Tim Ferriss

From swimming at summer camp to dancing the tango in Argentina, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss covers a range of scary learning experiences in this TED Talk. For Ferriss, each one has taught him that “fear is your friend. Fear is an indicator.”

“Sometimes it shows you what you shouldn’t do,” Ferriss says. “More often than not it shows you exactly what you should do. And the best results that I’ve had in life, the most enjoyable times, have all been from asking a simple question: what’s the worst that can happen?”

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Make Time to Relax

Illustration of yellow snail crawling on the top of a green leaf

Slowing down is just as important as speeding up.

With so much on our to-do lists, taking a quiet moment to yourself can feel counterintuitive. Sitting still—away from your devices and the endless scroll—may at first encourage your mind to wander and count down the minutes until you can get back to work.

But think about this: According to the nonprofit group Mindful, meditation can help us lower stress, improve focus, and connect with others.

When we decide to hit pause, we give our brains a needed vacation. As marketers and social people, the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves is very much needed. Being so busy communicating can wear down some of our most valuable skills.

In an industry where it’s important to build relationships, shouldn’t you watch out for your own relationships and health? When we’re healthy, we’re part of a healthy community—both online and in the real world.

If you need further convincing, check out these three TED Talks for thoughts on the benefits of taking a breath, and what you can do to live a more mindful life.

All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes with Andy Puddicombe

“We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something,” says mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe in this TED Talk on refreshing your mind. “So with that in mind, I’d like you just to take a moment to think, when did you last take any time to do nothing?”

The Art of Stillness with Pico Iyer

“Some people I know, just before they go to sleep, instead of scrolling through their messages or checking out YouTube, just turn out the lights and listen to some music, and notice that they sleep much better and wake up much refreshed,” says travel writer Pico Iyer in this TED Talk that encourages people to take is slow.

How to Make Stress Your Friend with Kelly McGonigal

“Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress,” says psychologist Kelly McGonigal in this TED Talk that turns the concept of stress on its head. “Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you strength and energy.”

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Relax Your Way to Creativity

Image of glass of water being poured with Maya Angelou quote overtop: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Taking time for yourself can have myriad benefits.

When we rest, we open up our minds to opportunities to be creative and productive.

Although it might look like we are doing one thing, our minds remain hard at work⁠. We are puzzling over problems, thinking creatively, and free-associating.

“The critical thing to recognize is that when we are mind-wandering, when our minds don’t have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, tells Scientific American. “When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems.”

Pang, who is also founder of the Restful Company, a consulting company in SIlicon Valley, differentiates between resting and engaging in restorative activity.

Mindlessly binge-watching television may help us wind down, but that’s passive. Active hobbies that help your mind wander are important. That’s why walking can be such great exercise, for both the mind and the body.

Another way to think of this is in terms of helpful distractions.

As Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson explains in The Boston Globe, “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.’’

When we focus on a problem, we can have trouble finding the solution. This is because we aren’t opening ourselves up to different solutions.

Carson, also the author of Your Creative Brain, argues everyone can benefit from flexing their creativity muscles. It can make us feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and effective. Creativity inspires us.

But taking time for active rest or creating opportunities for helpful distraction can be tough.

This is especially true when, as Geoffrey James points out on, we live in a society where people where their stress as a badge of honor.

His advice?

“Be brave enough to give your brain the leisure it needs to carry your ideas, your career or your company to the next level.”

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Put Your Heart In It

Photo of small glowing hearts with bigger heart illustration over top

It makes sense why we become attached to our offices, coworkers and clients.

Studies suggest a third of our adult lives are spent at work. We may spend more time with our work colleagues than with our own friends and families.

You may feel you put your heart into your work. But do you put your heart into interactions with coworkers and clients? There is so much being said. Are you sharing and listening effectively?

We’re talking about empathy in the workplace.

This isn’t about being agreeable or creating a pleasant culture. It’s about interacting with others in a thoughtful way. Why? Because it can benefit everyone.

Empathy can be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance.

In Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, author Minter Dial considers how we can encode empathy into our business practices. Dial suggests empathy can improve our own relationships, as well as help businesses perform better.

When you do what you say and say what you mean, you build trust and followers inside and outside your company.

“Though empathy can be perceived as weakness, especially in a command and control culture, it can also be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance,” Dial writes. “Empathy doesn’t mean being weak. It doesn’t even necessarily mean being nice. It is about understanding the other and, when having to pass along tough orders, can help their reception, even when there’s no choice in the matter.”

So, how can you encourage empathy in the office?

Explore empathy in your company’s culture.

Ask clients, “Are you being listened to?” Ask coworkers, “Do you feel valued in the company?” Listen thoughtfully, put yourself in their shoes, and consider what changes might be beneficial for everyone.

Create an environment where exercising empathy is accepted.

Make it OK to have conversations, explore professional development, and access learning opportunities. This doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as chatting with others while waiting in line.

Do what you can to make this an easy, natural process.

Don’t force change. Share an article. Invite others on a coffee break. Ask for other opinions. Little steps and practices can go a long way to encourage thoughtful actions.

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Tweet Your Way Happy

Series of positive emojis: thumbs up, smiling face, sparkling heart, clapping hands, heart eyes

Positivity can lead to more positivity.

For anyone who has ever felt a smile spread across their face after seeing a good friend, it should be no surprise to hear.

We’ve heard before that feelings are contagious. Pass a grumpy colleague in the hallway and you may find yourself frowning too. Exchange a pleasant “good morning” with someone and you may find the day suddenly brighter. We’re guessing you’d rather see yourself surrounded with happy people if you had the choice—we would too!

So here’s another layer to this phenomenon: social media interactions can shape our feelings too. Surprised? Probably not. From personal experience, you know that your mood can change when you see a negative tweet or post.

Think about the kind of message you’d like to be spreading. How can you make your clients and connections live in a more positive community? A few ideas of how you can encourage happiness online:

Take action.

If you see a post the moves you or a pic you admire, like and comment. The person behind it will appreciate hearing from you. You may find they return the favor by becoming more vocal and supportive of your work as well.

Connect with others.

It’s not uncommon for bloggers to build communities of fellow bloggers. They can turn to each other for support and advice, while also lifting up one another’s work. Create or join a private group with others pursuing similar goals or working in a similar field.

Be honest.

When we don’t tell the whole story, gloss over the facts, or concentrate on the negative, we miss out on opportunities to be ourselves. You will have good days and bad days, but if you share them honestly, you may find your friends and followers understand you better.

If choosing to smile can trick your brain into thinking all sorts of positive things and improve your mood, why not fake it till you make it to a happier mood?

Let’s take that same positive energy online. Like, comment, share, and retweet your way happy.

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Growth Is Hard! Here’s Our Advice

Graphic design of flowers in bloom

It’s scary to put yourself out there.

All too often, we might know in our hearts what we want, but be afraid of the path to get there.

Perhaps you are the person in your office who is always intrigued by the latest gadgets and reports. Do you have an idea for a new way to do things? Do you think your audience could benefit from finding you on a different platform?

Maybe you are thinking about changing jobs. Is what you dream about doing the complete opposite of your current path? Is another position calling your name?

Possibly you are worried about taking a stand. Where do you find the confidence to speak up and become a leader?

Expert advice can be a wonderful help, and so often ultimately reminds us to follow our guts and do what we believe to be best. If you are thinking of trying a new path, experimenting with an idea, or exploring a fresh direction, remember you are in control.

“I describe my career path as a zigzag—not a ladder with a straight trajectory up.”

When asked on the Simmons Leadership blog if there was a turning point in her career, Denise Morrison, who served as CEO of Campbell Soup Company from 2011 to 2018 (and was the first woman to do so), responded that she’s “jumped the curve to seek new experiences.” When life served her an unexpected move to California, she took it as an opportunity to take on a new challenge and gain experience.

“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’

In his well-known self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shares that we have the power to control our paths by the way we respond to situations around us. If you lead your life with emotional strength and integrity, Covey believes we can shape better lives for ourselves.

“I’m like a tree. My leaves might change color, but my roots are the same.”

Athlete Rose Namajunas reminded her fans that we remain ourselves at our core. We may win or lose, gain insights or skills, but experience and knowledge only add on to who we are. When we think this way, we have the freedom to change our leaves. We can still be ourselves even if we try on a different set of colors to see how they work for us.

So feel motivated to get out there, be yourself, and work hard to chart your own course!

And remember: “He who never makes an effort, never risks a failure.”

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Everything Is Shareable Online. Or Is It?

Text of "all rights reserved?" in typewriter font overtop three red question marks

Let’s take this back to the college lecture halls: Do you understand copyright law?

We don’t mean to scare you! In fact, learning about the dos and don’ts of copyright might be easier than you think. It’s definitely important.

Online, it can feel like everything is free, accessible, shareable, and oh-so easy to use. But there are times when just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

For example, it’s acceptable to download content for your own personal offline viewing…but it’s not acceptable to do that if you are trying to make money off someone else’s content. It’s also acceptable to add free music to the videos you make…but that music needs to be free of royalties.

Are you following along?

Copyright may seem annoying at times, but it’s here to protect you and people like you—aka creatives.

Think about the last time you worked long hours, trying over and over again to generate something new, something memorable. If you make something, you want to share it, but not at the cost of losing it.

To understand copyright is to be a better creative.

When you have the understanding of something, you can reach new heights in your own work. But you don’t need to go to school and earn a degree to brush up on the meaning of fair use and work for hire.

Check out this series of 12 videos from William W. Fisher III, the WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard University.

Don’t worry! They are free and available for you to access under a Creative Commons license. What’s that? Find out by heading to Fisher’s lectures.

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