Become a better person in 30 minutes a day

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What did you do on your lunch break today?

Spent 15 minutes queuing for a disappointing sandwich? Ate your lunch then mindlessly browsed the internet? Ran errands and came back exasperated?

What if there was a way to use your lunch break to motivate you, inspire you, and help you to think differently?

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When Lifehack posted “Transform your life in one month: 30 TED talks of all time that will inspire you” I decided this was the perfect chance to use my lunchtime more effectively. Every day I watched a TED talk at lunchtime. Some made me laugh, some (almost) made me cry at my desk, but all of them were interesting, engaging and inspiring.

30 talks is a lot, and that’s only a fraction of the 2000+ on the TED website. So to make it easier for you, I’ve rounded up the eight TED talks of the 30 I watched that had the biggest effect on me, in eight different categories, from business to compassion.

Each of these talks are brilliant in their own way, and of course I would recommend watching all eight (all 30 if you have time!). Let me know in the comments below which is your favourite.

The talk that made me think differently about… business

Dan Pink- The Power of Motivation

The video on the list that is most inspiring from a business point of view is Simon Sinek’s The Power of Why, but I decided not to include it, as I had see it before (it's required watching at Axonn and our values are built around it). Instead, I chose this talk, which is less about how to run a business and more about how to think differently about motivating staff. I won’t spoil it for you, but the logic is that everything we have believed about rewards and success is wrong.

The talk that made me think differently about...education

Rita Pierson - Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson has been a teacher for 40 years and was inspired to talk after overhearing a colleague say "they don’t pay me to like the kids". Her talk isn’t just about education, it’s about the importance of giving agency and confidence to children and the importance of connection. It’s an inspirational talk no matter your job.

The talk that made me think differently about… economics

Hans Rosling - The Best Stats you’ve Ever Seen

Which country has the highest infant mortality - Thailand or South Africa? Don’t worry, Hans’ class of some of the topic medical students in Sweden got it wrong too (it’s South Africa). This talk smashes conceptions we have about “us” and “them” when it comes to the developing world, and demonstrates how much we take our pre-conceived ideas as fact.

The talk that made me think differently about...the importance of food education

Jamie Oliver- Teach every child about food

Everyone knows the importance of healthier eating. Everyone knows the threat of heart disease, diabetes and an early grave for our children. These are all preventable through understanding and knowledge, which Jamie intends to teach us all. With names and faces, not just statistics, the reality here really hits home.

The talk that made me think differently about...being a woman

Sheryl Sanberg - Why we have too few women leaders

Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook, starts with a strong opening statement - "women are not making it to the top of any profession in the world". Sheryl Sanberg is a lesson to women on not underestimating their abilities, not attributing their success to external factors and to try to change those numbers. As a woman, I’ve always felt strongly about women’s rights, but this talk made it clear what we women need to do to stand out and succeed. While we would love to live in a world where it was easy, that isn’t the reality. But we don’t have to let that always be the way.

The talk that made me think differently about… the capabilities of the human body

David Blaine - How I held my breath for 17 minutes

"As a magician I think everything is possible". David Blaine’s talk is fascinating if you’re interested in pushing the human body to its limits. His process to break the world record is long, involved but ultimately inspiring. He stopped at nothing to achieve something nobody before had.

The talk that made me think differently about… life

Steve Jobs - How to live before you die

Despite having never graduated from college, Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford is one of the most inspirational talks of them all. From how a calligraphy class he took after dropping out inspired the fonts we have on computers today, to how he coped when he was fired from his own company. It’s a story of the building blocks that shape our lives, and how it’s only when we look back that we can connect the dots.

The talk that made me think differently about… compassion

Amanda Palmer- The Art of Asking

After graduating from college, Amanda Palmer worked during the day as a street artist and was fascinated by the moments of human connection she experienced during this time. She wanted to recreate that experience as a musician - that connection with fans. Amanda’s talk is about not being afraid to ask for help, and how compassion leads to connection.

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