Whether you’re forging a trailblazing career in industry or academia, the path to success will inevitably at times seem long and challenging. Don’t despair.
To encourage you forwards on the journey less travelled, we’ve mined the TED talk library to bring you six essential words of wisdom from some of the world’s greatest thought leaders.
So sit back, get comfy and be inspired.
E. O. Wilson: Advice to a young scientist
American biologist, Harvard Professor Emeritus and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson shares his advice for young scientists, taken from his book Letters to a Young Scientist.
Here, he talks about the value of expertise balanced with broad cross-disciplinary knowledge, the importance of embracing failure and the unknown (he didn’t take up calculus until he was 32 years old) and how ‘the search for knowledge is in our genes’. What the world needs, he says ‘scientifically trained people like you.’
Angela Lee Duckworth: The Key to Success? Grit
Angela Lee Duckworth’s PhD psychology studies at the University of Pennsylvania examined how concepts such as ‘self-control’ and ‘grit’ might predict academic and professional success. What she found was that it was grit, not a high IQ for example, that determined success. Duckworth defines grit as ‘passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.’
‘Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality,’ she says. ‘Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.’
Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career
Economics Professor Larry Smith has spent his career giving advice to students on how to build a career they love, only to hear excuse after excuse for not following one’s passion.
Perturbed by the wasted opportunity, Smith gives a frank, tough-love talk on why most people will fail to have a great career. Rather than being morose, his talk is a call to arms: Do you want a great career? Stop making the same excuses.
Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend
In this talk, Standford University psychology lecturer Kelly McGonigal reveals the surprising ways stress can affect you. She reveals a startling fact: ‘People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying – but that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.’
McGonigal argues that when you choose to view stress response as helpful, it builds courage and resilience. ‘When you choose to view stress in this way…you’re saying that you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges.’
Kare Anderson: How to be an opportunity maker
Forbes columnist Kare Anderson writes on behavioural research-based ways to become better connected. In this talk, she puts forward the idea that: given each one of us in the room is the best at one thing, if we worked together on shared interests and brought out each other’s best talent we can ‘accomplish greater things together than we could on our own’.
For those working in multi-disciplinary research areas, this talk will be particularly insightful.
Adam Grant: The surprising habits of original thinkers
Psychologist Adam Grant studies the habits of those who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. ‘The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,’ Grant says. ‘You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.’
Scott Dinsmore has one simple question: Why are you doing the job that you’re doing? He found that most people he spoke with were in jobs that felt they should be in, rather than ones they wanted to be in. Here he shares some advice on how to succeed doing work that you love.
He asks: What is the work you can’t not do?
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