7 Lifechanging TED Talks

7 Lifechanging TED Talks

A collection of my favorite/most insightful TED Talks.

While you may be studying for finals, there are many of you trying to procrastinate and look for a good distraction: this article is full of videos to distract you. Alternatively, during the school break, once you have completed all your finals, you’ll have a lot of well-deserved relaxation time to recover from the quarter and return to the new year well-rested and ready for the quarter ahead. For many of you, Netflix (or whatever video streaming site you use) will be your closest friend during the break. If, however, you find time during or after your Friends/Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings marathon, consider watching a few of these videos! If you’re an avid TED talk follower like me, you will probably feel the urge to watch them all in one sitting - feel free to do so! These are some of my favorite TED talks that have fundamentally changed the way I view the world and myself. If they don’t inspire you, at the very least, you will learn a lot from these bright, earnest, and courageous minds.

Thandie Newton – On embracing yourself

As someone who has struggled to overcome strong feelings of anxiety in the past, I really related to Thandie’s reflection on her identity and development of her sense of “self”. She describes how the “self” gets in the way of deeply connecting with others, because the “self” is formed from external beliefs about how one should be, rather than the deeper, true “essence”. Growing up, my sense of “self” was primarily developed by the stereotypes I knew about Asians; as an Asian-American, I identify strongly with my American roots and didn’t like the negative connotations of Asians as foreign and different “others” (much like Thandie describes). Even “harmless” jokes about my supernatural mathematical abilities (math was actually always my worst grade in high school, and English was my favorite subject) and assumptions that I would have a career in a “nerdy” field were frustrating, because I felt they were all pushing me to develop a sense of self that was dominated by the stereotypes of what I “should” be. This is something that I continually struggle with, but over the years I have learned that in situations like these, it is important to suspend my self and recognize that this is something we have all done, as a part of the system we have been cultured into. It is not a time to make harsh judgments, but instead have a learning or teaching experience. The biggest takeaway from Thandie’s talk is her emphasis on the essence, and living from who you are deep down, rather than what you have been taught to project.

Bill and Melinda Gates – On their philanthropic foundation

This is my third time watching this TED Talk and I still enjoy it so much. Bill and Melinda Gates, my all-time favorite celebrity couple, are interviewed to discuss their foundations and have pledged to donate their entire fortune to their foundation, which aims to provide quality education and health care to people all over the world. Past projects/investments have provided vaccinations and contraceptives to those in poverty, textbooks available online (legally!) for free, as well as scholarships for college students in need. They have also worked with Warren Buffet to start the “Giving Pledge,” which, at the time of the interview, had commitments from more than 120 of the nation’s top 1 percent to donate at least half of their wealth to charity. I admire so much of what this couple does and am inspired by them to give back when I have a steady income.

Monica Lewinsky – On public shaming

I’m sure many of you remember the scandal regarding Monica Lewinsky and the POTUS of the time, Bill Clinton. After more than a decade of trying to live a private life away from the media, she has come forward to share her personal experience with online harassment and explain how cyberbullying and harassment has become an epidemic. Monica reminds the audience and viewers that we all deserve compassion – something that seems to be desperately lacking in today’s online society – and that we need to take responsibility when it comes to freedom of speech, rather than simply flaunting our right to it. Monica explains the little ways that people can help, such as posting a positive comment amid all of the negative ones. Yes, people all make mistakes, but that is absolutely no reason to shame someone into killing themselves. It is horrifying what people will say about someone they know almost nothing about. Rather than shaming someone for a poor choice, we need to have empathy for the pain or suffering they may be going through. As Brene Brown eloquently put in one of her TED talks, “shame cannot survive empathy.” (She also has a great video about empathy.) We need to consider others with empathy rather than harsh judgment.

Dan Gilbert – On synthesizing happiness

Dan explains the importance of creating happiness for yourself, and that the amount of happiness that is actually determined by your choices and within your control is much smaller than you may think: 15-20%. The rest of your happiness is due to biological and situational factors. The funny thing is that people do not always make decisions that will make them happy, and Dan helps unpack why that is the case. He describes “synthetic” happiness, and how it is just as good as natural happiness, but is often perceived as inferior. This TED talk is really interesting and it may help you decide how to approach your future choices to maximize your own happiness.

Brian Miller – On (magically) connecting to others

You’ll have to pump up the volume for this one, because it’s hard to hear him at first, but this is a great talk about how to “magically” connect with other people. Brian explains that his experiences with magic/as a magician have not been successful due to his ability to perform tricks, but rather his success comes from his focus on feeling connected with the audience. One of the points I felt was extremely important was his suggestion to listen to understand, rather than listening to reply. I find myself doing this too often, and it is a good reminder that taking a moment to actually listen to understand will lead to connection.

Josh Kaufman – On learning a new skill

Josh loves learning new things, a feeling that I relate to (hence me watching countless TED talks). He deconstructs the idea of having to spend large amounts of time to learn how to get good at something, and breaks down how to learn a new skill:

1) Deconstruct the skill.

2) Learn enough to self-correct.

3) Remove practice barriers.

4) Practice at least 20 hours.

According to Josh, with only 20 hours of practice, one can become reasonably good at something they had no prior experience in. So in less than a full day, (which equates to about 45 minutes a day for a month) someone can have a good handle on a new language, a new instrument, or whatever interests them. It is definitely worth a view because you will also get to see Josh perform a short medley of pop songs on his ukulele! If you’re interested in viewing the TED talk of the guy he mentions (Jake Shimabukuro), follow this link.

Bryan Stevenson – On just mercy and the state of our country

My favorite TED talk of all time. Bryan is an incredible speaker, and the work he does has changed lives forever. This talk was given more than three years ago, but it feels more relevant than ever. It still astounds me that we have not been able to commit to the truth and reconciliation that he is talking about; we still do not educate children about the realities of our country’s history and we, as a nation, have not apologized to the people we have abused and continue to abuse. With that being said, my favorite quote of his is this: “We’re more than the worst things that we’ve done.” Forgiveness is so powerful, but it does not mean not holding people accountable – it means giving someone a second chance to give back to the people they have victimized and to reintegrate into society. By sending people to prison for petty crimes and drug charges, we are condemning them for a lifetime and providing them no opportunities to recover and contribute to society. Our criminal justice system needs serious re-working, which will start when we are able to face our past and confront the truth. It is only then that we can move forward.

These are just a few example of the many brilliant TED talks out there. They each consider a different important issue, and I would love to hear some of your favorites as well – feel free to share below!

Cover Image Credit: http://www.makeproductions.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ted-talks-logo-motion-graphics-visual-effects-3d-animation-branding-design-film.jpg

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.


Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Time is Finite

Watch the clock.


I obsess over time. I have always planned schedules, made up routines, and calculated where and when I'll be at certain times, no matter how far into the future. During the course of my day, I figure out what tomorrow will be like and what events will occur. I think of all the things that will eventually happen and even the possibilities or unexpected occurrences. No matter what happens, I have at least an inkling of what my time-frame is to complete specific tasks. I know what will come and when.

Even in a class, I keep my eye on the clock. My mind may drift off into my own "schedule land," in which I think of the rest of the day. Who will I eat with? When should I go to sleep? How much work will I get done? All of these questions and more pop up in my head, and it can be overwhelming, and yet, I find it to be extremely useful at the same time. Yes, I may cause a headache or two from my over-analytical tendencies, but at least I have an idea, a prediction, an expectation of what I will do next or where I will go. It heightens my motivation; it gives me more determination in order to succeed and complete my day in a productive manner.

My obsession, and yes I call it that, may seem anxiety-ridden or even psychotic, but my thoughts about time focus on how much I have yet to do even if I have done so much up to this point. While I acknowledge my prior experiences, accomplishments, and even failures, I still have so much more I have to do. This is not a matter of wanting either. This is a need, a necessity. The problem is that time is finite.

I cannot control the speed of time, no one can, but I and everyone else can utilize it while we have it. This, in effect, will allow us some sort of manipulation over the passing of time in our own individual lives. If you have a goal, whether big or small, it can be reached simply by you acting on it now. Develop a mini plan based around the events that might happen, and make sure there are certain "checkpoints" to attain. Think about how much time will be used in between each checkpoint, accounting for successes and downfalls as well. Once you frame your work, you can start, and start immediately. There is nothing worse than an improper, late, inaccurate schedule or conception of time. You have all of these goals and events listed and ready to go, so start now while you have the most time to do it all because if you miss something, you'll regret it.

I don't mean to scare you, but this is the reality of life. We live in a finite world: surrounded by finite things and people and opportunities. We can stop whatever we're doing, but time will never cease, so while it is still progressing and while the earth is still rotating, we need to do what we have to in order to get to the point of happiness and personal acceptance with our lives and our successes. Stay alert, and keep watch of the clock because every tick and tock and pendulum swing matters.

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