5 TED Talks That Will Inspire You to Be a Better Human

It’s so easy to fall into the mindset that making a difference requires more than we’re able to offer. The world’s problems seem huge and we feel tiny in comparison. But that’s no reason to do nothing. As Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

The benefits of doing good are many. They’re also backed by science. One study found that giving back can have a significant impact on blood pressure (in a good way), while another linked unselfish behavior to a lower risk of early death. And then of course there’s the helper’s high, a pleasant side-effect of performing a good deed.

We all know that giving is better than receiving, that living an altruistic life is more fulfilling than a purely selfish one. So why don’t we do more? There could be any number of reasons: we’re busy, we don’t know what to do, we’re too young or too old, etc.

I’d argue that the news is to blame. Not completely, obviously. (We need to take some of the responsibility.) But if we’re constantly being bombarded by negative world events, it’s hard to find the motivation to go out and make a difference.

The first thing you need to do is go on a news fast. Next, you need to actively look for things that inspire you to be a better human, like the TED talks below. If you want more inspiration, check out these 5 kids who are making a difference in the world.

All of the people featured are making a positive impact in some way. They’re leaving behind a legacy that counts for something. With the exception of Bill and Melinda Gates, these are all everyday folks, young and old, who saw a problem and decided to take action.

HOW I STOPPED THE TALIBAN FROM SHUTTING DOWN MY SCHOOL BY SAKENA YACOOBI

The Taliban are not the kind of people you want to mess with. But when these Islamic fundamentalists closed all the girls’ schools in Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi felt she could not stand idly by and do nothing. Especially since she’d been blessed with an education few of her peers could even dream of.

In a talk that’s serious, funny and above all, heartfelt, Sakena relates how she went about setting up new schools in secret and educating thousands of women and men. She also tells the story of how she was threatened, not once but twice, to stop teaching. Sakena’s vision for rebuilding her country is a powerful one and shows us that even in the face of great adversity, one person can make a difference.

MEET THE MOM WHOSE SON STARTED THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE BY NANCY FRATES

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge that took the world by storm in the summer of 2014? Nancy Frates is the mom who helped set that epic craze in motion. When her son Pete was diagnosed with ALS, Nancy and her family decided they were going to face the problem head on and do everything in their power to raise awareness for the disease. Pete Frates is credited with taking the challenge viral.

During the two-month period that their ice bucket challenge went viral they managed to raise a staggering $125 million, most of which went to funding research to find a cure for ALS.

A YOUNG SCIENTIST’S QUEST FOR CLEAN WATER BY DEEPIKA KURUP

For some, purpose comes early. Such was the case with Deepika Kurup. This bold 14-year-old made it her mission to solve the global water crisis at an age when most young girls are more concerned with boys and clothes.

Although Deepika and her family lived in the US, they’d often travel to India to visit her grandparents. When she saw young children outside her grandparents’ house drinking water that looked too dirty even to touch, Deepika decided to combine her passion for solving the global water crisis with her love of science.

From humble beginnings in her parents’ garage, she embarked on a journey that led initially to a major science prize and then to developing a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to purify water. Deepika didn’t let her young age or the fact that she was just one person stop her. She had a dream and set out to accomplish it.

IF A STORY MOVES YOU, ACT ON IT BY SISONKE MSIMANG

Stories are necessary, says writer Sisonke Msimang, but they’re not as magical as they seem. In a talk that’s both irreverent and thought provoking, Sisonke questions our emphasis on storytelling and highlights the decline of facts.

She says listening has been confused with action and makes the bold suggestion that we switch off our phones, step away from our screens and head out into the real world. If a story moves you, act on it. Don’t just like it, share it or feel impassioned by it. Actually go out and do something about it. That’s the only way real change can take place.

WHY GIVING AWAY OUR WEALTH HAS BEEN THE MOST SATISFYING THING WE’VE DONE BY BILL AND MELINDA GATES

While on holiday in 1993, Bill and Melinda Gates took a walk on the beach that culminated in a decision to give their Microsoft wealth back to society. The couple started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the rest is philanthropic history.

Interesting side-note: despite their best efforts to give away their billions, Bill Gates still ranks as one of the richest men in the world. Proving the adage that the more you give the more you get. (Not that that’s why one gives, but still, it’s kind of cool.)

Bill and Melinda sat down with TED founder Chris Anderson to talk about their successes and failures, how they’re raising their kids and what makes their partnership work. But most importantly, they highlight the satisfaction of giving most of their money away.

Correction 1/10/18: This post has been updated to clarify that Nancy’s son Pete Frates is credited with taking the Bucket Challenge viral. 

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

71 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B1 days ago

Noted

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Cindy S
Past Member 6 days ago

cool

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bob P
bob Petermann3 months ago

Thank you

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lynda l
lynda l3 months ago

The benefits of doing good are many.

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natasha p
Past Member 3 months ago

ty

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

There is a "world chocking" NEWS at the bottom of this article : although Bill gates is STILL amongst the RICHEST MEN ON THIS WORLD... MY God , and he don't know how to spend the rest of his money ????? May we someone should make a very long list, make a petition of it, and surely we will have over 500,000 signatures. Thank you BILL !!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

@ DEBBI W : Very nice words you said. And they are 100 % TRUE !! read my little story here beneath. Speaks for itself. There are so many mothers who are spending several hours a week, helping children with reading & writing, or with maths. Or those who spend reading books for children, each week several times in the public libraries. The women and also men who are retired, and spend a lot of their time visiting elderly, disabled people and doing some shopping for them. I personally admire ALL those wonderful people a lot more then the rich guys who give big cheques of $ 5,000 and much more. They even don't pay it from their own pocket. It is a gift by the company and paid from all the profit they make, on our backs !!!

AND TO ALL MOTHERS, WORLDWIDE, who teach their children what RESPECT, EMPATHY and COMPASSION means. For A. L. L. human being as well as all ANIMALS. They are the ANGELS and the FUTURE of our society. Regretfully, of lot of our women have to work to put enough bread on the table. 1 wage is no longer sufficient to give them a decent life.... and children pay the bill !!

@ Monica Buchanan : Thanks so much for opening these windows !!! Truth must be said !!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

You don't need to be rich to be a "giving" person. When I was temporarily working part-time, I found it useless to have a spotless clean house, more elaborate meals etc.. On the contrary, I followed a course of 2 x 2 days to become a volunteer in a palliative section of a clinic. I got my certificate, I started working 3 x 8 hrs shifts in the clinic. I did the early shift from 06.00 till 14.00 and from 14.00 till 22.00 hrs. The best paying "job" I ever had. The gratitude of the people, awaiting their last days, and NOT to forget THEIR FAMILY. We hugged so much crying a lot of tears when someone died, and we cried again when we read their last messages in our "remembrance book", thanking us so greatly for all the beautiful hours we had spent together with their father / mother / grandmother / grandfather & so much more. We never had children, and I thank God for that. I'm not sure that I could have done it for 3 years, when I had to work full time again because my husband got cancer.

THE BIGGEST PAYCHECK IS NOTHING COMPARED TO GRATITUDE OF PEOPLE !!!

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maria r
maria reis4 months ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo Custer4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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