5 TED Talks for Small Business Owners


Need a little inspiration to get you through a mid-year slump? Want a reminder of why you started your small business in the first place? We’ve gathered up 5 of our favorite TED Talks for small business owners. Their short length and powerful impact are perfect for squeezing into your busy day and reaffirming your “Why.”

TED– Technology, Education, and Design– is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading ideas through 18-minute-or-less presentations from industry leaders, inspirational figures, and anyone else who has something worth sharing. 

Their TED Talks topics run the gamut, including many powerful videos targeted toward entrepreneurs and small business owners, using a mix of data, humor, and relatable anecdotes that make them both exciting and informative. 

Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance by Angela Lee Duckworth

Summary: In one of the most widely shared TED Talks for small business owners, Duckworth discusses how talent is seldom a predictor of long-term achievement. She further explores the impact that grit– determinedness and commitment to a goal– and a growth mindset can have on success, even in the face of hardship.

Most Inspirational Moment: “Grit is 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, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

How to Build a Business That Lasts 100 Years by Martin Reeves

Summary: Reeves begins his talk by introducing an extended metaphor about pitching the human immune system as a product. On the surface, it’s an overly-complex, inefficient machine. 

According to Reeves, that inefficiency makes the immune system, the tropical rainforest, and businesses more powerful and long-lasting. When company leadership allows more space to think “biologically,” it leads to pivoting, adapting, and taking risks to face dynamic and unpredictable problems.

Most Inspirational Moment: “Every small entrepreneurial company naturally thinks and acts biologically. Why? Because it lacks the resources to shape its environment through brute force. It lacks the scale to buffer change, and it’s constantly thinking about the tough odds for a start-up to survive.”

Why the Best Hire May Not Have the Perfect Resume by Regina Hartley

Summary: Hartley sets up a scenario where a business interviews two candidates: Silver Spoon and Scrapper, the former of which looks perfect on paper. Meanwhile, the latter has dyslexia, can’t hold down a job, never finished college, and had a rough start in his childhood.

Scrapper, she reveals, is actually Steve Jobs, a segue Hartley uses to discuss how challenges and adversity can fuel innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. 

Most Inspirational Moment: “Scrappers are propelled by the belief that the only person you have full control over is yourself. When things don’t turn out well, Scrappers ask, “What can I do differently to create a better result?” Scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves, kind of like if you’ve survived poverty, a crazy father, and several muggings, you figure, “Business challenges? Really? Piece of cake. I got this.”

How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

Summary: In one of the most poignant TED Talks for small business owners, Sinek shares “The Golden Circle,” his theory behind the trait that all successful businesses, innovators, and world changers have in common: Purpose and belief behind why they do what they do. 

He uses examples like the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and TiVo to show the difference between leaders that focus on questions of “what” and “how” rather than “why,” proving that people invest in the ideas and products they believe in, rather than the ones that boast the best features. 

Most Inspirational Moment: “Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

How to Make Hard Choices by Ruth Chang

Summary: In her landmark presentation on changing the way we think about facing choices, Ruth Chang addresses those hard decisions in which no best option presents itself, like choosing a passion career vs. a lucrative career. 

She posits that most people try to take subjective thought out of the equation, instead leaning too heavily on logic, reasoning, and others’ perception to settle on an option. In doing so, Chang believes we lose the opportunity to shape who we are and the passion for the life we’ve chosen. 

Most Inspirational Moment: “Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition, that the reasons that govern our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out, and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are. And that’s why hard choices are not a curse but a godsend.”

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