5 TED Talks Every PhD Student Should Watch

In lots of posts on this blog I’ve told you about my experiences, my advice and things I’ve learned during the process of my PhD. I thought it was about time I shared part of where I get my advice from; TED talks. They’re usually pretty short, and they give really good information in the form of research snippets, life lessons and ideas worth spreading. These are the 5 talks I’ve watched multiple times throughout my PhD, I suggest you watch them too.

Shonda Rhimes: My year of saying yes to everything

“The nation I’m building, the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the high note, the hum, the hum, the hum. I like that hum. I love that hum. I need that hum. I am that hum. Am I nothing but that hum? And then the hum stopped. Overworked, overused, overdone, burned out. The hum stopped.
When to watch: When you’ve lost your hum, when the PhD gets too much and when you don’t think you’re capable anymore.

Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation

“I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications skills. It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?”
When to watch: When you’re feeling nervous about going to a conference/networking event, when you’re freaking out about looking like you know what you’re talking about.

Alan Smith: Why you should love statistics

“Very often, we talk about statistics as being the science of uncertainty. My parting thought for today is: actually, statistics is the science of us. And that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.”
When to watch: When you’re at a point in your PhD that requires statistics, and you really hate statistics.

“I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting.
When to watch: When you feel nervous, anxious or not good enough in some way. When you feel vulnerable and you just want to ‘solve’ that feeling and move on.

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes

“They were a little uncomfortable with it, because we’d never done this before, and they didn’t know exactly how to do it. They can talk — they’re very smooth, and they can write very, very well, but asking them to communicate ideas in a different way was a little uncomfortable for them. But I gave them the room to just do the thing. Go create. Go figure it out. Let’s see what we can do.”
When to watch: The quote above refers to American school kids – but it could just as easily be about PhD students. Watch this when you’ve got bad feedback, when no one’s replying to your emails, when your ethics approvals have taken twice as long to come back that you thought they would.

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