3 Best TED Talks for Students. What you can learn from them

TED Talks are one of the best platforms to attain knowledge and motivation. Preparing for an exam is not an easy task, especially for exams like GATE and ESE. Covered with piles of books all the time, being engaged with your books 24*7 and having a monotonous routine of studying, eating and sleeping can sometimes be boring and tiresome. This routine is difficult to carry on for a very long time and it is difficult to stay focused and dedicated the whole year. It is necessary to take small breaks between your studies, but make sure that these breaks are refreshing and do not disturb your studies. So whenever you feel you cannot have any more of these books and you want to take a little break, TED talks are the best respite from your busy schedule.

TED is a non-profit organization dedicated towards sharing important and innovative ideas with the world. The world’s most innovative, inspirational and motivational people deliver short and powerful talks on various issues. It focuses on and believes in the ‘ideas that are worth sharing’. These talks engage the students and spark the fire for dreaming big in life and chasing their dreams with full valor and confidence. Various types of TED talks are done on the TED platform: TEDx brings the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe. TED-ed, TED’s education initiative — makes short video lessons worth sharing, aimed at educators and students and many more.

It is not difficult to find these TED videos as one can either log on to you tube to find TED channel which has thousands of videos or download the TED talks’ app to listen to some amazing ideas which will help you grow and make you smarter. Despite the many videos available on TED, we have picked up 3 best TED talks serving as motivational talks for students. Some of the videos that one can refer to while preparing for the exam to stay focused and confident are:

  1. How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed: Daniel Levitin

The GATE or ESE examination is a national examination where the level of competition one goes through is extremely tough. Therefore, while preparing for the exam the one thing that every student goes through is stress. The stress of “is my preparation on point,” “how will my exam go”, ‘is my friend studying more than I am ‘and ‘what does the future has in store for me’ frequently pulls the students down and derails them from their studying pattern. Talking about similar situations when one gets stressed out and has no idea how to react in such a situation, Daniel Levitin gives us the key to stay calm.

Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist by training, knows a great deal about how the brain works under stress and to avoid all the hustle and panic that we go through he gives scientific reasons and explanation of how we can keep ourselves perfectly calm by preparing beforehand. During stress, the brain releases Cortisol which raises your heart beat, modulates your adrenaline level and clouds your thinking. In such a situation there isn’t much that one can do. Daniel talks about a fantastic and different strategy called ‘prospective hindsight or pre-mortem. ‘

We all have heard of post-mortem; it is the examination of something after it has occurred. Well in pre-mortem one has to look ahead and try to figure out all the things that can go wrong. Once that is done you need to take preventive actions to stop that particular thing from happening or minimize the damage.

E.g. While preparing a subject say Thermodynamics (Mechanical Engineering) for the examination, you feel that you will not get enough time later to complete the subject as you have less time left in your hand. Make sure that you study all the important topics like Laws of thermodynamics, diesel, Otto and dual cycle etc. from the subject. Also make sure to practice the previous year questions from the subject so that you do not waste time in reading everything and later panic and lose your calm for not being able to complete the subject.

In his TED talks, Daniel further talks about special part of the brain called hippocampus which evolved tens of thousands of years ago to keep track of locations of important things. This is the part of the brain which helps cab drivers (without GPS!!) memorize the map and squirrels remember the place for food. So in order to stay calm during stress plan everything and train yourself to put system in place, as you will not be at your best under stress.

In a similar way to avoid any panic and stress during the examination make sure you have a fixed routine daily and you practice that sincerely. This makes your brain accustomed to the schedule and you manage everything well and do not panic right before the exam. Also going over the same thing regularly through revision helps your mind keep track of where and what you have read and even if you are stressed during the examination, your mind will work perfectly fine remembering everything and anything that you have made it memorize.

So in order to reduce stress, plan ahead and consider all the risk factors and pros and cons that you can. Then you will be better prepared to deal with stress and make the correct decisions in the moment. Thus to stay calm one needs to make a plan and follow it strictly. Also to avoid stress revise and train your brain to remember all the important things.

  1. Feats of memory anyone can do: Joshua Foer

For every action, there are a million excuses to stop you from taking that action. In the case of GATE and ESE the vast syllabus of the examination that students have to learn, revise and retain to crack the examination makes most of the students give up half way. From the ones who continue on their journey many students even after successive revisions find it difficult to remember everything they have learnt and thus become demoralized.

A freelance journalist, Joshua Foer was the 2006 U.S.A. Memory Champion. He has described his journey from being a journalist who came to cover the USA memory champion to being the winner of the competition in his much acclaimed 2011 book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Foer in his TED talks breaks the myth that many people believe in, that some people have special brain and are ‘god gifted’ which is why they can retain so much, while the others have a weak memory. This talk by Joshua can really help the aspirants learn about how they can improve their memory and retain all the information that they gather from the books they read.

Joshua tells us how humans have always been excellent learners but the introduction of paper, pen and now mobile phones has made us accustomed to not remembering things but noting it down which is why we have become mentally handicapped to remember anything. In his TED talks Joshua while taking us on his journey through the USA memory champion explains how to use one’s memory to its full capacity by using a technique called memory palace.

Foer learned and practiced the science and techniques behind miraculous retention of information. He shows how any person with an average memory power can be trained to become a mastermind with the help of simple and essential memory techniques. The ways that Foer talks about that can be used for improving memory are not just something that worked for him. Instead he provides an explanation of how the concept originated and provides scientific reason of why the technique works.

A Memory Palace is an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. The most common type of memory palace involves making a journey through a place you know well, like a building or town, normally one prefers their home as there are aware of it inside out. So for example you want to learn the national parks in India along with the animals that reside there for you GS exam. These are the steps you follow to make a memory palace:

  1. Choose a place that you know well like house, park, office.
  2. Plan out a route that you want to take while going through your chosen place.
  3. Take a list of all the National parks and animals you want to memorize.
  4. Take one or two items at a time and place a mental image of them in the locus of your memory palace.
  5. Make the image come alive with your senses. So while walking in your home you can actually place a Horned Rhino (Kaziranga National Park) dancing in your porch and then as you move further an Asiatic Lion (Gir National Park) is lying on your sofa enjoying dhokla. (Gujarat). Your memory palace can be as silly as you want it to be just make it interesting and fun so that when you visit the palace you remember everything.

Thus, now every time you want to remember any national park just go through your memory palace and you can recall everything. This way you can learn formulae, concepts and even your vocabulary very easily.

Thus the memory palace is a master tool that helps you memorize anything that you want in just a couple of minutes. So the overall theme presented by the speaker was that you don’t need to be “smart” or “gifted” to be good at memorizing. Anyone can do it; it just takes practice.

  1. How to manage your time more effectively – Brian Christian

While preparing for any exam, students have the query of what is the perfect time to start preparing. Well the answer to this question is ‘It is not the time that needs to be perfect, but its management which is in your hand that needs to be on point’. No matter when you begin your preparation just be aware of the time you have in hand and make the most of it. This is only possible if you have a good strategy for preparation and you manage your time well.

Brian Christian in his talk talks about us humans can utilize our time effectively. Providing an insight into the computer science of scheduling, he gives us an idea of humans’ struggle with time. First thing that Brian mentions about is work prioritizing. All the time that is spent on prioritizing your work is time you aren’t spending doing it. Just like most of the students they spend hours in planning on how to study, whether in library, room, park with the help of class notes, study material, book. They buy multiple color pens and then sit to decide if studying in morning is better or night.

All the time that aspirants waste in coming up with a ‘perfect plan’ is actually the time you wasted doing nothing. There is no plan as perfect and instead of struggling in prioritizing what to study where to study it is important that you sit and study. Brian does not say that one should not have a plan, but wasting most of your time in making a plan will not be of any help to you. So go through the syllabus, prioritize the subjects according to their relevance, make a simple plan and get going with your studies.

The second thing we all come across are distractions. Distractions are of various types: call or message from friends and family, YouTube videos, a new movie release, some game like PUBG and many more. What one needs to understand is that there is a fundamental tradeoff between productivity and responsiveness. Your response to these distractions is going to affect your productivity. Getting serious work done means minimizing responses. But being responsive means reacting instantly something comes up. These two principles are fundamentally in tension. Recognizing this tension allows us to decide where we want to strike that balance. The obvious solution is to minimize interruptions.

Thus the key ingredients to time management that Brian introduces us to are less prioritizing, more working and being productive instead of responsive. A similar approach might allow the students to reclaim their own attention and improve their time management.

While there are thousands of videos on TED talks that are worth sharing and will help you a lot in your preparation for the examination, these three videos are a must watch as they will help answer those questions that every aspirant is struggling with i.e. related to tension, focus and memory.  These talks will help you manage your time while studying, remembering all the topics and subjects you are having trouble learning and memorizing and keeping you calm despite the tension and worry you come across during the preparation. Please do watch these TED Talks to get a better insight into the topic. We hope that these videos and our blog will help you in your preparation and inspire you to work hard for the examination. Write to us if you have doubts or query and All the Best for your examination.

Following are the links of the videos mentioned above:

How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed – Daniel Levitin
Feats of memory anyone can do – Joshua Foer
How to manage your time more effectively (according to machines) – Brian Christian

Happy Reading

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