Make It

The 10 most-watched TED Talks of 2016

James Veitch at TEDSummit2016 in Banff, Canada.
Photo by Marla Aufmuth of TED
James Veitch at TEDSummit2016 in Banff, Canada.

In 2016, millions upon millions of people seem to be on a quest to improve themselves.

Or, at the very least, they are watching online videos about how to be better people.

The list of the most-watched TED Talks published to TED.com in 2016, shared exclusively with CNBC, includes a deep dive into the minds of procrastinators, tips on how to improve your conversation skills and a tool to use to break your bad habits. With a few jokes thrown in.

Here are the 10 most popular TED Talks of 2016.

1. James Veitch: "This is what happens when you reply to spam email"

Views: 11,357,139

Highlight: "Crazy stuff happens when you start replying to scam emails. ... There are a lot of people who do mean things to scammers. All I'm doing is wasting their time. And I think any time they're spending with me is time they're not spending scamming vulnerable adults out of their savings, right?"


2. Tim Urban: "Inside the mind of a master procrastinator"

Views: 9,183,784

Highlight: "I had a hypothesis that the brains of procrastinators were actually different than the brains of other people. And to test this, I found an MRI lab that actually let me scan both my brain and the brain of a proven non-procrastinator, so I could compare them."


3. Celeste Headlee: "10 ways to have a better conversation"

Views: 5,977,269

Highlight: "We make decisions about where to live, who to marry and even who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, that means we're not listening to each other. A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance."


4. Judson Brewer: "A simple way to break a bad habit"

Views: 5,721,280

Highlight: "Mindfulness is just about being really interested in getting close and personal with what's actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment .... When we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based, reactive habit patterns, and we step into being. We become this inner scientist where we're eagerly awaiting that next data point."

"The very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear." -Shonda Rhimes, "My Year of Saying Yes to Everything"

5. Adam Grant: "The surprising habits of original thinkers"

Views: 4,588,151

Highlight: "Originals are nonconformists, people who not only have new ideas but take action to champion them. They are people who stand out and speak up. Originals drive creativity and change in the world. They're the people you want to bet on.

"And they look nothing like I expected."


6. Kang Lee: "Can you really tell if a kid is lying?"

Views: 3,814,362

Highlight: "At three years of age, 50 percent lie and 50 percent tell the truth. At four years of age, more than 80 percent lie. And after four years of age, most children lie.

"So as you can see, lying is really a typical part of development. And some children begin to tell lies as young as two years of age."


7. Reshma Saujani: "Teach girls bravery, not perfection"

Views: 2,815,508

Highlight: "Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. We're taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A's. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off headfirst. And by the time they're adults, whether they're negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they're habituated to take risk after risk. They're rewarded for it. It's often said in Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you've had two failed start-ups.

"In other words, we're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave."


8. Brian Little: "Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality"

Views: 2,686,897

Highlight: "Remember, you're like some other people and like no other person. ... I'm uncomfortable putting people in pigeonholes. I don't even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes.

"So what is it that makes us different? It's the doings that we have in our life, the personal projects."


9. Julia Galef: "Why you think you're right, even if you're wrong"

Views: 2,637,431

Highlight: "Our judgment is strongly influenced, unconsciously, by which side we want to win. And this is ubiquitous. This shapes how we think about our health, our relationships, how we decide how to vote, what we consider fair or ethical. What's most scary to me about motivated reasoning or soldier mindset, is how unconscious it is.

"We can think we're being objective and fair-minded and still wind up ruining the life of an innocent man."


10. Shonda Rhimes: "My year of saying yes to everything"

Views: 2,552,292

Highlight: "So a while ago, I tried an experiment. For one year, I would say yes to all the things that scared me. Anything that made me nervous, took me out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to say yes to. ... And a crazy thing happened: The very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear, made it not scary."