40 of the best inspirational and motivational talks for creatives

Success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. But without that all-important 10%, there’d be nothing to sweat over.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Regularly topping up the inspiration levels is excellent for focus, energy levels and all-round work happiness. So enjoy Creative Boom's collection of some of the most motivating and informative free video content around. Warning: watching these videos may result in a serious surge of get-up-and-go.

Art and Innovation

1. Stan Lee / Advice for comic book writers and other artists

Straight-talking comic book storyteller extraordinaire shares his thoughts on influence, authenticity and structure. If you’re working with your imagination, can you afford not to listen to the guy who invented Spiderman, Iron Man, the X-Men and Daredevil?

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2. Eight Artists / Advice to the Young

Visual artists Olafur Eliasson, the Chapman Brothers and William Kentridge all have strong feelings on what it takes to ‘make it,’ and present a diverse selection of insights to inspire young artists to do big things. Other sage advice comes from Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovich, German film director Wim Wenders, punk poet Patti Smith, and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, who advises: “Never undervalue your artistic satisfaction”.

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3. Neil Gaiman / Make good art

Prolific horror writer Neil Gaiman discusses how, upon starting on a career in the arts, having no idea what you’re doing is a wonderful and powerful thing. Especially when he says: “The rules of what’s possible and impossible have been made by people who never tested the boundaries - and you can”.

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4. Magnus Walker / Go with your gut feeling

Motivating TED speech from an ordinary Northern lad whose journey took him from being on the dole in Sheffield to stumbling into owning a fashion house in LA. A tale about engineering your luck, taking your chances and adapting quickly whenever an opportunity arises.

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5. Paul Klein / How to succeed as an artist

A 40-min lecture on how to make a relationship with your art that you are comfortable with - and how to make the most of it. Very inspiring, especially when he points out, “creatives have better access to problem-solving, and can make the world a better place if they are sufficiently empowered”.

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6. Laura Hollick / You are the Art

Artist and shaman Laura Hollick gives a deeply emotive talk. To truly create from the soul, an artist must find a bridge between their inner selves and the outer world. Her epiphany started with creating an art piece that majored on a debilitating chronic skin condition she suffered in her youth.

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Digital and Design

7. Joe Gebbia - Founder of AirBnB / Executing your idea starts with a single small step

The catalyst for Airbnb was an unaffordable rent demand, which meant rookie entrepreneur Joe Gebbia needed to find the cash fast. Along with his housemate, they threw together a quick website to rent out an airbed in their living room, and the rest is even more interesting.

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8. David McCandless /The Beauty of Data Visualisation

There is a huge amount of data out there, at unprecedented levels and climbing. Journalist David McCandless talks about his passion for data detective work, and how the only way for the brain to make full sense of it all is to showcase information in pictorial form. His findings are inspiring, shocking, amusing, and at times, irritating.

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9. 50 entrepreneurs share priceless advice

An 18-minute video with a torrent of inspiring tidbits from the people behind game-changing digital businesses such as Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Google, Paypal, LinkedIn and many, many more. Eighteen minutes well spent!

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10. Alexis Ohanian of Reddit / Making something people love

One hour lecture from the co-founder of Reddit.com explaining how entrepreneurs must pay close attention to the community, connection and design - and how to go on the offensive when you’ve got your creative ducks in a row. Wonderfully informative and energising presenter, who preaches: “Only your mom wants to use your website – every other user has to be earned”.

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11. Janine Benyus / 12 sustainable design ideas from nature

Biomimicry is beautiful. For example, a locust's ability to avoid touching other locusts within a fast-flying swarm tells us how to design a crash-resistant car. The best creative director in the world is nature. Imagine designing and orchestrating springtime. Janine Benyus talks us through some of the finest innovations inspired by nature - and how to come up with even more.

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12. Law Alsobrook /Graphic design and the making of meaning

Where art tries to reveal the world of the artist, graphic design tries to help others with their world. Ergo, design can save the world, only without heroics or pyrotechnics. Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar's university professor Law Alsobrook talks us through how graphic design is the best job in the entire world, and how it’s the closest modern job to alchemy.

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13. Inspiring Words from Eminem

From being constantly underestimated by his peers, to multi-platinum selling artist in the world - and according to many prominent scholars - the most important poet in the last hundred years.
Here Marshall talks about dealing with the death of his best friend, stacking creative ammo and putting his daughter first. Spend five minutes with Marshall Mathers, and I defy you not to come out fighting – “I feel like anybody can do anything they set their mind to. It depends how bad you want it.”

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14. Bruno Mars

A rousing speech by hitmaker Bruno Mars on dealing with haters and doubters in a world where everyone’s a critic. This interview with Ellen De Generes gets going at 4:50, where Bruno gets passionate and goes direct to camera.

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15. Nile Rodgers

A 10-minute talk-cum-guitar lesson from Chic disco legend and the creative brain behind an enormous catalogue of hit records. Talking in soft tones that belie his electrifying presence, he tells us trade secrets about his signature guitar style and how to write songs.

The Nile lets us in on this gem: “It’s not what you play; it’s what you don’t play that makes it funky…”
Watch the video; you’ll see straight away what he means.


16. Andrew Stanton / The clues to a great story

Andrew Stanton wrote and directed Bugs Life, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. He is currently busy directing Finding Dory and writing Toy Story 4. He knows a thing or two about stories, and he conveys these insights brilliantly. A wonderful TED Talk from a truly inspirational creative leader.

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17. Richard Curtis BAFTA Screen Writers Lecture

Brilliant tips piece from the celebrated British writer and director who gave us Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral and About Time. Richard talks a little about his work and a lot about how to get out of blocked up moments, i.e. how to unstick when you’re stuck. You couldn’t buy such treasured tutelage.

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18. Robert McKee / Big Think Interview

A one-hour talk from screenwriting guru and author of the seminal text on storytelling for the movies. The focus is good old-fashioned form and technique - McKee often comes across as bullish and dismissive of others work - but only when that work relies exclusively on special effects, with scant regard for a story. You will become a better storyteller for watching this video, whether you’re a filmmaker or not.

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19. Nicolas Forzy / Making your first film: whatever it takes

Burnt-out city boy turned independent filmmaker delivering a killer TED talk on how you don’t need money to make a film. You have to work out how to get stuff for free, and do it yourself, even the stunts.

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20. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg offers an uplifting 12-minute commencement address about his first cinema experiences, and changing his major at university to accommodate him being “one more victim of this tremendous drug called cinema”. In his words, “Your meaning and purpose in life only whisper to you, it rarely shouts”.

21. JJ Abrahams /The Mystery Box

Lost, Star Trek and Star War VII director JJ Abrahams talks about his twin obsessions: mysteries and deconstructing things (right the way down to Kleenex boxes). Great presenter, highly motivating, with a strong comic edge. JJ talks amusingly about the challenges of writing, casting and shooting the pilot of Lost in 11 weeks with plenty of jokey asides, including being inspired by and slightly in awe of technology.

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22. Dewitt Jones

National Geographic photographer and author of nine books explains the principles behind coming up with an extraordinary vision. He talks with persuasive eloquence about the metaphors for finding the perfect photograph being the lessons for a creative life - and life in general.

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23. Art Wolf / The art of the image

Amazing guide on how a top photographer pulls something out of an everyday scene that 99% of the population would never see. Art Wolfe records wildlife, landscapes and native cultures; his mastery of colour, composition and perspective have brought him internationally acclaim - so if you have photographic ambitions, you’d be a fool not to listen to him.

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24. Karen Hutton / Finding your soul's genius & voice in your photography

Find your voice isn’t just for writers and poets. Karen Hutton talks about putting your whole self into your art and developing ‘signatures’ intrinsic to your work, in the hope that when people see a picture, they instantly recognise it as one of yours.
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25. Vincent Versace / The lens is the brush

Versace is a pioneer of the art and science of digital photography, and his work has led to innovative breakthroughs across the whole digital image value chain. The full enigmatic title of this talk is: “The lens is the brush, the camera is the canvas, the file is the sheet music, and the print is the symphony”. The focus is much more technical than many photography talks, which is hardly surprising, due to Vincent’s position as both creative and technical leader.

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26. Jeff Cable / How to photograph events and make money doing it

Over the last six years, Jeff Cable has developed a unique approach when shooting weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and other events, and now his side project has become a second full-time job. Here he shares information on how you can take your hobby and make it pay.
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Game Design

27. An inspirational story of a paralysed video game designer

A truly inspirational story of one man’s barnstorming comeback from a freak accident. After initially thinking his career was over, Jon Hales started his own games studio and codes with the knuckle of his pinky finger. Heroic stuff.

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28. Will Wright / Game design from the creator of The Sims

The architect of the Sims shows how to build structure, narrative, motivation and challenges into a game’s dynamics. A very long talk but super-interesting throughout.

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29. Daniel Cook / Game design theory I wish I had known when I started

Veteran games designer, and co-owner of developer Spry Fox, Daniel Cook talks us through a selection of abstract design tools that makes creating great games come easier. These include loops, arcs, internal economies, and interaction frequencies - all essentials to inventing a highly addictive game.

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30. Google Talk / Three game design mistakes you're making

Google ‘Development Advocate’ Todd Kerpelman has designed his fair share of successful games, but it’s the flops he learned most from. Here he shares the three biggest mistakes that game designers make, because, he says, ‘chances are, you're making them, too.’

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31. Jonathan Blow: Video games and the human condition

Indie game developer Jonathan Blow on taking video games design beyond box-ticking of best practices and into experiences that connect and engage on a much deeper human level.

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Creativity Leadership and Learning

32. Where good ideas come from

A four-minute delightfully animated video discussing the value of the ‘slow-burning hunch’ and what environmental conditions are required to turn these hunches into full-blown killer ideas.

33. Julian Treasure / How to speak, so people want to listen

The voice is the instrument we all play. It’s the most powerful sound in the world, both how wars are started and how we tell people we love them. Although the instrument is so powerful, many people struggle with playing it well. Julian Treasure talks through the seven deadly sins of speaking, and a model of good positive speech that people won’t want to ignore.

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34. The science of persuasion

11-minute animated video backed up by 60 years of research on the scientific factors in getting someone to say YES…You will be surprised by the findings.

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35. Dr Ivan Joseph / The skill of self-confidence

Self-confidence is a skill. It can be defined as the ability to believe that you can accomplish any task, no matter what the adversity. As it is a skill, self-confidence can be learned. Here Dr Ivan Joseph, Athletic Director and head coach of the Varsity Soccer team at Ryerson University, shows you how to convince yourself: “I am the captain of my ship and the master of my destiny”.

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36. How to finish your business plan in one day

Growthink has helped over 500,000 entrepreneurs start, build or exit their company. Here they present a 22-minute guide to completing a business plan in 1/10 of the time it would take most people. Tackles the three main stumbling blocks of festering business plan motivations: lack of time, not knowing what to write, and being clueless on the financials.

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37. Josh Kaufman / The first 20 hours: how to learn anything

Josh specialises in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In this talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way. The talk takes 9 minutes to get going, but when it does, the four simple steps to rapid skill acquisition could help make learning new skills less intimidating.

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38. Idriz Zogaj / How to Become a Memory Master

With a better memory, you can be a better leader and quicker-thinking creative.
Presented by the five-time winner of ‘Sweden’s Best Memory’, this TED talk will tell you learnable techniques to give you supreme memory power and at the same time, provide the ancillary benefit of more in-depth insight into the inner workings of your beautiful brain.

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39. Simon Sinek - Love Your Work

Sinek's amazingly simple idea, The Golden Circle, is grounded in the biology of human decision-making and is changing how leaders and companies think and act.

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40. Jim Carrey’s Secret of Life

Jim Carrey gives an erudite, moving address on the key to living a fulfilling life. Just three minutes, he’ll take, to melt your heart: “Life doesn’t happen to you; it happens for you.”

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