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10 Inspirational Documentaries That Will Change Your Life

Joel Brown (Founder of Addicted2Success.com)

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Documentaries have long been appreciated genres in the film industry. The quality and popularity of some of the documentaries have resulted in notable successes at the Academy Awards, but also at prestigious film festivals.

Here is a compilation of 10 inspirational documentaries that will change your life. The mix includes emotional and thrilling subjects, ranging from the most delicate to the most entertaining and educational.

 

Inspirational Documentaries Worth Watching

 

1. Senna (2010)

The life and struggles of a champion

Ayrton Senna was the definitive genius behind the steering wheel. The former Formula One racing driver has collected a total of 41 victories and 65 pole positions, making him the winner of the World Drivers Championships three times. But his greatest victory was beyond the race track, it was the respect coming from the people who loved him. He was adored in his native Brazil and reached superstar status in the ’80s and ’90s. His spotless career and fame was only marked by his rivalry with another race star, Alain Prost.

The documentary is a splendid outlook on his life, his achievements, his personal life and it is an inspiring example how the power of a single person can make a huge impact.

2. I am (2010)

A great story about hope, recovery and optimism

Optimism and positive thinking are key to a fast recovery. After suffering a near death accident while mountain-biking, Tom Shadyac, the director of the Ace Ventura films, has went through a period of slow, painstaking recovery. While going through the difficult moments and numerous doctor’s appointments, he understands and reflects on the different things that are going wrong in the world. This documentary is an inspiration for anyone going through tough times, who feel that they are in dire straits or have no hope. Knowing that there is hope is crucial and this film shows that through positive thinking, everything is possible.

3. Kumare (2011)

Profound teaching wrapped in a social experiment

A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, KUMARE follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith. Instead, he finds himself forging profound connections with people from all walks of life — and wondering if and when to reveal his true self.

Will his followers accept his final teaching? Can this illusion reveal a greater spiritual truth? Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, KUMARE is an insightful look at faith and belief.

4. Man on Wire (2008)

Heartening, moving, courageous and bold

1974 saw a daring act of courage from Frenchman Phillippe Petit, who performed a high-wire walk between the two World Trade Center skyscrapers in New York. This exciting documentary follows Phillippe as he prepares for his mission. It shows the planning phases, his method and training and, of course, the ultimate feat, the high-walk, done without any safety measures.

Man on wire features an enthusiastic dialogue and entertaining narration, with spectacular imagery, creating a wonderful atmosphere. Finally, the viewer is left to marvel at his courage and skill, while some may question his motives or motivations for such an endeavor. But the real lesson behind it is that you must follow your dreams, whatever they are.

5. Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

A story of a man who could have been if he never gave up

Searching For Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez the greatest `70s rock icon who never was. After being discovered in a Detroit bar Rodriguez’s sound struck 2 renowned producers and they signed a recording deal. But when the album bombed the singer disappeared into obscurity. A bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and over the next two decades he became a phenomenon.

The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero.

6. Hungry For Change (2012)

Find inspiration to change your lifestyle

This is the perfect documentary for any health and fitness buff out there. Knowing the best recipes, foods and beverages to reach your ultimate goal of a perfect body is essential, and this film sheds light on various practices and deceptive strategies employed by large companies in the field. Interviews with health specialists and bestselling authors, as well as physicians will also help you get out of the diet trap. However, the most inspirational part of the film is the success stories of some of the people who risked and changed their lifestyles, finally overcoming obesity or other health problems.

7. Finding Joe (2011)

An Inspiring documentary that shows us all, “We Are Our Own Hero”

In the early 20th century while studying world mythology, Joseph Campbell discovered a pattern hidden in every story ever told. He called it “the hero’s journey.” Finding Joe explores how the hero’s journey is relevant and essential in today’s world. It provides a narrative for how to live a fully realized life or, as Campbell would simply state, how to “follow your bliss.”

This documentary takes us on an inspirational quest of self-discovery. As you slay dragons and uncover treasures, you just may find that the holy grail you seek is closer than you think.

8. Sans Soleil (1983)

Travel and discover your true self

Chris Marker’s exciting documentary follows the traveler through a journey from San Francisco to Africa and from Japan to Iceland, covering breathtaking scenery and exhilarating experiences. The film is narrated by a pleasant female voice and features stunning images from various parts of the world. Viewers will enjoy superb shots of Icelandic people, a Japanese temple dedicated to cats and much more.

The cinematography in this documentary is absolutely impressive and will leave you mesmerized.

9. Happy (2011)

Learning how to become a truly happy person

Happy is a thoughtful documentary which examines the cause of happiness. While depression, anxiety and other negative emotions have been studied numerous times before, what makes a person happy has remained a mystery. Featuring a collection of interviews with people from diverse cultures and communities, Happy shows the simple and basic elements that can cause happiness. From community dwellers in Denmark, to a 60-year old surfer from Brazil, or the cheerful inhabitants of Okinawa, the film is packed with positive and optimistic stories of life and will become a real inspiration for any viewer.

10. When We Were Kings (1996)

The story of a challenge and how to overcome it

Muhammad Ali was 32 in 1974, and many thought he should retire, that he was way past his prime, that he couldn’t fight anymore. His competitor is George Forman, ten years younger and the current Heavyweight champion of the world. Don King, a relatively unknown boxing promoter, decides to lure the fighters with 5 million dollars each for the match, and the only financial backer for this plan is Mobutu Sese Suko, the dictator of Zaire. This is how this famous boxing match in history started, known as “Rumble in the Jungle”. It shows the intense build up and training prior to the fight and includes interviews with the athletes and their coaches. Also, this inspirational documentary features guest appearances by James Brown, Spike Lee and Thomas Hauser among others.

When We Were Kings was critically praised and it won the Academy Award for the Best Documentary Feature in 1996.

Have you viewed any documentaries recently that have helped change your life?

Please share them with us and leave a comment about your recommended documentary.

Article By Joel Brown | Addicted2Success.com

I am the the Founder of Addicted2Success.com and I am so grateful you're here to be part of this awesome community. I love connecting with people who have a passion for Entrepreneurship, Self Development & Achieving Success. I started this website with the intention of educating and inspiring likeminded people to always strive for success no matter what their circumstances.I'm proud to say through my podcast and through this website we have impacted over 200 million lives in the last 10 years.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Alfonzo Kaid

    May 20, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for this helpful information.

  2. richard

    Mar 5, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Great post! I am also addicted to success. lol

  3. Geraldine Kelly

    Aug 25, 2014 at 7:35 am

    “Serving Life”- which can be found on Netflix- is by far the most inspirational documentary I have ever seen. Synopsis: Inmates find a sense of redemption for their crimes by volunteering in the prison hospice, offering compassion to other prisoners as they die.

    I met one of the inmates (Charles Rodgers) in person- and I must say, my life has never been the same. Remarkable individual.

  4. Jenny

    Jan 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I Am and Happy have changed my life, the way I think, the way I act, and Me altogether. I wish the whole world could see them and really understand what it truly means to be alive 🙂

  5. Manny Calejo

    Jun 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I have seen Sena & Kumare. Here are my thoughts; Sena shows passion and courage to stand up for what right. It also shows that competition is good and bring out the best in us if we are willing to step up and compete. I thought Kumare was outstanding!!! I won’t say anything else.

  6. Shawn Shashidharan

    Jun 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Just watched. When We Were Kings (1996). Loved it.

  7. Mikal

    May 3, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    “The Pursuit Of Happyness” is a very inspirational movie

  8. anonymous

    Apr 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Jiro Dreams of Sushi

  9. CJ Langley

    Apr 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the list…added a few to my “must see soon” list! At the end of the day when you are up to your neck practical thoughts, some inspiration to put those thoughts in action can be very motivating!

  10. John Southee

    Apr 11, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I love watching documentaries. Most of them are way better than any reality TV. I have see a handful of the one’s listed on this list. Some recommendations for people who like Documentaries as much as me are: Crazy Sexy Cancer which is about a woman who is diagnosed with cancer and tries to figure out different way in which she can cure herself.

    Another is Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead which is about a man who gets sick and tired of being overweight and after he is diagnosed with an illness he decides enough is enough. He began a diet and losing weight to try to heal himself.

    It’s awesome to watch people do amazing things to inspire yourself to do amazing things.

  11. Pete Dyson

    Apr 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

    The Secret is a pretty good documentary, it inspired me to chase success.

    • bob

      May 16, 2013 at 3:33 am

      Then your an idiot, believing that hocus pocus bullshit. Wikipedia it and see the real motivation of the film maker

      • Quinton

        May 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm

        Bob we’re all here for inspiration and motivation. Negativity is not needed nor wanted on any posts. Great List Joel- some of these titles are available on Netflix! Make it an awesome day!

  12. Paul F Davis

    Apr 10, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    Paul F Davis – life coach for success

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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