Daunting. Overwhelming. Panic attack worthy. Challenging. Exciting. Exhilarating. Yes, those are all the emotions I felt everyday from the moment I agreed to do a TED Talk. And from what I understand, this is pretty much the norm.
I was told to expect that I was going to think that what I have to say is irrelevant. ✔️
I’ll convince myself that I’ll never be able to memorize all of this. ✔️
I will grow to hate my TED Talk and my voice. ✔️✔️
And I’ll have to convince myself not to call in sick the day of the event. Sadly… ✔️
I’ve done a ton of speaking over the past few years. Hands down, giving my TED Talk was the biggest challenge I’ve ever had as a speaker. I rarely get even the slightest nerves speaking in front of an audience. Partly because I’ve learned that when I make a mistake or forget my train of thought the audience is always forgiving and encouraging… making mistakes actually endears you to an audience far more than giving a perfect oration. However, I was a wreck the day before and backstage the day of the TED event. I engaged all of my stress release techniques to get my heart to stop thumping so loudly so I could actually think. Nothing worked!
I know the reason why I was so nervous. First of all, TED Talks are memorized. Although after you memorize it you’re supposed to then just remember the bullet points and the connecting threads so you don’t sound like a robot. In all of my speaking gigs I know my bullet points and story I want to tell, but I’m really good at reading a room and changing things up based on how the audience is reacting. You can’t do that in a TED Talk because they are so short and succinct (they ask them to only be 12 minutes long) that you don’t have time to riff with the audience… let alone get choked up and have to pause… as I did.
Because the talk is so short, every word matters. Such as when I say “… in developing Champions in life” … it takes on a different connotation if I change it to “… in producing Champions in life.” That one word develop or produce has a slight but very important different meaning.
It was also extremely challenging to whittle my original 22 minute talk down to 12 minutes. While I felt like everything I had to say was important to the storyline, when I started cutting and rearranging I realized how many unnecessary words I use. I needed to dig down and figure out what was the most important thing I wanted to say then choose very deliberate words to convey that message. After whittling away the unnecessary words, I then found that my talk was too dry, I didn’t paint any pictures with my narrative that would help the audience absorb the message. So back to the chopping block so I could add in some stories that would bring my narrative to life. Daunting, challenging, frustrating.
However, the challenge was a big part of why I was so excited and honored to do it. And throughout this process I was constantly reminded why it’s so important for all of us to challenge ourselves. When you challenge yourself you’ve given yourself a goal and purpose. You have something new to get excited and nervous about. It’s so easy to drift through life as the days, weeks, months and years slip by. A personal challenge literally shakes you awake and ignites your creative juices. When you challenge yourself, what you’re really doing is accepting the opportunity for personal growth.
Perhaps my favorite part of challenging ourselves is there’s no downside. Remember… I don’t believe in the concept of failure. Even if I had gotten up on that stage and collapsed out of anxiety, all the things that i had learned would still have been achieved. If I had gotten up on stage and delivered my speech and been boo’d, my ego might have been bruised, but I still would have acquired the benefits from the process. When you challenge yourself, you can’t lose. Growth is the only possible outcome. If you accomplish what you set out you get the added benefit of satisfaction for a job well done, but you’ll always have the satisfaction of looking back and recognizing that you accepted an opportunity to make your life bigger, bolder and brighter.
So what’s your next challenge? If it doesn’t ignite some trepidation it’s not big enough. The bigger the challenge the greater the reward. Go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much gain.
Photo copyright: Jasmina Tomic