1O UNSEEN PARTS OF HOW I BECAME A TEDX SPEAKER
“We don’t celebrate people that are doing, we celebrate people that are done. We need to celebrate both” – Lisa Endersby
My good friend Lisa presented her first TEDx talk earlier this year, and showed me to not to just celebrate when I am done or have accomplished something, but also to celebrate the process.
So in this blog post, following up on last week’s post on How I Became a TEDx Speaker in one year, I wanted to share the parts of achieving this goal that are unseen. Too often, it is easy to see someone’s “success” and be tempted to want it based on the perceived fame, reward, or money involved. Today, I wanted to take a risk, go against the norm, and let myself be seen by sharing the other side of the story.
Here are the 10 unseen parts of how I became a speaker this past year:
1. Balance – I definitely struggled at various points during the year with this. Some examples include the emotional roller coaster involved in creating workshops and meeting deadlines, having people supporting or not supporting my initiatives, or attempting to communicate with loved ones to get them to understand why doing what I’m doing matters to me. I have also had to actively work on not getting caught up with “being busy, being busy” or spreading myself too thin.
It has been an ongoing process of reflection, self-awareness, and making adjustments along the way to try to share my passion with others while still trying to keep growing myself. I find that the more I grow myself, focus on taking care of my inner world through self care mechanisms like journaling, mindfulness, yoga, the more my experience and contributions to the world around me benefit.
2. Let Downs – I’ve had people promise to attend a workshop and consistently not show up, people I wanted support from not reciprocate, and I’ve not gotten over 80% of the opportunities I had hoped for or made efforts towards. I’ve hired a prominent youth-led online marketing group from my hometown to coordinate my website development to give them an opportunity to be a part of something bigger, only to have them months down the line turn out to be non-responsive and unprofessional, causing me to lose months of time in the website development process.
I’ve also had a referral from a friend to a videographer who filmed my flagship workshop (the Dream Circle), continuously give me the impression the editing was being worked on, but ended up falling through 7 months later. Through this process, I realized that the people who are a part of the journey are the right ones, and this sometimes means the ones you want to care won’t, or the people who are getting in the way have to be removed.
3. Challenges with clients – Workshops sometimes started late, I was occasionally asked to cut back content I had prepared at the last minute, and I’ve even experienced cancellations on payment and extreme low-balling for payment for a presentation. Projectors have been non-operational, the space selected for a workshop by the client was not appropriate or conducive to conversation, and I’ve even been to a workshop where the materials were not printed or ready despite months of planning and correspondence ahead of time. In these moments, I like to remind myself of the bumper stickers from the 90’s, “It Happens”.
4. Slip Ups – Despite how much I practiced or tried to prepare for my presentations and speaking, I still made mistakes. Things didn’t go as planned, the group dynamic wasn’t something I knew how to handle ahead of time, and I sometimes said or did things in ways I didn’t like. This part of the journey reminded me to see every speaking opportunity as an opportunity to practice, keep moving forward, and learning from experience.
5. Loneliness – I’ve felt invisible at many points during the year, often found myself working alone on my ideas, and not feeling connected to others. People put me up on a pedestal as being “inspiring”, but it is a lonely view up there and it isn’t a place I consider myself to be. I wanted to be on the same level as others, but found people who I knew were in some ways avoiding me because they thought I was too busy, not inviting me out as often or including me in their groups.
From this, I learned instead to look around and reach out to like-minded people doing good things, and spend more time now around people who are 2 or 3 steps ahead of me in terms of personal or professional growth. I still enjoy being alone as I work on my ideas, but no longer see it as loneliness. I have learned to treat the journey as my path, and tell myself I have everything I need along it.
6. Satisfaction – It has been incredibly satisfying to speak at over 30 events, present 20 Dream Circles, and have countless conversations with participants after the fact. For instance, people have written in to say how the Dream Circle has helped them gain new tools around goal setting, how it has helped them land their dream job, or even changed their perspective towards one of mutually supporting one another to grow. One of the best parts of what I do now is playing a part in shaping the stories people are writing in their lives, helping them get results, and empowering them to make transformational change, whether within themselves, their projects, or the broader communities they serve.
7. Efforts to speak – It takes a lot of conversations, marketing, and relationship building to become a speaker. What I found helpful was to pretend or envision that I had already achieved my goal of becoming a TEDx speaker, and backtracked with all the steps I thought I needed to do to get there. With this view, I took initiative to reach out to groups and organizations that worked with youth, followed up, and built relationships with staff personnel. Most importantly, I met deadlines, kept track of each speaking opportunity using a google spreadsheet, and made sure I was on top of things. Oh, and for the TEDx opportunity, I directly asked the organizers to speak at it despite not being nominated or invited. I’ve learned that to make something happen, you actually have to make it happen.
8. Immersion – To prepare for becoming a TEDx speaker and to develop my own speaking style, I spent a lot of time learning this past year and attending other speaking events. I found creative ways to be involved in events, especially ones I couldn’t afford. This includes shadowing prominent speakers at their conferences, sitting in on workshops and giving feedback on it to the presenter, and even volunteering for two local TEDx events as a photographer just to experience what it is like to be in that environment.
9. Do something interesting – I’ve seen a lot of TED talks, and one of the differentiating factors of why they get to be on that stage is that they are up to something unique and interesting. One of the initial conversations I had with one of my mentors last year was the importance of creating a project that differentiates itself from others and adds value to others. This helped me create my flagship project and unique offering in the Dream Circle, and it is what I was selected as a speaker to present on. What is more is that the more interesting things you do, the more interesting things you want to attempt to do.
10. Support – One of the things I strongly believe in is that everything I am is because of the people who have helped me along the way; the notion that we stand on the shoulders of all those who have supported us and you can’t do it alone. People have sent me positive notes of encouragement and referrals for speaking gigs. They have even generously offered to help through gifts of time, helping with workshops setup, mentorship and feedback to help me grow.
It is one thing to speak about the importance of having a community that holds you up and how the Dream Circle workshop helps you create this, but to experience this in my own personal journey has reinforced this belief I hold even more so. It took time to find my tribe and they have come from me making efforts to attend meetups, hanging out with like minded friends and being introduced to new people, hosting a video show about reconnecting to what matters, and even reaching out with cold emails or Linkedin messages to people I wanted to meet. I now see that people have an innate need to help others, but that I have to open myself up and let myself be seen in order for them to know how they can help me.
Overall, I was thrilled to be selected to be a TEDx Speaker for the upcoming event later this summer. In fact, I did my happy dance when I found out. But more than the achievement of a dream, it is how I set myself to achieve it that I wanted to share in the last blog post, and the journey and the process I went through in this one. This is what I will remember most for how they have shaped who I am today.
What are the unseen parts of your journey?