If you haven’t heard already, I’m going to be a speaker at TEDxLander this weekend.
Standing on the red dot and sharing my ideas has been a dream of mine for years, and even though I’m beyond excited to take the TEDx stage on Saturday, I can’t say this has been an easy journey. This TEDx Talk didn’t just fall into my lap; in fact, the opposite was true.
Like most dreams, my TEDx journey started out as just that—a dream. I loved watching TED content on YouTube. I was inspired by talks like Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” and Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” Their ideas inspired me, and I knew one day I wanted to stand on that iconic stage and inspire others with my signature conscious communications strategy.
A few years ago, I decided to make this dream a reality, which meant I had to start applying to speak at TEDx Talks around the country—and sometimes around the globe. Before I knew it, multiple years had passed, and I still didn’t have a talk.
By this point, I had already submitted 177 applications, and I’ll be honest, I thought about giving up. The negative self-talk came rolling in…
Maybe my idea isn’t good enough.
Maybe I don’t have what it takes to stand on a TEDx stage.
I had to step back for a second and really consider why I was letting this negative self-talk win. Here’s the thing: I knew deep down that my conscious communications ideas were worth sharing. Countless people have used these principles and told me they changed their lives. So, why was I letting my own self-doubt cloud my journey to get what I wanted? Why would I let my inner voice determine if I got to stand on a red dot and speak to an engaged audience?
And that brings me to the first lesson I learned:
Perseverance is everything.
There’s a Japanese proverb that translates to, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”
“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”
This proverb perfectly describes my long TEDx journey. I may have received 177 rejections, but maybe the 178th would be an acceptance. If I stopped then, I would have never found the TEDx event that was right for me.
And believe it or not, within a few more applications, I had a talk.
In September 2020, I was invited to speak at a TEDx event in February 2021. Receiving the acceptance email felt surreal. All of my hard work was finally paying off.
I got straight to work on my talk. Each day, I spent time writing, practicing, and planning. I was thrilled. My team was thrilled. My friends and family were thrilled. It was finally happening.
Then, everything came crashing down seemingly out of nowhere. In December 2020, I received word that the event was being canceled due to COVID-19 venue restrictions. Of course, I understood the decision from an organizer perspective. Sadly, that didn’t make it any less of a blow.
For a while, I wasn’t sure what to do. And even though you know how this story ends, I didn’t. I felt stuck.
I had already submitted so many applications. I had already attended multiple interviews. And I finally achieved my dream. I didn’t want to start over, so for a while, I just sat in my feelings and processed. This took longer than I anticipated, which may feel frustrating in the moment, especially if you’re used to a consistent hustle when achieving your goals. I want you to know that taking this time after a huge disappointment is ok.
After a defeat, rushing into more work and ignoring how you’re feeling may actually do more harm than good.
Author Anthon St. Maarten says, “To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness; it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate.” Really let that quote sink in. I had experienced something unexpected and jarring. It was completely normal to feel defeat, sadness, and anxiety. And I needed to feel all of that before I could truly move on and get back on the path to achieve my dream of standing on a TEDx stage.
“To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness; it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate.”
Eventually, I stood back up, ready to try again. This time, I wanted a new strategy. I knew that doing the same thing I was doing before probably wouldn’t work, and let’s face it; I'm a busy CEO, and I didn’t want to submit another 177 applications.
It's ok to adapt your strategy.
When you’re working toward a dream, it’s ok to adapt your strategy. In fact, I would encourage it. There’s almost always a better way to do something, so being strategic about your process can garner incredible results.
The first step I took toward modifying my process was assessing my application materials. After all, if 177 applications were rejected, I could probably trace that back to my application, right?
I got to work and completely reworked my application materials. I rewrote paragraphs. I re-recorded my audition video. I updated my previous speech experience on my resume.
Finally, after hours of work, I was ready to start submitting applications again. And let me tell you—those hours of work spent modifying my application shaved off a lot of time in the future.
Within months of applying to talks and sitting in a few interviews, I finally heard some good news: I had been accepted to another TEDx Talk for February 26, 2022!
This process hasn’t been easy. The great news is, every step I took to achieve this goal eventually paid off, which made the heartbreaks and the challenges worth it.
So, to recap…
If you want to achieve what you want in life, or if you just want to start working toward a new goal, here are a few tips you can use:
Persevere when you feel like giving up.
Take a break to process your emotions instead of ignoring them.
Adapt your strategies to keep moving forward.
If you’ve gotten this far, I have a request: sign up for my weekly newsletter so you’ll be the first to know when my TEDx Talk is uploaded to YouTube. I would love to share my ideas with you, and delivering them straight to your inbox is an added bonus.