Have you ever been so taken with an idea that you felt compelled to champion it publicly?
To step into the arena and compete for a speaking opportunity or submit an academic paper is not easy. Here are my thoughts about what that process looks like.
Researcher Brené Brown likes to quote Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech and for this entry I will follow suit.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I spent last weekend in the arena with some brave souls who were auditioning for a prestigious speaking event.There was nervous excitement in the room, extensive preparation and research, but above all, heart.
I truly respect these people.
It is hard to put yourself out there, to dare to be yourself …
OUT LOUD and in public for everyone to see.
I am reminded of my first TEDx talk, last fall. Now I look back at the video and want to polish this part, or revise that part... Yet I am proud of it and I embrace who I was that day as I stepped to the stage. It was an amazing experience and I feel like I really got my point across well.
The audience even laughed at my jokes!
What most people don’t know when they see a TED or TEDx talk, or a live storytelling event like the Story Project, is just how much effort goes into preparation. There is practice, revision, structure… refinement, editing, and more–more–more practice… then some more.
(Confession: I think my camera contains at least 100 videos of me practicing my talk in yoga clothes, work clothes, even my jammies! …okay… every pair of jammies I own if I am truthful.)
My TEDx talk last October was the product of nearly six years of effort BEFORE the audition.
Similarly, the story I told at the Story Project this spring had been examined in detail over the course of two years, during which it had been part of an academic conference paper and presentation, then analyzed in detail and published as part of a book chapter. THEN came the decision to do a talk, some professional speaker training to further polish my skills, and–
You guessed it! …the video camera & jammie rehearsal scene all over again!
…not to mention the days spent driving around town listening to my talks on the car stereo instead of music and playing them at night while I slept. (Yeah. That’s how I roll when I have a big talk coming up!)
My preparation is a little intense and while I find it much easier these days than it was when I started, the best way I know to avoid nervousness is to be overly prepared. These kinds of talks are different than normal public speaking, facilitation, or classroom instruction. For me the preparation is several orders of magnitude more demanding. These kinds of talks are permanent, hanging out there on the internet for people who will never sit in a room with you or ask you a question to see, judge, share, or (gasp!) be bored with.
But all of that comes AFTER a concept is fully developed, something that takes time and patience, and dedicated effort when nobody else is looking.
You see. The pesky thing about those truly great ideas that tap us on the shoulder and clamor to be shared is that they don’t come with warning labels.
If they did, one might read something like this.
DANGER: This big idea, if allowed into your head, will compel you to do countless hours of research. It may cause people to think you are a little crazy— or a lot. It will change how you see the world and make your old way of Being nearly impossible. It will not let you rest until you have given voice to it in a way that is structured, complete, and polished– no matter how long that takes!
The other side of the tag might read, “Fasten your seatbelt! It’s gonna be a crazy ride for the next several years!”
I say years because that’s how long it takes, at least for me.
Even the rare genius who wakes up every morning with a fresh new idea must do his due diligence to give the concept structure and understand its place among its fellow “big ideas of our time.”
Sometimes we submit a paper and are rejected.
(Been there. Resubmitted. Rocked it the second time around!)
Sometimes we don’t get to the stage or even the live auditions the first few times around and that is okay. If that’s you and the idea is important to you, then don’t give up! Keep on refining your concept. Restructure the presentation. Get clarity. Rehearse with friends. Practice it in your jammies a whole lot and then…
Step back into the arena when the time is right.
The very best ideas are worth fighting for and, much to our disappointment as humans, they take time to cure.
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