I heard this line for the first time at Oprah’s Life You Want Tour. She quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service.” That stuck with me. Shouldn’t we all strive to be great? Shouldn’t we all help others?
I bared my soul in order to inspire people to live the life they want, and the life they intend to live. It wasn’t easy. And, quite honestly, it wasn’t my intention when I started on this journey. But, somehow, some way, there I was, standing on a TEDx stage in Bushwick, Brooklyn last Saturday, telling my secrets to the world.
WATCH HERE: Here’s my TED x Talk
Here’s how it started.
My best friend Diane introduced me to her friend Minda a few months ago. The three of us hung out at a party or two. But, I had no idea what a powerhouse Minda was until we became Facebook friends and I saw her posting about all the cool things she’s doing. In addition to moving from NYC to Silicon Valley to launch a tech company called Peakfoqus, Minda was starting up the first ever TEDx Bushwick. I had long been a fan of TED Talks, with Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability topping my list. I shared that one with friends all the time. (In the end it was partly Brene and partly my TEDx coach John Bates that inspired me to dig deeper, and be more vulnerable in my talk, but I’ll get to that.)
When I saw Minda post that she was looking for speakers, I was elated. I had written a speech about my unlikely ascent to my current job for a scholarship luncheon, and ended up having to quickly paraphrase it in a rush to keep the event moving. I applied to TEDxBushwick, wrangled a colleague to help me make a quick video, and waited.
I wasn’t selected.
But, Minda encouraged me to do it again, and this time, she said I should open up, tell my story, and be vulnerable. With the deadline looming, I locked myself in my apartment for 12 hours, patiently re-wrote the talk, recorded myself on my GoPro, not-so-patiently learned how to edit on iMovie and, utterly exhausted, submitted my video. Weeks later, I received the email congratulating me that I had been selected as a speaker!
And then, the real work began.
I was one of about a dozen speakers, with topics ranging from meditation to polyamory. There were many meetings in NYC. Other times, I met with the organizers, speakers and my coach on Skype or FaceTime. John Bates is my TEDx coach. John Bates is my hero. This man knows what he’s doing. There were many weekends where I’d devote the whole weekend to watching John’s videos and making notes, and re-writing my talk. I rewrote it 3 times. John’s help was invaluable. He would kill me if I unveiled any of his secrets, but I’ll give you one (shhhhh) and it’s reminiscent of the movie Fight Club. Bates rule number one: The first rule of TEDxTalk is never talk about the talk in the talk. (Don’t tell him where you heard that from.)
John helped me craft the talk so it was cohesive, personal, vulnerable, and real. I’m so grateful to him for that.
The week leading up to the TEDxTalk was jam-packed. I had worked on the talk so much and worried so much about it, I got sick and lost my voice. I wrote and re-wrote my speech on index cards and carried them around with me everywhere. I muttered to myself for days. And then the day of, my best friend Diane and I (she volunteered as the production manager) took a cab to Bushwick at 7am to begin the day. I had my cough drops, water, a KIND bar and everything I needed, from hairspray to chutzpah. Again, there was a lot of muttering to myself until my talk, which was scheduled for 2:30pm. And then, I got nervous. I’m a reporter, and I speak live on air every day. I’ve done live hits for network where millions of people have watched, and I got nervous! Looking back, I think it was because I so wanted this to go flawlessly in order for my message to be clearly digested by as many people as possible. But then, I realized I’m surrounded my friends. Minda was cheering me on to succeed. Our Emcee, Kristen Pope, was a dear friend of mine. Diane was waiting in the wings. And my two good friends, Aurora and Arie, were seated in the front row. There was a moment while I was up there when I didn’t want it to end! The most rewarding part was when I was done, so many people told me how much they loved it. My talk’s clear, simple message of choosing your own labels in life and directly following the path they offer resonated with so many people. I was truly touched when several people came up to me afterwards and wanted to tell me how my story was their story. We all have a story. That’s why I got into reporting. And our personal stories, when shared vulnerably, can help transform lives. That’s why I told my Ted X Talk.