I’m completely numb. I’m sitting here in the terminal at the Denver airport about to board a plane to NYC and I can’t feel much except the pressure of the seat on my ass. I’m not hungry. I’m not thirsty. I’m just numb.
Last night was the culmination of roughly two month’s worth of preparation. I joined nine other speakers and took the stage at TEDx Boulder in front of a sellout (not in the pejorative sense, but in the no-more-tickets sense) crowd of 2000 people and together, we delivered an evening of Edges and Experiences to an intellectually hungry audience. I learned so much, felt more than I’ve ever felt before, and am excited for nothing more than the opportunity to stay in touch with each of the event’s speakers and learn more about their lives.
And what’s funny — I’m a writer and here I sit without words. I’m hacking these together with a combination of technology and sincerity so they all stick together for as long as need be. And I’ll sign off shortly, but there are a few things that need saying.
I walked into last night’s even shitting enough bricks to keep New Orleans safe from any future hurricane threat. I knew my talk and god knows, I live my theme every day. But there were a few feelings I didn’t expect as I prepared to give the biggest talk of my life.
Here’s how my day looked at about 2:15pm:
I expected to feel very alone — but I never was and never felt it for single moment once I arrived at the venue.
I expected to feel “Holy shit — at least that’s over!” but I never did and probably never will. And thankfully.
I expected to feel trite in comparison to the other speakers and their topics, but it didn’t even occur to me. I felt humbled to be in their company.
It’s funny how we can become so embroiled in expectations. I’m just glad that the truth as I’ve come to know it has made me feel more than just a bit silly for giving those expectations the time of day. Expectations are greedy little fuckers who will eat all of your Cool Ranch Doritos if you let them.
I spoke in the second slot after intermission, which meant I was at the venue for nearly five hours prior to walking out on that stage. Jesus Christ on a panini press — talk about having some serious time to give your expectations way too much of an audience! When the time came to walk out, however, something funny happened: the host who was announcing me introduced me as the wrong person (and a dude). In a single moment, I went from having my heart running the 400m faster than Oscar Pistorius to laughing (guffawing, truth be told) out loud. My expectations melted away and I just said, “Fuck it. This is my stage. Let’s do it.”
So I did. I walked out and did the one thing I love doing more than anything else: I told a story. It reminded me that being who I am and doing what I love are the only things in this life worth being or doing. Maybe there’s been a moment in your life where you’ve felt the same way.
And from the moment the first word of my talk came out of my mouth, I knew. I knew that I had this. And maybe that sounds a bit arrogant, but it’s not and here’s why. There’s something in this world that everyone in that audience last night and everyone on stage — from our kickass stagehands at Macky Auditorium to the person sitting in the last row of the balcony — knows. When the opportunity arises to tell a story about something you know, take it. Appreciate it. Honor it. Rub it up against your boobs or man-junk and get intimate with it. Because there’s someone waiting to hear your story.
But here’s what I didn’t know, even though I knew this talk: what it would feel like to nail it.
I stood on that stage staring into the eyes of a sea people on their feet, applauding. I just started to cry. In a single moment, everything had paid off. Every sleepless night, every moment where I felt batshit crazy for having agreed to do this talk in the first place, and every instance where I feel like I might be just a little bit insane for peddling the “unpopular” message that’s so important to me.
I went back stage after the organizers presented me with the most ossum gift ever in celebration of my love for the f-bomb, and I had to sit and catch my breath. I’d just given the performance of a lifetime and it is a straight-up miracle that I didn’t pass the fuck out.
And so today, I remain numb. I left everything I had on that TEDx stage last night — and that’s where it belonged, as it belongs to the audience, not me. I’m grateful for every sponsor, volunteer, our organizers — Andrew Hyde and George Morris, and everyone who bought a ticket and shared four hours of their Saturday with each of us. Four hours — that’s a HUGE ask and it deserves a huge slice of thanks.
I also need to thank Erin Weed. She was one of the speaking coaches who volunteered her time for this year’s TEDx Boulder. She took my talk from 0 to Fuck Yeah in a one-hour phone call and a huge part of last night’s success is simply thanks to her being awesome at what she does. She’s a front-stabber, exceptionally talented and brutally honest about what’s going to make your talk better. If you’re giving a talk and need some help on honing your message, delivery, or just relaxing before your big moment, look her up. Here’s her speaking coach website and she works with clients all across the country. Oh, and I’ll be hiring her (if she’ll have me) starting in 2012 to be my speaker’s agent, coach, and front-stabber extraordinaire.
I’d also like to thank Zach Cole of Chisik Studio — he’s been one of my graphic designers for quite some time now and he rose to the occasion when I asked him to be my slide designer for my TEDx Boulder talk. If you’re interested, you can see the slides here. Some are available under a Creative Commons license and some aren’t, but please feel free to share and enjoy with linkback attribution.
And for those who have asked — YES, my talk and the talks of all the other speakers from last night will soon be available on the TEDx Boulder YouTube channel. Stay tuned and rest assured that I will share a link the minute that motherfucker is available for your viewing pleasure. If you want to see pictures from last night’s event, there’s a fantastic Birdbox set up here: http://www.birdbox.com/nests/121
Thank you for sticking around, for giving me a voice, and for being the only reason that life ever presents me with opportunities like these. Last night, I was reminded why I put such a heavy value on my audience. And by the time I got around to uploading this, my plane to New York was already in the air. For some reason, I nearly started crying. Maybe it’s everything that happened yesterday. Maybe it’s setting off on yet another journey and not knowing quite what’s next. Could be some of remembering what it felt like to fly a real flight simulator last year. But it’s probably more of the dawning recognition that I will never, ever give the talk I gave last night again. It’s impossible, yet beautiful all at once. Knowing that you gave something everything you had (and then some) is an overwhelming feeling. I just look forward to the next opportunity, whatever it might prove to be, and the next round of numb when I leave that opportunity behind me and everything I had on the floor.