Feeling, Knowing, and Doing – TEDx Boulder 2012

tedx boulderI’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.

On Feeling

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:

tedxboulder-prep

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.

On Doing

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.

On Knowing

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.

Today

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.

53 comments
Andrew Armiger
Andrew Armiger

Mucho respeto -- highly enjoyed seeing the video of your talk!

Carol Smith
Carol Smith

I watched the video before heading over to this post. As always you have given me much to consider. But having been unpopular since I was a kid ... I fully understand the message. And while being unpopular can be tremendously liberating, it can also carry a price that is paid heavily. But I've never backed down from paying the price. Perhaps that's where all these emotional lumps, bumps and scars come from. You're honesty, candor, intelligence and grasp of the English language is refreshing to say the least. Now go out there and show some more folks how to be unpopular. The world needs more of us!

Becky
Becky

I had the great pleasure of attending TEDxBoulder, my first time. I did not know any of the speakers but came away inspired. For me, yours by far was the best presentation. It was humorous, smart, eloquent, and important. I will work on being unpopular. Thanks for the inspiration.

Al Smith
Al Smith

Awesome Red. So happy for you. Can't wait to see it. You know I CARE. Luv ya.

John Trader
John Trader

Happy for you Erika. Couldn't have happened to a more cheeky red head. I've already popped the popcorn and am anxiously awaiting the video!

TracyKaye
TracyKaye

A standing ovation makes all the sense in the world. Proud to see a sista getting hers on, and even more proud that you lead the ranks of great storytellers in a direction the world needs t go: honest, clear, and full of real. xo

Howard
Howard

Excellent! I'm happy for you, and can't wait to see the video.

Kat_Menze
Kat_Menze

I had the pleasure of witnessing your talk first hand and yes, you rocked the socks off of it. Easily my favorite talk. Thanks for making the trip out and just being fabulous.

Jodi Henderson
Jodi Henderson

I also can't wait to check the video out, but in the meantime, I'm still laughing and crying over your post. Not only did you make me feel everything you felt, but I think you've outdone yourself with these gems: - shitting enough bricks to keep New Orleans safe from any future hurricane threat - Expectations are greedy little fuckers who will eat all of your Cool Ranch Doritos if you let them. - Rub it up against your boobs or man-junk and get intimate with it. Bravo all the way around. :)

Amy Schmittauer
Amy Schmittauer

Congrats Erika! What an amazing milestone for you. Looking forward to seeing the video!

Nikki Groom
Nikki Groom

We never had any doubt that you would rock. it. the. fuck. out. congrats matey

Ann
Ann

Good for you! I so get that feeling of achievement. It's like the time I spoke to undergraduates in a language and speech course about stuttering. I nailed it too.....I didn't stutter once! It was only the tip of that iceberg. You will have many more times of feeling that way, I'm sure. Congrats!

Ames G
Ames G

Your talk was incredible. I had been looking forward to it for awhile, and you totally delivered!

Miriam
Miriam

Really awesome talk and the standing ovation was well deserved! I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

seandaken
seandaken

Great talk last night. Thank you!

Carlalaura
Carlalaura

I was at TEDx Boulder last night. You were terrific. It was clear how much you were enjoying yourself and into it. Thanks for a great talk!

Dan
Dan

Erika, your talk without a doubt was the shining highlight of the whole evening! It was a transcendental moment when the audience knew something very special was happening and we were part of it -- life-affirming, honest, moving and funny as hell, all rolled into one. Keep sharing your message, telling your story and inspiring us!!

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman

Bravo, I'm sure it was fantastic; can't wait to see it.

Kath Brandon
Kath Brandon

I knew before you even walked out that you would nail it so hard. And you did. Just like you do everything in your life that matters to you. And by doing that, you inspire us to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration, my dear. Love you so much! xoxo <3

Viki Psihoyos
Viki Psihoyos

And we, all 2000 of us were grateful to hear you "unpopular" message, your stories, your F Bombs, your candor, your charma and wit won us over, that's why we couldn't stay seated when you closed. Big thanks and happy travels.

Steph
Steph

Erika, I went to your pre-talk, so I was really looking forward to the actual night. You nailed it, and I am honored to have heard it. I need more front stabbers in my life (and my pillow fort) just like you. Congrats!

jewelfry
jewelfry

Hell Yeah!! Congratulations!! I've been waiting to hear this since you first announced you were doing it. Can't wait.

Andrew Hyde
Andrew Hyde

A fantastic experience, thank you so much.

Ingrid Oliphant
Ingrid Oliphant

Well, love, you DO kinda sorta rock and whatnot! Congrats!

Butterfly
Butterfly

I'm so excited for you Erika and can't wait to see the video. Your honest heart shines through in all you do. Congratulations on not only speaking at TEDx, but for walking away humbled and proud. Your awesomeness is always beautifully apparent.

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  1. […] the audience fly to their feet upon her conclusion. She wrote about the emotional experience on her blog here. (Thanks for the shout out, Erika – the feeling of appreciation is […]