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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Obsession with the Gaps - Five Things I Screwed Up Yesterday

I gave a talk yesterday at a TEDx Conference in Fort Wayne Indiana. To be accepted for a TED talk is a big deal in my book. To be accepted to talk about a topic of my creation doubles the big deal factor.  Most of you loyal readers know I am writing a book about ADHD relationships called Not Wrong Just Different. I had the first chance to take my ideas and present them orally to an audience.

I prepped and obsessed over this talk.  Public speaking doesn't freak me out, I do it for a living and I get a big rush from it. I enjoy that part. However, this time was different.  This wasn't a topic some famous bald guy wrote like I usually talk about. This was my stuff.  It could be judged as right or wrong, good or bad, it wasn't already validated by a best selling author and leadership guru like my other stuff usually is.

I wrote, revised and practiced for weeks. I had moments of euphoria while practicing where I actually stood in front of the mirror and cheered because it felt like I had nailed it.  I had moments of fear and panic where I dropped to my knees and prayed that God would get me through it.

So yesterday the culmination of fear and euphoria played out in an audience of just 100 people.

After my talk I sat down vibrating from the experience.  There was much applause which I hoped was real and not just the politeness of a midwestern crowd. The speaker that followed me was complimentary and asked them to give me another round of applause, again I wanted to accept that as validation that I had in fact "nailed it".

Then came the first break after my talk. A brilliantly talented artist pointed at the QR Stencil art he had created for the conference and told me it was his hyper-focus of ADHD that fueled it. The mom of the speaker that followed me was excited to talk. I had given her words and metaphors to describe how her mind worked, she realized she has ADHD and so does her son. Her son and her husband joined her, all talking at once, excited to have voice for their feelings and a voice that wasn't a curse but validation of their creativity and intelligence.  A college professor shared her story. She too was ADHD and Dyslexic and had some that didn't want to hire her because of her testing. Yet she is now assigned the ADHD students to help them through and be their advocate.

The feedback continued through the next break with grown men wiping tears. They waited their turn to tell me that I had described their childhood and they finally felt validated. A man my father's age said he didn't know much about ADHD but I was the best speaker he had ever seen. Several times I had to hold back tears. All early feedback pointed to success.

TED talks stand for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. I had some fear early on that my topic would stand out as too different. The one that didn't fit. Exactly the opposite had happened. The brilliance and intelligence of ADHD had become a theme that ran throughout the talks further validating each of the ADHD minds in the room giving them spirit and validation that being different and creative was in fact what we need now and into the future.The TED speakers and audience really are an ADHD tribe.

I felt the sense that I had created a topic that resonated. I have hope that my book will in fact be published. The goal is not to just see my book published but to know that I have helped someone, some family, some child that is struggling. Early feedback from the talk said I was accomplishing my dream.  I should have popped the champagne and released the confetti.

Instead, this has been my mind since I wrapped my talk at approximately 11:30 am Eastern time on Saturday May 14th.

1. Oh my gosh, there was a small pink PostIt note stuck to my shirt the whole time. I wonder who couldn't even hear me because they were fixated on the pink sticky note that happened to be attached to my left breast. I know people saw it because two of them told me.

2. An attendee informed me politely and in a very Midwestern helpful way that I had attributed something to the wrong author. I had googled it several times to validate I had the right guy and I was still wrong. Google is never supposed to fail me! The man was nice enough to give me another pink sticky note with the right author written down so I didn't make that mistake again. I now hate sticky notes. Especially pink ones, but am happy that people care enough to join in my quest.

3. I had left out a Henry David Thoreau quote that I had practiced incessantly for a 9 and a half hour flight from Munich to O'Hare. I had then broken down and put it into a slide because I feared I couldn't remember it and would panic. It was a part of my strong emotional close and I loved it. Then I forgot to use it.

4. I left out a funny line in one of my examples that I had known would get me a good laugh. A reference to Alexandar Graham Bell followed by a Verizon, "Can you hear me now?" reference. Funny stuff. I left it out.

5. Because of #2 and my incorrect reference maybe they will pull the opportunity for my talk to be posted on the TED YouTube site. An honor I had anticipated and salivated over. This was to be a chance to validate to the book publishers that I was worthy of publishing, that TED had chosen me and they'd be an idiot not to.  I anticipate my defensive move. If they do in fact post my talk,  I will be ready as the first commenter to confess my mistake and prevent the ugly YouTube "commenters" from bashing me over and over again and missing the point of my talk. YouTube "commenters" are a relentless crowd that remind me of the Mean Girls movie in print.

Those are just the five heinous points that have pulsated in my heart and brain for nearly 24 hours now. I've been too overwhelmed with those to pull out my notes and see what else I might add to the list.


Why must I obsess with the gaps?

I tried to immerse myself in tivo'd Idol last night to drown the voices in my head, only to have my favorite, James Durbin, voted off and remind me that great talents fail when they don't completely resonate with the masses. Crap, that pulled me right back to my 5 reasons I had failed.

A few times I actually shuddered in frustration and pain for that list. Even though I had Twitter validation all through the evening from conference participants tweeting my success and the numbers to my Facebook Not Wrong Just Different page growing.

I'm feeling the full extent of what it means to put something into the world that is entirely your own. Something you are so passionate about that the critic in my heart and head can't rest until we perfect and refine and apparently do a lot better research to ensure Number 2 never happens again. I now understand why musicians and stage actors shouldn't read the reviews the next morning. They should relish in the applause of the crowd because the crowd is the majority, the critic the few.

I also realize that to put something so important out into the world means to open people's hearts and minds to have opinions and not everyone will see it the way I do. 

I'm going to pull myself out of bed this morning and work diligently to remember that the masses were complimentary and based on my care and response that I must keep writing and refining and putting this topic into the world because it seems to matter. As they say at TED, I have found "an idea worth spreading."