My TEDx Experience
The email I was most dreading finally came a few hours ago. As I sat in my driveway I did not even need to open it to know what it said. “Hi Jeremy, I am saddened to relay this news.” Two months ago I was nominated for a TEDx talk and began the elimination process. It was eye opening, nerve racking and rewarding regardless of the outcome. I made it all the way to Round Three; the only thing left was the presentation if selected. So, for the past few hours I have been trying to wrap my head around where I went wrong in my delivery of my idea. Was it not catchy enough? Did I not focus enough on storytelling? Was my introduction of my battle with PTSD too foreign to some audiences? Or was it just not what they were looking for right now? The latter probably holding the most truth. These are questions to which I may never know the answer. However, something hit me. I learned more from not getting accepted than I ever would have had the email read “Jeremy, I am excited to inform you.” Three key lessons came out of this.
Failure is a reality
I am the first person to tell you that failure is critical to success. “If you are not failing then you are not trying.” Whether on the battlefield or in a business if we don’t take the necessary risk, if we don’t step outside of our comfort zone then we will never know our potential. However, until about two hours ago it had been quite a while since I was hit with the overwhelming feeling of failing. Quite a while since I had busted my ass for something and not gotten what I set my sights on. From that point on I had a choice, continue to feel sorry for myself or look at ways in which I can take this particular moment and turn it into something productive. Think about what happens when you are hit with that feeling of failure. Failure is only negative if you do not accept it as a learning point and drive on
Validation is a nasty beast
I am an authentic person so I will not sugar coat this. It sucks, I wanted nothing more than to cap off 2014 knowing I would get to share my story on a stage. To advance not only my personal trajectory but also that of all veterans and people who battle with internal demons. My idea worth sharing (as they say in the TED world.) Is that storytelling has a transformative and healing power and by plugging in at the right time we can impact the world around us. For me this talk was to represent a level of validation. A guy with two deployments, a degree in History and PTSD really could change the world and I hinged it all on the validation of being selected. The beast snuck up on me in a different way. Not being selected taught me that validation in anything we do is nothing if it comes from someone else. I am not bitter and hold no ill will to the people who made up the selection committee. I know all their choices were phenomenal. I did them a disservice though by placing my validity in their hands. Going forward the only people that can validate us is ourselves. I am still going to wake up tomorrow the same person with another experience in my belt and lessons to share. Validation must come from within or it will never truly mean anything
Don’t Quit and Sure as hell don’t settle for mediocrity
It is a little crazy that 45mins ago I was going to pack it in and just forget about telling my story. I put a lot of my soul into this particular talk so when it wasn’t selected it was like a blow straight to the chest. I honestly was about to quit. Something I have not done in 31 years, I was going to say screw it and settle for mediocrity. The same guy who spent 26 months in Iraq was about to put it into cruise control. Then the realization hit me. I was being selfish. I was content with average and there is nothing scarier than being content with average. We can’t quit when things get tough. If we aren’t willing to break down mediocrity and find new ways to accomplish our goals than we simply are wasting this life we are given.
“Hi Jeremy, I am saddened to relay this news.” Is something that I will replay over and over in my mind partly because as a result of PTSD I am an incredibly anxious person and I will fight with the thought of this for the next week or so. Partly because I checked my email roughly every five minutes for the last ten days waiting on the decision. However, I cannot thank the group of individuals who came together to put on this TED enough I had an incredible experience in the process and learned more from that email than I probably ever would have taught someone from my talk. What I can tell you is that Failure, Validity and Not quitting were all things I thought I had a handle on until about three hours ago when I was forced to hold my feet to the fire and either crumble or bounce back. The power of storytelling is incredible and this experience will add to my narrative and hopefully get you thinking about yours. Storytelling has a transformative power and if we can harness it and share it we can heal ourselves and those around us.