I remember Sara Blakey, Spanks billionaire, tell how her Father would ask her as a young child ‘what have you failed at today?’ It has left me with the thought that I must try to fail to extend my limits, if I always do what I am comfortable with then my boundaries and abilities will decrease.
When I did my Executive MBA I was under relentless pressure working and studying, the kind of pressure that bends you but does not break you. You can achieve more than you think you are capable of, however, it is hard to put yourself under this kind pressure.
I have learnt more from my failures than my successes, however, in order to learn these lessons I must be willing to go beyond my known limits, I must test myself and be prepared to fail.
I had sent out application to speak at TEDx events and either received no response to my follow-ups or miss-out to other speakers. I happened to pick up a LinkedIn request that a speaker had dropped out and could I speak at the TEDx next day?
With the assistance of Claire Boyles who help me to structure my thoughts, saving me many hours of labour, I put together the speech. After three hours sleep I drove two hours south, luckily traffic was light and no one notice me doing my vocal exercises or practicing the presentation while I listened for Satnav instructions.
I was not nervous but painfully aware I should have practiced learning the structure and not the presentation words. Now I have a jumble of words in my head and nothing to hang it all on, too late now I thought as I walk on to the stage…
So I waffle a bit at the beginning, tell my story which anchors the message and cover pieces of the presentation and end with four takeaways. Yes I failed to deliver the presentation I had prepared on paper, there was not a powerful start or end in my view. However, no one knew what was in the presentation paper. A message was delivered that resonated with the audience, I know this from the feedback and discussion in the break after my set.
What evolved on stage was a slightly different presentation and message, I now think the presentation delivered on stage, albeit not perfect, was the one that was meant for this audience. TED is about ideas worth sharing, it is not a speaker competition albeit the better presenters can share their ideas with clarity and conviction.
Now I want to make what was on paper into a powerful presentation and find opportunities to nail it.
What have I Learnt from my TEDx Experience?
- I would like to have been comfortable with the new material to have played with it on stage. Given a twelve hour turnaround, I would focus on the structure to deliver a clear message, you can always fill in the words.
- Of course pressure is uncomfortable, however, living outside your boundaries helps you to feel comfortable with what is a temporary discomfort. My open was a little uncomfortable but only for me.
- Challenges raise your game so it is good to practice working on the outside of your boundaries and comfort zone, if possible practice more.
- In challenging situations so much is out of your control so focus on the things you can control, I planned my route and filled up the car with petrol and air the night before, I laid out my clothes and had a second outfit in case I spilt coffee or blended with the stage in the first outfit.
F.A.I.L. means Feedback on Actions that lead to Insight and Learning. Failure helps you to find the current limit of your boundaries, the feedback allows you to take steps to extend your limitations.
There is always something to improve upon, the feedback tells you what aspect deserve your attention. The important thing was I met the pressure and raised to the challenge and have more Insight than at the beginning of my TEDx experience.