I’d seen so many of those talks that it only made sense one day I’d give one. I just knew I was the next viral sensation destined to hit that stage. The bright lights and dark room, the famous, round red rug–I was ready for it all! It was a beautiful vision–the prestige and the admiration from those who would marvel at the brilliance of my idea worth spreading… A viral talk to turn the whole world on its head, and a bucket list item to boot.
Over the course of some years, I would encounter a few local groups affiliated with this stage, and I attempted to wow them with some message or another. I applied to two events and one idea submission window, and even reached the interview stage with one of my proposals. In the end, though, I didn’t make the cut. This was also a season of rejection in my writing life, as I submitted manuscripts to no avail. I felt like I knew when to fold ‘em, and now was the time to avoid rejection overload. So, I decided that this particular speaking platform must not be for me.
A few years later, an email from one of the local organizers of this same speaking platform landed in my inbox. It welcomed applications for an upcoming speaking event. The theme? “Failure is Feedback.” Blown away, I found myself conflicted. On one hand, I had decided earlier not to pursue this platform again. On the other hand, there was now a compelling need to throw my hat into the ring. I had so much to say about failure and what it could teach us! I decided to apply.
Eventually, I learned that I had been selected. I was going to stand on the red circle! By this time, however, the victory of being selected was meaningful for totally different reasons. Without a doubt, being selected as a speaker was an honor. I knew it would be a growth opportunity and build my skills as a public presenter in general, but I also recognized that I had changed. Purpose–and the recognition of it–had flipped a switch of deep reflection within me.
From acceptance to stage was a 3-month process. As I reflected my way through, I realized that this time applying to this stage felt different to me because I was compelled by the message. I had to speak. This was drastically different from the times I had applied out of ambition—because it was a cool idea that I wanted on my resumé. I began to share with people my new understanding: the reason to apply for this platform is not the prestige, the name recognition, or the bragging rights–it’s because there is a message burning in you that only you can deliver. That makes it compelling for both you and your potential audience. In fact, it is under these circumstances that the purpose factor makes your message irresistible.
I did the work. It was hard. I had to dig to pull out all the pieces of vulnerability that my topic truly required. But the community of the speaker group supported me, and the spirit of the Lord guided me. Then the day came, and I gave the talk! People said I did well, and the audience actively demonstrated their interest in and connection to both me and my message. In my heart and mind, I had redefined the whole concept of being a successful speaker in this space in a way that made it truly meaningful. Because of that, I was able to show up in my authentic power and deliver a transformative message.
As of this writing, my talk has been posted online for two weeks. It’s not going viral (yet), and that’s okay. Those who are ready for it have been telling me how much it speaks to them, and those who aren’t ready yet still have time. And for me, that’s success.
I’m glad I didn’t totally give up my dreams of giving one of these “red circle talks.” I’m also glad that my true opportunity came around when it was no longer a dream, when I could see clearly enough to understand my why. When we’re not striving, clamoring to get in front of just the right people for just the right opportunity, we’re able to see what tables we truly want to sit at and where our voices truly matter. I am forever grateful for this experience as a teacher of this truth: our voices—yours and mine—are needed, but not in every space. The only space that matters is the place with a void in the shape of your story. (Now, that’s an idea worth spreading!)Leave a Comment