(How I Inadvertently Became a Public Speaker)
I grew up an introvert, got trapped into doing what society expected, and through the school of hard knocks, ended up pivoting and becoming a social entrepreneur, still thinking I’d do the work mostly by myself in my office.
In the early days of Mindset Works—the first company to offer growth mindset development services—I was pushing myself in some ways, but not in others. I worked mostly in solitude, which was my comfort zone.
One day, one of our board members advised me to get out of the office and start evangelizing our work more. Two months later, Carol Dweck was asked to deliver a TEDx talk and she couldn’t do it. We decided I would do it instead. The event was only six weeks away.
I had never done any public speaking. The idea of delivering a talk scared me—especially one that would be available online. But I thought that, with the help of colleagues and friends, I could craft a strong, 10-minute script, and then practice it incessantly until I knew it cold. It could be an effective way to expand our impact.
I went through countless iterations of the script, adjusting based on colleagues’ and friends’ feedback. Then I practiced, videotaping myself. I rehearsed in Carol’s office with us refining the script and delivery.
At showtime, when I stepped on the stage, I was surprised to feel calm, knowing that I was well prepared. As I had planned, rather than look at people’s faces, the entire time I looked at the back wall and the spotlights so that I wouldn’t blank out wondering what people’s facial expressions meant.
I got offstage and thought the job was done. I could go back to my office. But the TEDx talk went viral and organizations began reaching out to us for me to deliver keynotes to their staff. It fit our mission and provided a higher level of support to our customers, so I gladly did it.
To my surprise, I began enjoying public speaking. I loved the creativity involved in preparing customized sessions, and the discussions, insights, and deep dives on growth mindset.
Eventually, I developed new frameworks to help organizations grasp the ideas and how to implement them, and I delivered a second TEDx talk about one of those frameworks. TED featured it on their newsletter, homepage, and TED@Work. That second talk went viral too and led to even more interest from more companies.
I have changed so much. I love the work I do as a public speaker, which is very different from when I was comfortable only in solitude (something I do still love as well). But because the conversations are so substantive, the people who gravitate to this work so committed, and the impact so tangible, what I do energizes me and stokes my sense of purpose.
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