Doing Stuff that Scares You: #ISTE19

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a blog post called “5 Tips for Doing Stuff that Scares You.” I find myself a year later about to face one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my entire adult life, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit that topic and talk a little bit more about this newest challenge.

It all started this past winter with a voluntary professional development course that caught my attention. The course was the TED Masterclass for Educators, and was designed as a partnership between ISTE (Int’l Society for Technology in Education”) and TED. The course’s purpose is to provide free professional development for educators on how to give great talks. As part of the online course, you develop a talk, refining it throughout the course as you learn and grow your skills. At the end of the course, if you have developed a talk, you are asked to record and submit it. Three of those talks were then selected to be presented live at the annual ISTE Conference, held this year in Philadelphia at the end of June.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this: my talk was selected, and I was invited to speak onstage during the Tuesday “Featured Voice” keynote session. The ISTE Conference generally draws over 20,000 attendees, and the woman I spoke with who helps organize “Featured Voice” speakers told me that the Tuesday keynote session normally has about 5,000 people in attendance. Five Thousand. People. It will also be simulcast throughout the conference venue.

What the %$#&. When she told me that number, I got lightheaded and felt my stomach somersault more than a few times. As I said in last year’s post, I do tend to gravitate towards high-pressure situations, but this was definitely a new record. The talk is now 8 days away, and I can safely say that I am starting to FREAK OUT.

The factor that is causing me the most anxiety, however, is not even the number of people that may be there– no, the thing that is making me lose sleep is actually the story I’ll be sharing. As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, I have a particular interest in the topic of failure, especially looking at how the ways we talk about and frame failure have a significant impact on others and on ourselves. When I developed and then recorded my talk, it was for a small audience of strangers who I knew would be wading through hundreds of hours of footage. I didn’t know them, and figured that they would never have reason to actually know anything more about me besides what I shared on my video. The script, as they say, has been flipped– and now my story, which with the help of my TED coaches, has become even more personal and specific, is going to be REALLY public, REALLY soon.

*******So this blog post kind of petered out. I wasn’t sure where I was taking it, so I let it fizzle. It’s been a week or so and now my talk is only two days away. I’m pretty much okay with sharing my story, as there’s no going back now.

I think what I’ve become most overwhelmed by has been the level of support and encouragement I’ve received from friends and colleagues as I’ve started sharing pictures and updates. I was reluctant to share anything for a long time because I was afraid of looking like I thought I was “all that”, or like I thought I had more to say than anyone else. Imposter Syndrome is real, and it’s pretty hard to overcome. I see the other mainstage speakers and they’re all CEOs, Founders of This, Nationally-Recognized That, and it was hard not to compare my relatively pedestrian job to some of these luminaries.

More than anything, what’s been overwhelming to me has been all of the messages and tweets of support and encouragement I’ve received. People are SO good and kind, and want to cheer others on, which is something you tend forget unless you have a chance to be on the receiving end of so much goodwill. How grateful I feel to these people who have reached out with an encouraging message can’t be quantified. I am reminded, as I get up on that big stage, that people WANT to see me succeed. People aren’t waiting for me to fail, which is amazing thing to know. As nervous as I am to get up there and give this big talk, I know that I’m surrounded by people who believe in me.

So as far as doing stuff that scares you? TELL people about it, and then let them surprise you by being your cheerleaders, and reminding you that you MATTER and that they care. Thanks, everyone.

P.S. Here’s a little teaser video I created on my phone (!) using Adobe Spark Video: