Yesterday, I gave a talk at TEDxAustin, sharing my story and learning about my 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. I had experiences in giving talks at meetups, companies, small conferences and churches. Also, coming from a family of teachers (my father, grandparents, uncle are all teachers), I have had the influence of public speakers since I was little.
However, I had never given a talk at a stage on the level of TEDxAustin, which is probably the most highly regarded idea conference after SXSW. In attendance were the most accomplished and brightest minds in the city. During the day, the 13 speakers went before me were talking about saving the world through technology, education and art. Some of them invented things such as XBox Kinect and the Ethernet. They had titles with the words ‘PhD’ or ‘Professor’ in them. And me? I am a guy who looked for rejections after failing to land investment for my startup.
As my time slot was inching closer, my mouth started to dry up, my nose started to hurt (no idea why), and I couldn’t come up with one coherent sentence when talking to my wife. Saying ‘I was nervous’ was the biggest understatement of 2013. I thought about fleeing the scene, mentioning my accent as an excuse, or starting my talk with a joke about the stage carpet and playing mini golf. Thank goodness, none of those happened. One thought came to my mind – hey, I am the “Rejection Guy”. If I had the guts to knock on stranger’s door, to give a flight safety announcement, or to dance with a waitress in the public, I can now use my teacher genes to do what I am really good at – communicating ideas. If anything, I should be the most fearless speaker of the day.
As 5:00pm hits, my time has come, and the host introduced me. I stepped on the beautifully crafted stage, and walked into the limelight and cameras. As I glanced down into the crowd, I saw a thousand faces I had never seen before. What immediately came to my mind were you guys – my dear readers and followers.
You read my blog, watch my videos and write me emails because you also share my fear of rejection. You are inspired by my journey and the people like Jackie from Krispy Kreme, Scott from Costco, and Jeff and Dana from Southwest. The people in the audience were also like you and me, governed by both pride and fear, hope and doubt. It was my duty to share this story and let them know that rejection is nothing to be feared about. It ain’t about me anymore.
Then, I had an out-of-body experience. It was as if I left my body in the form of a spirit, watching this guy talking about his story. In the next 10 minutes, he was smiling, joking, pausing, nodding, and hand-gesturing. He was not fazed by the timer countdown, verbal mistakes, or anything. He knew what he was talking about, and knew exactly what to say. Ten minutes and many laughters and applauds later, it was over, and I went back into this guy’s body. What I saw in front of me was a long standing ovation. I smiled, blushed, and became this incoherent and nervous guy again.
Back in November, when the investor turned me down, I could have never imagined that I would be giving a TED talk three months later. My 100 Days of Rejection Therapy has taught me hundreds of things. But if I had to pick just one thing, it was that when bad things happen, if you treat them like good things and fight forward, magic will happen later.