Everyone was staring at me. The cameras were rolling. Strangers, co-workers, and family members looked on. They were waiting for me, but my mind had gone blank. I’d completely forgotten what I was going to say. And to make matters worse, it was one of those crazy Ignite events, where the slides auto-advance after 15 seconds. It’s going to move on, with or without me. I was a deer in the headlights and the only clear thought in my head was, “WTF was I thinking when I signed up for this?”
It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My mind raced – for one crazy second, I considered just walking off the stage. But I didn’t. I got myself together and continued on. After it was over, people said I did ‘fine’, but I had been rattled. My words had been forced and my tone stiff. After weeks of preparation and years of speaking, I figured I was gonna do great. I was wrong.
But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. It was an awful experience but it motivated me. It made me try even harder. I went back to the lab – I had more to learn. I re-evaluated where I was and where I wanted to be. But the whole time, there was one thing I was sure of – I don’t want to settle for ‘fine’. I want to be excellent and I’m willing to work as long as it takes.
Here’s the thing. I really wasn’t skilled enough to do that presentation. But I tried it anyway. I expected it to be tough, but I underestimated just how tough. I figured it would make me a better speaker … and it did! In fact, last week, I won the award for Best Tutorial at I/ITSEC 2011! That’s just so fricking ironic.
Why? Because my topic at Ignite was the Growth Mindset. The point was that everyone should strive to improve themselves. And I flubbed it! I was supposed to ignite a spark of inspiration in others. But, the person I set on fire, was me.