I had just knocked off a bucket list item for my professional career, by keynoting TIES in Minnesota. Having attended the last two years as a featured speaker, I hoped that I would get the chance to keynote the conference because it was such an incredible event, and the moment had arrived. From the moment I found out, I started planning, and to be honest, the event went well for me. It was an incredible experience and I was so glad to be a part of it.
After the talk, someone had asked me for advice on speaking and they said that although they would never get to keynote a conference, they wanted to be better. My first response was, “Why wouldn’t you get to keynote?”
“That’s not me.”
The thing is that sometimes we look at someone doing something we want to do, but we don’t see the journey that got someone there.
About six or seven years ago, after a year of blogging and sharing my ideas through Twitter, I was asked to speak virtually at a conference in New York. There was no pay involved, and even though it was not an online conference, it was obvious that they wouldn’t even pay for my expenses to attend, so I would be doing this on my own time for free, and to be honest, I was so excited about the opportunity. After a ton of planning, and a ton of work to go to a location that had the proper videoconferencing equipment, and hours to set that up, the camera fired up so the participants could see me, and I could see the participants. When I use the word ‘participants”, it is correct since there were two people in the room. About five minutes in, one of them left. So there I was doing a “talk” that I had planned for this huge opportunity to one person who was probably staying there out of sympathy. And for that one person (thank you by the way), I gave my million dollar talk. I did everything I could to make the most out of that situation, even though it was incredibly disheartening. This was not, in my mind, the first step towards keynoting a conference, but it was an amazing opportunity that I had at the time that I was going to make the most out of.
I have so many stories of conferences and workshops that have me in front of the smallest audience, or parent nights with no parents attending. And these stories aren’t from when I first started, they happen to me to this day. No matter the opportunity though, I try my best, because I want to be my best. The first step is often the hardest, but it is realizing that taking the next step in the journey is often as important as the destination. It is the willingness to do something you love and putting in the work with no idea where it may land you, that is crucial. One of my favourite quotes came from legendary coach Jim Valvano sharing some wisdom from his father. He shared the following;
“Hard work is not a guarantee of success but lack of hard work is a guarantee of no success.”
This is something that I try to keep always in the back of my mind.
There are so many areas that I want to grow in and many more “bucket list” items that I want to check off in my life. They will not be handed to me, because I will have to work for them. I see so many wonderful people starting off this same journey, and I honestly hope they are willing to do the million dollar talk for the one person in the audience.
So if you want to be a writer, write more.
If you want to be a speaker, speak more.
If you want to be the best teacher in the world, keep honing your craft.
The journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination.
Just don’t accept that what you dream of is not a possibility.