Sometimes it can be hard to take the first steps towards achieving our goals. It’s easy to get lost in negative stories about why we won’t succeed or become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what we want to accomplish.
There are ways to turn those goals into reality – even if you don’t know exactly how yet!
I Like a Good Negotiation
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a lively Mexican/Israeli/American family that sees debating ideas as healthy dinner conversation.
Or that I was the youngest of my friends in high school and had to figure out how to get them to drive me everywhere.
Or that being a competitive gymnast growing up and falling constantly helped reduce my fear of failure.
I didn’t know I was particularly good at negotiating until a friend of mine texted me one day:
“I got the job offer and negotiated my salary up!! I said to myself, what would Sarah Aviram do and then I went for it!”
Wow, I cried happy tears like a proud mama.
“What’s In It For Me?”
When I think back to the common theme in anything I’ve negotiated in my favor (like convincing my former CEO to let me work remotely from 12 countries in 2019), it’s that I’ve always considered the other party’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).
Instead of approaching a negotiation with a “me vs. them” mentality, I consider how both of us could get even more than we bargained for.
A Vision Realized: How I Negotiated an Exception to Get a TEDx Talk Despite Missing the Deadline
For a couple of years now, I’ve had a vision of doing a TEDx talk (it’s even on my vision board). And I recently homed-in on my “idea worth spreading”.
When I identified the specific TEDx event that would be the best fit, I carefully answered their 8 question application and submitted my 2 minute video pitch.
I’m not one to let an application of any kind be submitted into an online black hole with hundreds of other applicants. So, I found the event organizer on LinkedIn, let’s call her Mary, and sent her an enthusiastic message reiterating my interest.
Rejection After Rejection
Mary kindly responded two days later saying that unfortunately I missed the deadline and due to the high number of applicants, they could simply not consider any late applications.
Beyond my own personal dream of doing a TEDx talk, I truly believed that what I had to say could help thousands of people around the world. And Mary’s role is to curate a fantastic event with timely, relevant, and interesting topics that would resonate with as many people as possible.
So I wrote her back with my apologies for missing the deadline, my respect for the process, and my request for her to consider making an exception and why. I kindly talked about what was in it for her and the audience she served.
And what do you know, two days later I got an official email from the TEDx organization congratulating me on making it to the second round of auditions!
I Thought I’d Be Accepted
Well, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. And that was only the beginning of rejections.
After that, I got to the final round of two more TEDx events – one in which I pitched my speech virtually to committee members and another in which I took a flight to a different state to pitch in person along with the other finalist speakers. It went really well! But eventually, I was…REJECTED.
Then the Event Was Canceled
Then, I finally got one! I was super excited, BUT, just as I started to prepare, I was told that the event was…CANCELED (due to COVID – and it still hasn’t been rescheduled).
9 months later though, I got ACCEPTED by TEDxAlief!
How did this happen?
Well, I asked my friend and former colleague, Netta Jenkins, to introduce me to the organizer of the TEDx event she spoke at. She made the introduction and they told me that unfortunately applications had already closed. 🙁
Then they added, “but, what’s your idea for a talk?”
Luck Is When Preparation Meets Opportunity
And because I’d gone through so many rounds of this, I had:
- My pitch carefully crafted and ready to share
- Well thought out answers to all of their questions
- Links and examples of my other work to reference
“Now that sounds like an idea worth spreading“
They decided to make an exception and reopen the application for me. And only 48 hours later, I was officially IN!
This story encapsulates the challenges we must often overcome to achieve a huge goal, but it also confirms the truth of the saying: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
It’s a great reminder for anyone with big dreams.
Time to Train Like An Athlete
You know how sometimes you think you’re in good physical shape because you workout with a trainer, run regularly, or [insert your exercise of choice]…but then you climb up a few flights of stairs and you’re totally out of breath?
And you think to yourself…”wow, why is this so hard? I thought I was in good shape!”?
That’s what happened to me while preparing for my TEDx talk – but it wasn’t about my physical shape, it was my mental shape.
When I “train” to deliver a keynote talk or workshop, I prepare what I want to say along with each slide over the course of the 60-90 minute session. I know, in general, the point I want to make and because I’m fairly good at thinking on the fly or improvising if needed, I usually feel quite confident and prepared.
A TEDx talk is only 12-15 minutes so every word matters
I prepared by carefully writing a script and editing it over and over to make sure there was a clear purpose for each sentence. And I spent a couple weeks memorizing it line by line. But every time I rehearsed, I would forget something, mess up a word, or totally draw a blank.
I found myself thinking, “wow, why is this so hard? I thought I was in good shape!”
I realized that similar to running vs. climbing stairs, you’re using muscles you don’t normally use.
This is an example of a concept called “specificity of training,” which means that your body adapts to the type and intensity of training you normally do.
In my case, I may be able to easily talk on the fly with confidence and conviction but word-for-word memorization uses different muscles and mental energy.
The good news is that instead of us being disappointed that we aren’t in as good of shape (physically or mentally) as we thought, we can acknowledge the different muscles required and make a plan to train them.
Waiting for the Speech to Go Live
10 weeks after I finally delivered my TEDx talk in Houston, Texas, I was still waiting for the video to be published on YouTube.
Videos of the other speakers from my event had only taken 4 weeks to post.
All I was told is that some videos take longer than others to go through the compliance process.
The Stories I Was Telling Myself
Especially since I hadn’t seen the video yet I was thinking: “Maybe my talk is old news by now.”, “Maybe the data I quoted is weak or not sourced properly”, “Maybe the video editor couldn’t cut out the time I froze for a sec when I forgot my next line”.
Then I got the text below from the organizer of my TEDx event:
Maybe I NAILED IT!!
I suddenly had a whole new positive story that sounded more like: “Maybe I NAILED IT!!” and I remembered the story my good friend made up weeks before…”maybe your TEDx talk was SO good, they’re trying to figure out what to do with it!”
At the time I laughed and appreciated her positive (if not distorted) thinking and support as a good friend. But…maybe she was right?!
Uncertainty Feeds our Negative Stories
It got me thinking about all the stories we tell ourselves when we don’t have all the information we need to fill in the blanks.
Stories about why a first date never called you back, why your boss set up an unexpected meeting to chat with you, or why you got chosen last for the kickball team in 3rd grade (I know it still hurts but your mom was right, they were just jealous ;))
We often tell ourselves negative stories, worst case scenarios, or ones in which we immediately become a victim instead of the hero.
Why Wouldn’t My Story Be a Good One?
What this experience with my TEDx talk taught me is that if I’m already going to make up a story about what’s happening, why wouldn’t I make it a good one? Why wouldn’t I put the odds in my favor and imagine a positive outcome? ‘Why would I not be a success?
Being Afraid of Failure
We’re so afraid of failure, rejection, and bruised egos that we reject ourselves before someone else can.
But the stories we tell ourselves shape our reality – whether or not those stories are actually true. This is a powerful concept to understand.
So for 2023, I’ve decided that I’m going to start telling myself stories of the reality I want to create.
Because I believe that once we focus on what we want, we’re going to be surprised at how quickly our lives begin to include those very things that were previously only dreams.
My TEDx talk was just released and it got 20K views in the first 24 hours!
It’s incredible that it’s one of a small percentage of TEDx talks selected to be promoted and championed directly by the TEDx headquarters and chosen as an “Editor’s Pick”.
What’s it about? Well, in 2019, I worked remotely from 12 countries in 12 months – from co-working spaces in Peru to cafes in Vietnam. An opportunity that was once rare is now possible for so many people.
But, does more freedom at work mean more fulfillment?