In less than 48 hours I'll be on a stage giving a TEDx talk to an audience of 800 peopleTo say I am nervous is an understatement
In less than 48 hours I’ll be on a stage giving a TEDx talk to an audience of 800 people—by far my most high-profile and largest talk to date. When I teach and speak here in town, perhaps 40 people show up—max.
To say I am nervous is an understatement. To say that I am thrilled is an understatement.
The week leading up to the event, I entered a flow state—that state of pure focus, where every cell of your body is devoted to a single goal and the rest of the world drops away in the face of such powerful and unwavering devotion. It was exquisite. I felt pumped full of life, like a fuel source much larger than me was suddenly filling my tank. Unceasingly.
Everything was wonderful. I could see more sharply. Food tasted incredible. There seemed to be laughter and truth everywhere I went, and every day I was making steady progress towards having my talk embedded in my system.
Then last night, something changed. I felt it happen—like a storm cloud rolling in, darkening the edges.
I started to worry. Then the butterflies kicked in. My pure sense of devotion was still intact, but it was much less glamorous that it had been. More practical. “Let’s time the talk again.” Listen and memorize more. “Now again.”
I began to judge myself. The liquid light that seemed to have been pouring through my body for the last several days had dried up, and now there was just fear and an abundance of mental activity. I was upset. “I have fallen out of flow,” I thought. “I have to get back up there.”
I was sitting on the couch in my office worrying. When suddenly, I began to picture extreme sports in action. The rock climbers hanging on the skin of their hands. That woman climbing Mt. Everest. And then I realized that this new state I am in is actually normal. It is a part of flow. As the days draw nearer to this high-intensity event, my focus narrows further. We’re no longer at the base of the mountain, with camera crews and interviews and a big send off party. We’re at high altitude where you can take two steps and then must stop to breathe. It is anything but glamorous. It doesn’t look like success in how we normally picture it. It gets to the point, just like every athlete or performer must know, when you actually aren’t sure you will do it.
Even though this it is what you’re trained to do.
And I’ve been training. Every small class I have ever taught to the larger ones. Each time I put myself in an experience that took me out of my comfort zone, I have been training to be able to tolerate and even enjoy a life on the edge.
I felt myself on the rock, reaching for the next hold, legs spread and sweating. It didn’t look pretty. It wasn’t the theatrical version of flow, where I was smiling and wearing lipstick. This was the real state, right on the edge, where the fall seemed just as likely as making it to the top.