Towards the end of 2012, I was asked to come back home to Trinidad, to give a talk at TEDxPortOfSpain. I had to deliver a 15 to 18 minute speech on courage. And it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. This is me, immediately after giving my speech. 12.12.12. A day that shall live in Afrobella history.
What was so terrifying to me about being part of TEDx? Even though I do all kinds of appearances and public speaking gigs at this point, this was my first time going home to do such a thing. The first time that my parents and siblings would be in the audience, looking up at me on stage. The first time I was going to have to write a speech and straight up remember it, without a teleprompter or print out to guide me. The first time I was going to look out at an audience and see old classmates and teachers and former coworkers and people who have known me since I was 5 years old. It was a very surreal, This Is Your Life kind of experience.
I was incredibly nervous before the speech and I basically shut down and rehearsed as much as possible beforehand. TEDxPortOfSpain’s founder Keita Demming coached me through it on the phone and in person, when we both went back to Trinidad.
“I think courage should come with a warning label. “May make you sweaty and nauseous, may lead to stomach pains, sleepless nights and heart palpitations.” The actual act of being courageous doesn’t feel good when you’re gearing up for it. But being courageous leads to opportunity – and in my experience, it leads to more opportunities to be courageous.”
That’s how my TED talk begins, or at least how it began on paper. In person, the speech you memorized may not be the speech you give. But that’s fine. Because it’s your story. Your words. Trust yourself. All will be well.
“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t feel fear. To me it means that you just understand it better. You can analyze the fear. You should know what it is and where it is coming from. It helps you to face it.”
Getting through the TED experience helped me to understand my fear, and face it. My fear of public speaking comes from my fear of rejection and failure. I was afraid to go up there and bare my soul. I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to the TED credo of sharing an idea worth spreading. I was still very much in disbelief that I got chosen to do something so prestigious.
The feedback I’ve gotten has been nothing short of overwhelming. I’ve heard from so many people who silenced my fears, and said my speech touched their hearts, inspired them, and brought tears to their eyes. That is an amazing feeling.
When I was first asked to do this, to give a TED talk, I almost said no. My first thoughts were of doubt. My first thoughts were “I can’t.” And then “why me?” And I have come to realize that I can. I always could. And why NOT me? Maybe the message you aren’t sure you’re brave enough to share, is the one someone needs to hear.
I hope you like my speech. I hope to publish it online so everyone can read it, cause the written version is a bit more polished than what you see above.