TED or Alive

Years ago I had an idea. This is not a novel experience, of course, but this idea was different. It was big. The idea hit me like an abrupt and forceful bolt that felt like an energy from a source outside my brain and body. Sometimes I think the bolt likely was intended for someone else who had ducked at the last moment and I was hit with it instead.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the idea but I felt strongly that it needed to be shared. One of the first things to come to mind was the TED Talks program - an international series of live and recorded speaker presentations by people who have “ideas worth spreading.” I thought my idea might qualify and being spread could be the only way the idea could ever be realized.

I knew the idea wasn’t ready for an international audience and more importantly, I knew I wasn’t ready for an international audience. So TED Talks became a goal for the future.

After spending some time refining the idea in my spare time, I heard that a TED Talk event was being planned in my city. To find presenters for the event, the organizers held a live show with 30 speakers and invited the public to come hear the speakers, drink a few beers then tweet their vote for a winner who would advance to the main event. 

A local variation of TED Talks seemed more my speed so I jumped on it and got a spot on the program. Sometimes the best thing for an insecure introvert to do is to respond impulsively before the naysayers inside can sabotage the intention.

I prepared my two minute talk, asked friends to give me feedback and a little coaching. Because of the nature of my idea, I created a visual aid, a prototype of sorts, to carry onstage with me. It was a seven-foot wooden pole with a gold spherical finial at the top. From it I hung a long blue streamer that represented my proposal for a new worldwide symbol that I hoped would become a movement and contribute to positive world change. Like I said, the idea was big.

I think it best to describe the onstage presentation as briefly as possible. One minute into the two-minute talk, I froze. 

I stood on the stage motionless and silent while my brain was in hyperdrive to find some words but to no avail. Then my time was up. I thanked the audience politely and left the stage, still frozen, still holding on to the flagpole with the blue streamer, leaving the audience to wonder what the hell just happened. I wasn’t even sure myself what the hell had just happened. I did know that very shortly, as I thawed, I would be feeling the mother of embarrassing moments.

The visual aid I had wielded had meant to show the strength of my idea, to depict a new world symbol and show that there is a perspective that allows us - all of us - to deeply connect to something that is simple and true and human.

I doubt that happened, even if the audience was able to grasp the concept from what little I had given them. For me, the symbol was a reminder of the advice my daughter, the theater major, gave me right before I went onstage, “You’ll be fine, mom. Just whatever you do, don’t choke.”

But at that moment, all I wanted, and I wanted it badly, was to disappear. I wanted to be out on the street in front of the theater alone where I could breathe again. I sent out an urgent wish for my superpower to emerge until I remembered I had already selected flight over invisibility! Damn!

With no superpower to come to my aid, my only route for escape was to go down into the standing crowd of hundreds and weave my way toward the front doors of the theater. I began my trek wearing the introvert’s you-can’t-see-me mask. This might have made the next few minutes bearable except for one detail. I was still carrying the flagpole with the streamer, like a blue, blinking geolocator flying above the crowd that screamed, “Here She Is,” “She’s Over Here Now,” “Look Here, She’s Moving Eastward Toward the Doors.” 

By the way, the idea is called Bluecoup and you can learn more at bluecoup.org. I’ll even come talk to you about it. I need the practice.


Richmond, VA