How a 10 Minute Mistake Cost Me A TEDx speech, A Trip To India, and My Sanity
I must have read over the email 10 times.
Was this really happening?
“Mr. Arkin – we are inspired by your story. We would be honored if you shared your story at our upcoming TEDx conference at Christ University in India.”
This was unexpected…
Practice, Practice, and More Practice
I committed to giving the greatest speech of my life.
The following 30 days would be spent in deep preparation.
I watched TED speeches daily. I analyzed every move – tone of voice, choice of words, timing, gestures, and so on.
I developed my speech, practiced my speech, redeveloped my speech, and practiced some more.
I recorded my speech on video, watched it, analyzed it, and made it better.
Every detail was practiced, rehearsed, and improved upon… Well almost every detail.
One detail that never crossed my mind.
One detail that could potentially kill it all…
November 5th, 2012
“Sir, it does not matter – you cannot get your visa in time.” It was the 5th place I had called that morning. I spent the previous month preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime. Now that was all falling apart.
I needed a visa…. in 4 days.
I didn’t know this. The TEDx India team didn’t know this.
It simply slipped our minds. “Mr. Arkin – the fastest we can do this is 8 days. What you are asking is not possible.” If I was going to enter a cuss word now would be the appropriate time…
How to Deal with a Short Term Crisis.
It’s a simple reality in life. If we dare to do big things – disasters will strike.
It isn’t about avoiding these disasters, what matters is your response.
I don’t claim my response was perfect. I did the best I could given the circumstance. The results… Well, keep reading .
The 3 Stages of Dealing With A Major Short Term Crisis
There were 3 stages throughout this process.
In the Midst(The Middle)
I guess that’s obvious as every situation has a beginning, middle and end.
That being said – I wanted to break it up because it will make it easier for you to process (and for me to explain).
1. Come Back To Reality
As I called every India Consulate in Japan I was given the same answer – “Sir it’s not possible.”
My breathing increased, my pulse quickened and my mind started racing. I was heading down a dangerous path.
I could feel the tears pushing through.
“I can’t let this stop me!” is what I kept saying.
Yet, I had no idea how to get around it. I felt powerless.
I needed to calm down. I called the 1 person I trust more than anyone in the world: My father.
We talked for a while. He calmed me.
It’s common sense – if you are freaking out you’ll make bad decisions. If you’re calm you’ll make better decisions. So in the midst of a crises it is critical that you gain a sense of calm.
Identify people and activities that calm you. Reach out to this person and give time to this calming activity.
2. Choose The Right Psychology
My father and I discussed how I would mentally approach the upcoming week. I knew it looked very unlikely that I would go to India.
I could not control the outcome but I could control my thinking and the process.
If I didn’t go to India I wasn’t going to die, life would move on, and the world wouldn’t end.
No matter what happens I will be okay.
This simple thought gave me the strength to push forward.
3. Identify The Necessary Steps.
After we had identified the right mindset and focus we identified the steps I needed to take.
We created a plan of action.
- I listed out everything I needed to do to get the Visa.
- Next, I listed out all the steps I had to take in preparation for the speech (assuming I was able to get to India).
- In the case I wasn’t able to get to India we came up with a plan B.
After that phone call – it was time to start.
In The Midst (The Middle)
4. Focus on Process not outcomes
I could control the process. The outcome was out of my hands.
I practiced the speech, dealt with the Consulate , turned in my paperwork, connected with the TEDX team in India, and followed through on plan B(more on that later).
If you are facing a difficult situation it is critical that you focus on process. The outcome is a consequence of your process.
Focus on what needs to get done – not on what you hope will happen. [Click to tweet]
5. Stay grounded
I had no idea what was going to happen. Maybe I would be in India, maybe not. Each day mattered, every step I took counted.
It would be easy for me to get distracted – to become overwhelmed, to let my worries overtake me.
I knew this. To counteract this I took intentional action each day to keep my focus.
- I talked with my father 2 to 3 times a day (15 to 20 minutes at a time) –> This kept me in the right frame of mind.
- I exercised and ate healthy foods. –> This kept me energetic and feeling positive about my body and mind.
- In the evenings I went to Aikido. –> This allowed me to focus on something not related to getting my visa.
- I made sure to sleep 8 hours –> Sleep allowed me to function at my highest levels.
You have to identify those activities that bring you peace and the people that can help you through the challenge.
6. Implement Plan B
As I mentioned before, my father and I came up with a plan B .-
Here was the plan: I would record the speech and send it off to the TEDx team in India.
One problem – how would I record it?
I wanted this to be the greatest speech of my life and it felt wrong just turning on a recorder in my living room.
Below is a small piece of the story. On Friday’s post I’ll be sharing this story in way more detail (as it’s pretty incredible!). But for now this will have to do:
Over the past many months I have developed a strong freindship with a man whose dream is to develop, direct, and edit videos professionally. He’s an incredible individual who brings passion, intensity and commitment to all of his projects.
I reached out, and explained the situation.
His exact words “Let’s test our ability to respond to circumstance!” How inspiring is that!
We met up the following day and filmed the video.
He spent all of Wednesday and Thursday night working on it (he has a full time job during the day). At 3 am Friday morning he completed the final edits. The Video was uploaded by Friday Evening. The Video was sent to the TEDx team in India.
Plan B was implemented. (I’ll be sharing way more of this story next week- plus, you’ll also get to see the speech).
7. Accept the outcome
How did it all turn out? Not as I wished. I didn’t make it to India. They showed the video instead.
So, although I wasn’t physically present – I was able to give the speech.
Now, the situation is done. So it is my job to let it go. I did the best I could given the situation.
8. Ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”
Of course there is the obvious such as – I need a visa to travel to India .
But there are bigger lessons here. I now better understand how to manage a crisis. I must gain a sense of calm, develop a plan, implement it, and then accept the outcome.
This happened less than a month ago. It’s still fresh in my mind. Many of the lessons will take time to learn. But they will come – as long as I stay open, honest, and humble.
Challenging experiences always provide an opportunity for incredible learning – but it’s on us to discover these. [Click to tweet]
Don’t try and force life lessons. But at some point after the struggle ask yourself:
What can I learn from this?
9. Commit to “being better from it”
There’s no going back. It happened.
I screwed up. I didn’t fill out the paperwork. I have one of two choices. I either am better for it – or worse from it. The impact is too large, too powerful- to simply “go back to normal.”
I have made a 100 percent commitment to use this experience as fuel for success.
How will this change me? Help me grow? I don’t know- but it will.
If nothing else, it is one heck of a story that is for sure