Three years ago today, I gave my very first official talk. It was in front of an auditorium FULL of people at TEDx Fulton Street in New York City. Although it was obvious that I was sharing something intensely personal (in hopes that it might speak to someone else who had been through a tough life event), what might not have been obvious was that I was also telling the story for myself, for the future of my family and for my own healing process. I was telling that story to feel as though my Dad was still around, sharing his wisdom, his unconditional support, love and inspiration with me and with the rest of the world. I always felt spoiled to have had him (and my Mom) all to myself and always felt that if any parents on this earth should have had a small army of children, it should have been mine...
Three years later, thousands of people have watched "How a coffee pot changed my life" (I've even been stopped at events because people recognize me from it - which is absolutely surreal), but what people might not know or realize is that, at the end of that talk I said something that to this day I'm intensely proud of. I announced that I'd found a true passion in preserving people's stories, their legacies and I'd be working on another venture related to that. I even had the audacity to go out on the limb to say, "maybe I'll be back here (onstage at TEDx) next year to tell you about that..." Well, one year and five months from that day, I did indeed find myself back on the TEDx stage at TEDx Normal delivering "The most powerful question you've never considered" and announcing the launch of Legacy Out Loud, a methodology designed to build confidence, solidify purpose and awaken entrepreneurial spirit in high school and college-age women through an immersion program predicated on the concept of learning by doing and focused on giving young women the specific knowledge, skills and practices that are imperative to building healthy, curious minds.
Today, as I recruit young women for our first immersion experience this summer, I can't help but smile at the fact that even when he wasn't physically here, Dad helped me figure out how to begin writing my own story and creating something from scratch (that feels both exciting and terrifying to put into the world). Our program is building confidence and resilience in young women around the country and I can't wait to gather them together and hold space for them to step into their own, the way I did.
From what the outside world knew, June 10, 2014 was my first official talk, followed by another November 7th, 2015 (with keynotes and workshops of all kinds in between), but in all honesty, the very first time I spoke in front of people actually happened a few years before that...
The first time I looked out into a sea of people was when I gave my Dad's eulogy. I hadn't told my Mom that I planned on doing this, mostly because I didn't want to disappoint her if I chickened out. (Although, I knew chances of that were slim, because - as people who know me know, once I get something in my head, it's hard to get me to back down) but, just in case, I didn't tell a single soul of my plan. I knew in my bones however, that I needed to shake off the last shackles of shyness that had plagued me throughout my entire childhood and speak, I had to do him justice.
In the spirit of total transparency, I also needed to speak the words of his story for myself as well. In a way, it made me feel like I could keep him around for just another moment. I needed to find my own words, my own feelings, my own needs. I needed to tell his story in order to write my own story. I can still feel the way my legs were weak beneath me, the way my hands were trembling while holding on to that podium for fear of my legs giving out without notice - THAT was really when my journey started, when I realized that I could fill his shoes... and more... that I would take every ounce of emotion and meaning in that moment, and let it drive me forward. I would let it fuel me to dig deep and be more, both for him (and Mom) but mostly, for myself. When I learned that what I did (letting hard feelings push me forward) was what we teach the US Army to do before they go into war, I stopped in my tracks. I didn't realize that I innately called on and cultivated a state called "PTG" post traumatic growth (the exact opposite of the well known PTSD) and otherwise known as mental resilience - but it's what got me through, it's what kept me not only motivated but electrified with inspiration. Now, Legacy Out Loud is teaching young women about how to foster a healthy, curious, resilient, innovative minds and spirits.
Today, as I look back, this journey started with a single step, a singular decision to write words and stand up to speak them, not on camera, not for a world renowned organization like TED, not when I'd be praised for it, simply because it meant the world to me to get to create something in the last words that would punctuate the life of someone that continues to teach me and inspire me.
We're proud that the Unimatic has become the symbol of inspiration and forward momentum for so many and we will continue to relish the feeling of serving you and reminding you what you're capable of.
Thank you for watching, listening and supporting us in this journey. It's because of you, our Unimatic family, that even in our darkest moments, we will never feel alone.
May every action you take be rooted in something that drives you forward.