I just sent off the final version of my slides for my upcoming Ignite Bay Area talk. I have to say that it was such a fun process…really! About a month ago, when I found out I was selected, I was methodical in creating a huge white board with sticky notes containing all the “turtle steps” that would get me to the Wildly Improbable Goal of delivering my talk in front of an audience of strangers on March 2nd.

First there was the question of how to get everything to fit in 20 slides and 5 minutes. No, actually, first there was the question of scheduling an Open House where I would try to gather a few of my friends (or anyone who would agree to come) to watch me give a “practice” run of the talk, in exchange for some free food and great ambience in my new studio.

OK, so the date was scheduled. Now how was I going to let everyone know? A newsletter, of course! Except it had been four or more years since I’d last sent out a newsletter, so my contacts were out of date, and I hadn’t announced formally that I had changed the focus of my business and stopped teaching violin. What a great opportunity!

And while I was at it, why not put out a schedule of events in March too? Kill three birds with one stone, you know? Be efficient! All of these plans came out of the single idea that I was going to give a 5-minute talk in San Francisco.

So I did all of those things. Scheduled the Open House for February 18th, with four days to spare before the deadline for the final version of the slides. Planned another event in March, so I’d have something else to announce in my newsletter. Wrote a sweeping announcement and an article introducing people to my new business, just for my newsletter. Cleaned up my contact list, which had not been looked at in four years. And then hit the send button.

It was not fun! And I wondered why I had inflicted so many “To do”s on myself. So I talked to my coaching buddy, who has been with me every week of this wild ride of transformation starting last fall. We realized that my issue is not my inability to make a “To Do” list and find a way, come hell or highwater, to accomplish everything on that list. No, I’ve pretty much done that at every stage of my life up to this point. It’s my pattern. It’s my comfort zone. (Sadly, this pattern also seems to be something to brag about among current undergraduates at my alma mater.)

My issue is actually letting go of the idea that “I need to do many things…and possibly EVERYTHING…and it’s all my responsibility”. My challenge is actually slowing myself down and realizing that the only thing I can do right now is one thing. My challenge is to clear my thoughts so that the one thing becomes clear in my mind, and then just do it. Nothing else. No thinking about stories of the past or future. Just do. And then finish. And then rest. And clear my thoughts again, so that the next “one thing” can arrive.

So for the past week, my new “goal” was to have fun at each and every moment of the process. This took discipline! Whenever I caught myself thinking, “I have to…” I questioned it, and realized that I could choose to but I never really had to do anything. Once I acknowledged the kind of thinking that habitually ran through my head, I could laugh gently and choose another thought, preferably one that felt more fun and full of ease. And, my coaching buddy asked me, “What if you don’t have all your slides done and exactly 5 minutes of talking done by your open house?” I said, cheerfully, “I’ll improvise! Cuz that’s what I do! That’s what I’m teaching!” And I was actually telling the truth.

I’ve always been an event planner and producer in some capacity, from my childhood days of producing entirely original musical productions in my backyard or basement with my friend Katie, to college when I helped produce a student-run opera, to my violin school where I produced up to a dozen public concerts, workshops, and tours each year. At some level, my essential self loves to produce shows. But the fun had been sapped out of them once I started routinizing them, following a formula, and repeating expected traditions year after year.

So for my Open House, I brought the fun back! I allowed others to help me. I let go of needing to be the one who arranged the food on the buffet table. I let go of any concept of how many people needed to show up. I did take charge of the candles and the lighting, the color of the tablecloths, and the music (my own original “pop” violin recordings from my upcoming CD!). And I had a great time!

I worked on my talk mostly at the last minute, and it felt fresh and alive by the time I delivered it. I was calm and full of receptive energy during the entire evening…both before and after. It was like that feeling of teaching my first improv class. When I prioritized my own FUN FIRST, without trying to impress or deliver on an expectation, everyone received a better experience.

And the discussion afterwards was priceless. Everyone shared their takeaway from my talk, and the diverse array of insights from the people in the room helped me clarify more in the following days what my message really is. I was not afraid to hear what people had to say. I started to see it as treasure. What a gift it is to invite in another person’s truth, which is duplicated nowhere else in the world!

I know my talk will continue to refine itself between now and next week, even though the slides have been sent off. It will become more and more my own, internalized in the cells of my body.

And I will remember to keep having FUN!

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