It seems like the past few years have just been a series of “firsts” and I’m proud to say that today I’ve experienced another one: My First TEDx Talk. Like so many people I’ve been touched, moved, inspired and intrigued by the myriad of speakers that have been offered the opportunity to get on stage and share something unique in no more than 20 minutes. While watching these videos online, I’ve always wondered if I would ever be invited to deliver a TED talk and, if so, what message would I convey.
This opportunity showed up unexpectedly about 2 months ago when I received a call from a senior member of the MIT educational institution inviting me to be one of the speakers at their upcoming TEDx Youth event. I immediately and graciously accepted with no clue what I would talk about. The person who had invited me suggested that I speak about the power of sports given that I’ve been involved in sports for most of my life but for some reason I didn’t feel that I wanted to utilise my 20 minute window to only discuss sports as this topic would not be relevant to everyone in the room.
After much soul-searching I finally decided that I would speak about a topic that I not only know well but have lived for the past 20+ years – “Creating an Ideal Career Pathway.” At a young age a seed was planted inside me that I can actually make my passion for football my profession and the potent trinity of faith, support and hard work ensured that this seed sprouted into an incredible career spreading over 15 years, 3 continents and thousands of profound experiences. Therefore, I felt that I had the authority to speak about this subject and, more importantly, was interested in inspiring and empowering youth to create and pursue their ideal career pathways.
Once I was clear on the topic, the real work began. I extensively researched my own life and the lives of others, wrote down everything I knew about this topic and finally came up with “my talk.” Then I delivered the first draft to my wife Avantika who brilliantly edited the content and critiqued my over enthusiastic, fast-talking way of presenting anything I am passionate about. We spent the next few days working on the talk until it was finally ready – a 17 minute journey that presents a formula that anyone can use to figure out their ideal career pathway taking anecdotes from my life as well as my Father’s as proof of concept.
Avantika and I arrived at the MIT Vishwashanti Gurukul campus in time for lunch and interacted with some of the other speakers. While I was relishing the opportunity to meet and network with a group of interesting individuals who were all considered “authorities” in their respective areas of interest, all I wanted to do was get on stage and deliver my talk. This eventually happened and I was proud of the way I was able to maintain the message and enthusiasm for the topic while speaking to a room that was mostly made up of teenagers who had been listening to adults speaking at them for almost 3 hours straight. You can just imagine the scene I saw when I looked up from the stage.
I completed my talk and walked off stage unsure of whether I had touched, moved, inspired or even intrigued the students in the way that so many other TED speakers had done for me. I was quite happy with how the talk went and my wife was full of compliments but the real test would be the response of the toughest critics in the house: the students. There was a tea break right after my talk and all the students walked out into the hall. I gathered my belongings and walked out behind them feeling quite shy for the first time in awhile. Thankfully the shyness was replaced with joy as a number of students walked over to me and shared their gratitude for my talk and said how they now have the courage to make their passion their profession. I was satisfied, mission accomplished.
This whole experience helped me grow as does every experience in my life. I realised once again how much I love the opportunity to impact and empower youth by helping them shut out all the noise coming from society, their communities, their families, their past, etc… and guide them inwards so they can clearly identity & create a life worth living. I also realised that I have so much more work ahead of me in my personal and professional life to become the kind of individual I aspire to be – a person who helps others show up bigger in my presence.