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My TEDx Talk: From Breakdown to Breakthrough

We checked items off “My Family’s Summer Bucket List” at a prodigious rate last week—barbequing with friends, camping, riding waterfalls and swimming in freezing mountain streams, eating our weight in S’mores, visiting family in Tennessee and watching fireworks—which meant I was mostly “away” from my business and my computer.I did, however, manage to check an item off my own personal list of “Big Dreams and Lofty Goals” by submitting a proposal for TEDx Asheville.
Don’t know what TEDx is? Well, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and it’s an annual festival in which people deliver talks based on their “big ideas.”TEDx festivals are offshoots of the four big conferences, held in communities all over the globe. Asheville has such a festival, and after applying, I learned last Friday that I made it through the first cut, and now I have to produce a video to submit by July 15th (this Sunday!).

The theme this year is THE EDGE, with sessions like “The EDGE of Our Understanding” and “The EDGE of Our Comfort Zone,” so I decided to talk about the experience of fear and how it can be a catalyst for people to find their calling, and by bringing themselves to the edge of the known and comfortable, ordinary people can discover their purpose-driven work.

Of course, all I can think about is this talk, and since I have very little time to come up with the bit that I’ll share on my video application, I’m including what I’ve created so far here.


TEDx Talk - From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Let’s face it: you like your comfort zone. I like mine too. But everything you want, all your dreams, everything you ever truly hoped for is on the other side.

So in the time I have, I’d like to take you to the EDGE of your comfort zone – because I just won’t be able to get you fully to the other side in the course of 15 minutes.

First, let’s take your job:

You know you don’t belong in your job. Sure, it puts food on the table and keeps a roof over your head, and with the economy the way it is, you should probably feel grateful for having a job at all, but you wonder…

Could you make it on your own? Could you take the leap and be your own boss? Could you get up every morning and actually be paid well to do what you love?

I used to think about those questions a lot, but never with any real determination, because I was too afraid to consider leaving the security of my hospital job as a nurse-midwife.

Then on a cold night in February in 2011, I received an email from my boss. She said our staff meeting, to be held in a couple of days, would focus on problems my colleagues had with me, primary among them that I was not a “team player.”

I was devastated by the email. I felt horrible. How was it possible that I had no idea that my colleagues didn’t like working with me?

If you had asked me a moment before that email if all was well at the job I’d had for the last 8 years, I would have responded with an enthusiastic yes.

I was filled with questions. If all of my colleagues were unhappy with me, why didn’t I know? Why hadn’t they said something before? Why did we need to set aside an entire meeting to “deal” with me?

I had a mostly sleepless night, almost entirely spent fighting back tears. When I did fall asleep I woke with a start as if from a nightmare. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

By 4 o’clock that morning I was exhausted and still couldn’t make any sense of it.

In my fear and despair I remember asking God, the Universe, whoever would listen, “Why is this happening to me?”

I was stunned when I received an answer—when something outside of me said, very clearly, “Because you’re not supposed to be here.”

I knew the voice didn’t mean “here” as in my bed. I knew it meant something much bigger and deeper.

I knew in that moment that I had to quit my job. But even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it was torture. It felt like I was admitting failure—that I was a failure. And, of course, there was the little problem of not knowing how I could support my family without that job.

What I learned was this: Sometimes when our lives don’t seem to be working it’s because they’re not supposed to work—not in their present form, anyway.

It’s tough to accept: we get so swept up in the way we want things to go physically that we miss what our spirits really want. We begin hindering the Universe in its role as advisor and advocate and, indeed undermine it in that role—preventing it from showing us the alternatives. Including—and especially—the one that questions the very path we’re on.

The truth was that the joy had gone out of my hospital work a long time ago, but I kept rationalizing that the steady income and benefits were allowing me to pursue my true passion, my purpose-based work—coaching other women to find and live their purpose.

I was using my hospital job to allow me to do other things. But there’s the rub.

When you start wanting to do others things with your time and life than what you’re actually doing, you’re doing the wrong thing—and you can’t fool your greater self or the Universe before things start going very awry.

And so my deepest desires were in a pitched battle with other thoughts of mine that were trying to keep me in my “secure” job, until the crisis of learning that my coworkers didn’t like working with me broke the stalemate.

I had loved being defined by my work of over 15 years as a nurse-midwife—otherwise my coworkers’ opinions wouldn’t have hurt so much—but the only problem was I had outgrown this work I loved. And since I just wouldn’t let it go, the Universe conspired to loosen my grip.

Really it’s wonderful how things like this work: if you’re not honest with yourself, if you’re not working to consciously manifest your deepest desires, your desires will manifest other things for you: conflict, frustration, even illness.

But they’re all really just blessings in disguise. At least that’s how I now look at that awful email I received on that cold night in February, 2011. If I hadn’t received it I probably would have continued to live out a sense of fear and doubts.

Now I know this is a tricky subject, because there really could be any number of reasons why bad things are happening to you.

But if things aren’t currently working out for you, if you’re feeling like all these bad things are happening in your life and you’re wondering why, I’m going to suggest you consider two things: Either you are on the right path, but your underlying beliefs are in conflict with what you can achieve, or you haven’t listened to your heart, your deepest desires, and the path you’re on needs a new direction.

Either way, honesty and self-exploration will you help you most when you think your life isn’t working.

Well, that’s what I have so far! Any suggestions or advice would be great appreciated—please let me know what you think in the comments below!

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