The Three Gifts of my Journey to the TEDX Talk Red Circle

by | Dec 23, 2022 | Business, Caregiving, Life

Sue Ryan poses at TEDx Talk
Sue Ryan of Sue Ryan Solutions giving her TEDx Talk Ultimate Freedom - Unlocking the Power of Choice

TEDx Talk: Ultimate Freedom – Unlocking the Power of Choice

I recently gave my first TEDx talk, the final amazing step of a nearly ten-year journey. It was an experience where I became lost in – not just any moment – the euphoric moment of living my dream come true.

I became aware of the difference between a speech and a TED talk during an assignment in one of my Master’s degree courses. Our assignment focused on identifying the distinctions in the power of communication when using different frameworks, mediums/platforms, and methods. One of the frameworks I studied was the Tedx Talk – short impactful messages about one idea worth spreading. Three of the talks I studied were Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Robert Waldinger’s What Makes a Good Life?, and Sherry Turkle’s Connected but Alone.  

Listening to each speaker, how they communicated their ideas, and why they believed their ideas were worth spreading, led me to realize the first gift of my journey to the red circle is: to one day share my idea worth spreading – and share it not as a goal from my head that I would check off a list when I achieved it – to share it as a dream come true from my soul because it was something I couldn’t not share!

Studying TED talks, I learned there’s a big difference between sharing ideas and sharing an idea worth spreading. The value of TED talks is not sharing an idea because you can, it’s taking a single idea from your unique perspective and life experiences and making it worth spreading. It’s not a corporate presentation of the value of a product or service, or a speech with multiple ideas, stories, and compelling arguments. While both of those are great, a TED talk is the expression of one specific idea you know you’re meant to share. 

Dr. Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, Zen priest, and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Director of The Study of Adult Development – a study that’s been running continuously since 1939 – following two groups of men. The goal of the study is to identify the psychosocial predictors of healthy aging. Imagine the variety of topics and content he could speak on! 

In his TEDx talk of just over twelve minutes, based on his background and perspective, he made a compelling case for the importance of one single idea worth spreading – the people who are faring the best over the more than 70 years of the study are the people who lean into relationships with family, friends, and community.

I began reflecting on the experiences of my life to search for my TED talk idea. The second gift of my journey to the red circle is: intentionally reflecting on my life experiences revealed lessons that had been there waiting for me to learn and understand. I realized if this was all the farther my journey took me, it was fine because I’d started giving myself the amazing gift of self-discovery and growth. 

I realized that in the moment of so many experiences in my life, I didn’t have the wisdom at that time to ‘harvest’ their life lesson for me – or to appreciate some of my life experiences. I realized some were still clouded with emotions and judgments that no longer served me. I was able to let those go, appreciate and learn new lessons from the memories that were now clear, and celebrate some memories I wasn’t able to in their original moments.

I also realized none of these was my idea worth spreading.

One day nearly eight years after I began my reflections I realized I had IT – my idea worth spreading – an experience that brought life lessons together into something that has a profound impact on all areas of my life. My idea worth spreading is how living with massive acceptance and radical presence gives us the ultimate freedom to unlock the power of choice without judgment. 

I began taking the next steps to bring my TED talk dream to life. I surrounded myself with people who supported and guided me through the process. I chose my journey to be from a place of joy, setting goals from a clear vision and passion for what it would look feel like when I was on the red circle. I used memories of the feelings of excitement and joy on Christmas morning and when I achieved a professional goal I’d worked toward for years as how I wanted to feel while sharing my idea.

Even then I definitely underestimated how amazing it would feel to finally step on the red circle for the first time. When I arrived at the theater and saw the stage I wanted to run down, step on the red circle, spread my arms out wide, and shout “woo hoo”!

The energy in the room was amazing. Everyone in the room was excited for – and wanted the best for – everyone else. Such a great environment to be in! The production team of volunteers was working hard to make sure everything was ready for each of us to give our talks. Families, friends, and visitors who’d come to support us were spreading encouragement. Dr. Dan Young, the head of the TEDx Wilmington team, was making sure each speaker and production team member had everything they needed.

The moment finally came to walk up the steps, onto the red circle, and share my idea worth spreading. With each step, the magnitude of everything that had brought me to this moment surrounded me. The transformational lessons in my life from challenging experiences I would not have voluntarily chosen – and often didn’t understand at the time, honoring my dad and my husband, how powerful and yet simple true love is, how blessed I am to have guides and teachers who push and support me, and how grateful I am for the opportunity to step onto the red circle.

Until several minutes into my talk, I didn’t know another powerful lesson was still waiting for me!

I began my talk and it felt so right. I was relaxed; I felt like I was having a conversation. A few minutes into it, all of a sudden it hit me that I was living my dream come true. This absolutely euphoric feeling came over me; everything it took to bring me to this moment was worth it and I celebrated it! It did, however, take me out of the moment of my speech – oops! I didn’t feel flustered – just the opposite, I felt calm and knew I would be fine. The production team edits the talks and even if my pause is apparent in the speech that’s produced, it will forever serve to remind me that living a dream come true is so much more meaningful than simply achieving a goal.

The third gift of my journey to the Tedx Talk red circle is: if I can only come up with a goal to achieve, I haven’t dug deep enough. Living my best life is living from the place of bringing my dreams to life from my heart and soul. Perhaps my talk wasn’t the last step in my journey, it was the start of another idea worth spreading. 

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