Sunday, May 19, 2013

How a last-minute phone call, 18 minutes and a half a million viewschanged my life.



My TED Talk has surpassed half a million views! (This is from the ways that I can track. Aside from TED.com and various YouTube channels, TED also has a podcast download, so I have no idea how many times it's been viewed that way.) But—wow! A half a million people have now watched a talk that I gave to a room filled with 120 people. A talk that I didn't know I would give when I woke up that day.

So how have a last-minute phone call, 18 minutes and a half a million views changed my life?

Your instant reaction will be to guess that it's increased my exposure. And sure, my TED Talk certainly did help land a feature in The Boston Globe and an impending feature on NPR's All Things Considered. (Listen this Thursday! Check your local NPR affiliate!) While different sets of circumstances led to each of those PR pieces, it was the TED Talk that helped seal the deal in both cases.

But it goes much deeper than that. My story was never anything I was very open with publicly. While of course good friends knew the scope of my childhood story, the general public did not. That phone call to give a last-minute TED Talk came at a time when I was able to tell the story. Had that phone call come a few months earlier, probably not. A year earlier, definitely not. The experience taught me the power of being publicly honest and open. I have been so amazed to hear similar stories from both strangers and colleagues, and that has certainly been therapeutic for me. (And by the way, if you have emailed me, I haven't lost your email—I have a folder filled with emails that await responses concerning my TED Talk. I just want to be able to sit down and give your reply the time it deserves.)

Having had such a deep and meaningful story go viral is a funny thing. At first, it was incredibly strange to walk into a school and have everyone know such intimate details of my life, never mind the time I was recognized by a complete stranger at Dunkin Donuts. Most importantly, people have been able to share my story with children who are dealing with similar situations. Some of their stories punch you right in the gut. Others, right in the throat. I am so happy that I have been able to share my journey so directly with those kids. I can only begin to imagine what learning of such a story would have done for me as a child.

My TED experience has also taught me how to share personal information and deal with that knowledge being out there. As some of you may know, I have been working on writing a graphic novel memoir. (It would, of course be for a teen and older audience.) I would never be able to write that story so openly if it weren't for the reaction my TED Talk has received.

If you have watched the video, if you have shared it via social media or by email, I thank you endlessly. Because you are one in a half-million!

My sincerest thanks to you!

And of course thanks to my wife Gina. When I hung up the phone and said, "I was just asked to give a TED Talk in four hours and I have no idea what to talk about." Gina said, "Just be honest. Tell the story of your childhood as it happened."

You can read a more detailed account of how I prepared for the talk here.

And in case you missed it, here's the video:



1 comment:

julierowanzoch said...

Thankful for the timing of that phone call, and your wife's love for you.