Remember, ‘It Matters’

Monica Lewinsky at TED

To prepare for the keynote* I gave last week, I read Chris Anderson’s book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. In the book, Anderson tells the story of Monica Lewinsky preparing for and giving her TED talk

She told him that she had two mantras that she kept telling herself to get past the nerves. The first was “I’ve got this” and the second, which  she wrote on the top of the first page of her talk was “This matters”. She explained, “… if I could reach one person with my message and help just one person feel less alone in their experience of shame and online humiliation, it would be worth it.”

I thought about this a lot while preparing for my talk. It was not easy for me to step out there and talk about professional failures, let alone stand on a stage and tell 200 people in the room and anyone who happened to be watching the livestream, that I had been dealing with depression. Yes, I’ve written about it here and talked to individual people about it, but it’s different to stand on a stage and talk about it with a large group.

I questioned whether I was going to blow up my career with this talk, if people were going to be put off by my disclosure. But then I read that quote from Ms. Lewinsky and thought, if just one person benefits, if one person feels better about facing failure or dealing with mental health issues, then whatever happens will be worth it, it will have mattered.

As I noted last week, my keynote went great, but it turned out that it didn’t matter to one person. It mattered to a lot of people who came up to me in person to thank me, to people who dropped me private notes, and tweeted me. This is great because what I did mattered, but at the same time, I’m honestly troubled by just how many people reached out to me and said that they are facing similar struggles. I’ve said it before, we need to do more to help people struggling with mental health problems and we need to do more to bring it out into the open and rip off the stigma.

Anyway, that was a great experience, but the “This matters” message has stayed with me. It doesn’t have to be about a big talk. It can be about every day things. When you’re facing what may seem boring, remind yourself why it might matter. If you’re facing a problem you need to solve at work and are afraid to take a risk, remind yourself that finding a solution matters to someone.  When you take an extra second to say thank you or hold the door open for someone, it really does matter.

I think that remembering this will help us to be more mindful, more courageous, and more kind, which are all good things.

*If you want to watch the recording of my talk, you can find it here. My part starts about 30 minutes into the first video, but the stuff before it is well worth watching.

Featured image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson under a CC-BY license.

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