So what’s your point of view? And what was the inciting incident that gave it to you? Where does the passion come from?
These are questions I was asked in the past week and the notable thing about this is that it wasn’t asked in the context of a script or a story, which has to be when this is asked at least 99% of the time. I was asked this about my life.
The reason for this is somewhat cheesy maybe.
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It’s that I’ve been wanting to do more public speaking and, with apologies to myself, I don’t think the two talks I’ve developed for college students are all that great. I worked hard to come up with, and then deliver, talks that encapsulated what I feel are important messages but trying to do that, adding a PowerPoint and knowing you’re doing it for college students (arguably a group less interested than any group in the world in going to hear some chick they probably haven’t heard of talk) is a Sisyphean task and that boulder is heavy.
I’ve spoken at about 15 schools over the past few years and some of the experiences have been spectacular. I like a crowd, which is to say that when no one shows up, whether it’s a talk or a storytelling show or a party or a meeting, I feel deflated. People say, “All you need to do is reach one person so it doesn’t matter if one person’s there or 200” and that may well be true or enough for some folks but I just can’t get all fired up when there are four people in the room, one of whom I bribed to be there by telling him I’d give him a free copy of my book (this actually happened at a college I spoke at in the Midwest). But oh, when the colleges have put effort into it (and by effort I mean required students to attend), the experiences have been epic. There have been hundreds of kids who’ve shown up and they’ve done all the laughing and crying and participating we all dream of. When I’ve talked about alcoholism and recovery, I’ve had kids who’d never heard anyone speak openly about the topic come up to me and share their own problems and the problems of family members for the first time in their lives. I’ve received emails from people afterwards that have literally changed my life.
Anyway, enough about me and blowing smoke up my own ass. The point is that even though the talks aren’t the most excellent writing I’ve ever done, I know how to sell them if there’s a crowd wanting to be sold to. But I want to come up with new talks and I don’t know how. And recently I was at a dinner party where someone happened to be talking about a couple he knew who wrote speeches for people—everything from wedding toasts to TED Talks. He put me in touch with them and while I don’t know for sure if we’re going to be working together (I haven’t gotten the final word about the cash I’d have to lay down), I got over this “I’m a writer so of course I should write what I speak” and realized I may well be a writer but I’m not a speech writer and there’s no shame in that.
So I had a fascinating initial call with the guy, where he posed the question about my POV/the inciting incident in my life/my passion. What, he asked, drives me?
It occurred to me that I don’t really know and that this may be a solid clue as to why my public speaking career isn’t more robust. Sure, I talk and write about finding recovery and how it’s nothing like I expected it to be. Yes, I try to do what I can to destigmatize how people view addiction and mental illness. But what does that all add up to? And I finally asked myself something I never had: WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO? Why didn’t I become a lawyer the way my dad told me I should?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I seem to make career moves far more by instinct than by following some well-laid out plan. I think it’s why I’ve published six books on six entirely different topics and in different genres rather than following the sort of clean, clear, concise path so many other authors/podcasters/speakers have. I think my point of view has to do with breaking out of the identities our parents and society and we have saddled ourselves with—not only because we’re constantly evolving but also because no one is any one thing, no matter how much simpler it makes life to believe we are. I think it comes from how much freedom I’ve gotten from realizing I didn’t have to live by other people’s definitions of me and wanting other people to experience that. Was there an inciting incident where I got that? Alas, my life is not a movie. My second act bleeds into my first which seems to have elements of my third act and God knows there have been no musical montages.
Of course it’s hard, if not impossible, to sum up a life POV in a few sentences. Still working it out, folks. But it got me wondering: should we all have a clear point of view or passion in life? And if that’s the case, what’s yours?