It was 9am on August 18, 2021, when Lisa, the curator of TEDx LehighRiver, suggested that I might fill in for a speaker who had to back out last minute.

The TEDx event was scheduled for September 13th, with rehearsals on the 12th.

Aside from the fact that three weeks is hardly enough time to properly prepare for a TED talk, I had a firm, and unmovable commitment in Williamsburg, VA on the 12th. #TEDxLehighRiver is nearly six hours north, in Pennsylvania. 

“Is it possible do the rehearsal at a different time?” I asked, hoping that would allow me enough time to finish the event and make it up to Pennsylvania, ignoring the fact that I had just three weeks to prepare for a TEDx Talk.

“Email me your idea,” Lisa said, “and we’ll see what we can work out.”

“We’ll see…” So, it’s possible I might be delivering a TEDx Talk in three weeks?!

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you were almost afraid to take the steps toward getting it?

That’s exactly where I was, even as my heart skipped a beat at the thought of possibly getting a second opportunity to share an idea on the TEDx stage, a community I respect greatly.

Later that afternoon, I put my headphones on, laid back, and put on a guided meditation. Twenty-five minutes later, my eyes open, and my hand reached for my phone, furiously capturing a flood of ideas for this talk.

I was inspired.

What opportunity is inspiring you right now?

Just the day before, I had heard a story about gorillas that stopped me in my tracks. I knew that story would be useful, but I had no idea it would be so soon.

Here’s the story, in brief…

A group of researchers tried to work their way into a gorilla camp to study them. Each time, the researchers would gather all their gear (including guns, for safety), and try getting closer to the gorillas… to no avail. This went on for years.

Then, one morning, one of the researchers got up early, gathered all his gear (save for his gun) and headed out to see if he could get closer. Within a few brief moments, the gorillas let him in.

Why is that?

Because he let down his guard… he left his gun behind. 

Let Down Your Guard

From this, my idea was born: By putting down our guard, we foster connection and communities where people of all differences can thrive. 

That’s it, I thought. I’ve got this!

And so, excitedly, I shared my idea with Lisa, thinking she would be elated and ready to welcome me as her newest speaker. 

But, that’s not how it went. She needed a lot more information to work with me under such a tight timeframe, especially if I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the rehearsal. 

Keep Trying Anyway 

Recognizing the absurdity of trying to fit this talk into an already jammed packed scheduled, I kept trying to answer her very pointed, and challenging, questions. 

Each extra moment I had was consumed with thinking, listening, and trying to articulate what she needed to know. And… each email was met with… 

“It probably sounds like I am just continuously repeating myself…or even harping…but without these key ingredients, we don’t have a TEDx talk that you will be proud of and that millions will watch!”

What am I missing? I thought, as I continued to think, listen, reword ideas, and offer different, more business-centric stories to demonstrate the lucrative outcomes achieved when we let down our guard.

Belonging Is Currency, And Health

Companies literally spend $2 billion on cultivating belonging, I thought. 

“Communities rich with belonging are the healthiest in the world,” Dr. Archer, said in an interview as a part of my preparation for this talk.

Still… I could tell I was failing to connect important dots for Lisa.

Meanwhile, by the way, the big event in Williamsburg the day before the TEDx event—a triathlon dedicated to my niece’s birthday—was wreaking havoc on my body. With nerve pain shooting down my left arm, I was relegated to only using my legs.

Yes, I have been swimming without my arms. It’s a very interesting challenge, and probably helping me become a better swimmer in the end, but I digress.

Your Ideas May Never Work: Try Anyway

There I was, now just two-and-a-half weeks from both events, and I didn’t even know if my idea was going to be accepted.

“Why are you continuing to work at this,” Yvette, my wife asked, as I sat in the passenger seat on our drive back from New York.

“Because… I mean, sure… it’s hard to sit in the place of not-knowing if my idea is clear enough, and hearing so much criticism. I feel incredible vulnerable,” I said, “But isn’t that the point of my talk? This is me… letting down my guard, physically and intellectually.” 

What about You? What’s the point of landing the opportunities You are craving? 

Enjoy The “Trying” And You’ll Always Succeed

If you can answer that, then the results matter Less, if at all… which frees you to enjoy the journey of Trying. 

For me, in the case of the TEDx Talk at LehighRiver, each time I tried to answer Lisa’s questions I felt immense joy. It was fun to dance with the Divine, as ideas—about a topic I love—poured in. I was also thankful to build a real relationship with someone I respected. 

At 5pm on August 26th–yesterday, I received a phone call from Lisa. This was the moment I was waiting for… was it enough? Was she confident that we (her reputation was on the line too) could pull this off? 

“Misti, my heart wants to move forward… to believe that we can pull this off. My TED-curator self knows that we need more time to get this right,” she said. 

Stave Off Disappointment Until The Learning Opportunity Is Done

A sucker for learning, and recognizing this TEDx Talk wasn’t going to happen… at least not in two weeks, I put a pause on my feelings of disappointment and asked Lisa, “What’s missing? What aren’t you hearing?” 

The learning continued, and so did the deepening of a new friendship.

“Give me a day and a half,” Lisa said, “to set up our next conversation… I want to help you flesh this out, and I won’t be able to sleep if we don’t put a date on the calendar.”

I assured her that I would not let her forget, and then I started helping her promote the event.

If you are anywhere near Bethlehem, PA, get your ticket today… it’s going to be a remarkable event! 

Before I close out, let me ask you this… did I fail?

Here’s to your greatness, 

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been facilitating communication that results in trust and connection for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit