I threw up on the stage and I think it might have been a mistake to do that.
When they made the introduction to me, I was sitting so nobody could see me. At that point I took a swig of Coca-Cola.
Then when I walked on stage my mouth was still filled with the Coke but I made sounds like I was clearing my throat.
I even hold up my finger as in “wait a second”.
And then I leaned over. Put my hands on my knees. Cleared my throat some more and then opened my mouth and made a retching sound as brown liquid fell out and onto the floor and a nearby trash can.
There was dead silence. As in “What…the…” sort of silence.
Public speaking is scary. I’m terrified every time I have to speak in public. Plus I had a rough week.
Just that morning we had been informed by AirBnB that apparently we had destroyed the last place we stayed in and now were in some sort of “AirBnB jurisdiction” while they mediated.
With that on my mind my big idea in the speech was to throw up. I only had vague ideas what I would do after that.
I always figure MY ENTIRE LIFE IS MY PREPARATION.
I don’t like to use any crutches that come from the past (a powerpoint, for instance). After living every day for 46 years I go on the stage and speak with everything I’ve got.
I get asked to speak at a lot of talks. I’m speaking in Dallas on May 31. I’m going to speak at TEDxSanDiego on November 1. I think I’m speaking August 1 in San Francisco. I just got asked to speak at some conference in Moscow.
I saw an interview Tim Ferriss gave on Chase Jarvis Live. I was watching it because tomorrow I interview Tim for my podcast.
Tim said he strives to be “different” rather than “better”.
That’s a good distinction. It’s hard to know what “better” means. Particularly in something subjective, which most activities (public speaking, cooking, writing, acting, dating, loving, etc) are.
It’s so much easier to think about what “different” might mean.
People will remember how you make them feel and not what you say. Ask any student 45 minutes after a class lecture and most studies show he will not remember a single fact in the lecture.
People will also remember the beginning and the end and not the middle. These are two important things to know about speaking. So I try to open with impact and uniqueness. It also has to be meaningful.
So throwing up had to mean something. It had to be the sum of my 46 years of knowledge up until that one moment.
Louis CK writes his act from scratch every year. Poker players are always trying to play in confusing ways so as not to let the other players figure out a “tell” or pattern in their play.
We are all trying to be unique, to stand out, to look at things with new eyes.
I then spoke for thirty minutes. I made people laugh. I told people what was making me scared in life today. I told people about when I’ve been most scared and what I did about it.
I also told everybody they were going to die.
All of the evidence suggests I’m never going to die. Statistically, I’ve survived for about 15,000 days give or take so there’s no reason to think I’m ever going to die.
But also statistically (and statistics can be manipulated any way I want. I’m a professional at that) I know that everyone in the room, and everyone reading this, will die.
So today, treat everyone you meet as if they will die tomorrow. The cashier at the register. The little girl walking across the street. Your family. Your friends. If they die tomorrow, listen to what their last words are today.
“Last words” are revered in our society. Like they are infused by some god who knows this is His final chance to convey a message through the voices of everyone you encounter.
When I threw up at that talk and there was dead silence I didn’t know what to do next. I was afraid. I looked up and not a single person was laughing, so I held up my hands up and said, “Now we’re friends.”
And they were. And for the next thirty minutes we laughed and we talked. And maybe, just a little, I got my message across.