I’ve been talking about taking risks a lot. Well, suffice to say that speaking in front of 300 people (with the video likely to reach, um, ten times that) was a huge risk for me!
Last Tuesday, March 12th, I made my way to the El Rey (right in my old neighborhood) to talk to friends, fam and other lululemon lovers about turning tragedy into triumph.
And I won’t sugar coat it: I was scared shitless!
I’d memorized the 7-minute speech backwards and forwards. Public speaking is not my strong suit, so I have to work ten times as hard as a normal person just to be able to stand in front of people. Though I taught in Japan for nearly two years, I experienced the stomach-fluttering pangs of nervousness every single time I taught a class. When I gave a speech at my best friend’s wedding last June, my hands trembled while I clutched the text for dear life. When I spoke at the fundraiser for my therapy center on the quake, I broke down right in the middle.
Somehow, though, I was more nervous on Tuesday than I’d ever been before. My super goal-speech-mentor coach Caitlin Wharton reminded me time and again to not memorize a well-written, polished speech, but to just get up and tell the people I loved my story.
So that’s what I did.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone. I was one of nine who spoke that night, and they were all incredible. I was fourth in the lineup and my two amazing coworkers, Michelle Greathouse and Sabrina Madden, inspiringly spoke before me. When it was my turn, I was ready.
Right before the event started, I turned my head to the right and saw the freaking-amazing Susanne Conrad sitting just rows behind us. I’ve talked about Susanne in this blog (here), only because she’s like, so unbelievably awesome and a true hero of mine. Her title at lululemon? Director of Possibility. She’s the reason we post our goals in the store, why we are taught how to make a ten-year vision, and a huge force in the company that allows us to dream big.
I leaned toward Michelle and said, “Holy crap – Susanne Conrad is here!”
“Shut up!” she said. “Stop talking to me!” Haha. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous.
When it was my turn to speak, I tried to forget that Susanne was there. For about three seconds before I began, I felt totally paralyzed. The speech flew out of my mind and I just stared at all of the pairs of eyes looking up at me. Luckily, the beautiful Jacki Carr started my first slide and all of it (well, most of it) came back to me.
I think I completely blacked out up there. I remember saying the words, I remember seeing my huge slides appear behind me. I remember catching the glimpses of a few people who were there for me, like my aunt. But I remember very little else. The next thing I knew, people were clapping and I was getting off the stage. “That was so, so beautiful,” Caitlin said as I returned to my seat.
Finally, I relaxed.
During intermission, we danced to The Show Ponies and I received more hugs than I’ve ever gotten in my life. “This is like the most amazing birthday party ever,” I told my best friend, “except it ‘s not my birthday!” I felt so supported – my whole family and tons of friends were there, and my sweet lulus had come in droves. A girl I knew from middle school had seen my post on facebook and actually came! People I’d never met in my life came up to me to thank me and I got facebook messages and tweets from strangers in the week that followed.
Did my ego get a boost? No. I just felt flattered and humbled.
In my speech, I talked about the quake and the six-day journey out of Japan. My second to last slide is a photo of my friend Brian and me, standing in the ocean in Honolulu during a layover on our way back to LA. We’d been through so much at that point that we were willing to shell out the nearly $70 cab fare just to stick our feet in the water for a few minutes. We also had, um, several drinks at the airport bar.
“You can’t tell in this photo,” I said during my speech, “but I’m wearing a hiked-up pair of Groove Pants.” I gestured to the Groove Pants I was wearing, which were the same pair. “These Groove Pants, actually. And I don’t know what it is that’s so freaking comforting about black stretchy yoga pants, but I wore those suckers everyday after the quake.”
I tried not to get choked up. I’d practiced so many times, but I still felt the tears coming. Luckily, I held it together.
“I didn’t know that one sanctuary with the word ‘lulu’ in it,” I said, “would lead to a different kind of sanctuary with the word ‘lulu’ in it – with you, here, tonight – my lululemon family.”
I’m not here to make anyone into a convert. But I will say this – there’s something about a company who cares about its employees stories, even if those employees are technically on the bottom of the totem pole. For me, working at lululemon has been such a huge part of turning tragedy into triumph. When I sought out the job, it had nothing to do with the clothes. I wanted to help people feel good about their bodies and I wanted to be in the health and fitness field. But more than that, I wanted to be a part of an amazing team. I wanted to feel a deep bond with my coworkers and do work I believed in. Mostly, I wanted to have fun. I’d spent too much time in jobs where I’d felt miserable.
And to my total delight, that has happened. Every single day, I dance and connect and laugh my butt off.
The bond I feel with these people has far surpassed what I’d even imagined. They truly are my second family.
A professional video with clips of the speeches should be posted soon – and yes, you’d better believe I’ll share it here!
This year is going to be a big, fat one – filled with goals and risks (and triumphs and tragedies, I am sure). This blog will be a huge part of it, so stay tuned and thanks for sharing the journey with me thus far. I can’t believe Small Life, Slow Life is almost a year old already!
Love you guys! xoxo Jen