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The Power of Intention: My Experience at TED

So, the Pope, Serena Williams, Lisa Genova, and Elon Musk walk into a bar….

I haven’t yet figured out the perfect witty punch line to follow that setup, but the four of us can be found together in a different kind of sentence which tickles me just as much as any joke. Our TED talks are the first talks posted to from TED2017 in Vancouver.

I had the extraordinary experience of attending and speaking at the TED conference last week. In the haze of my TED hangover, I’m beginning to realize how changed I am by it all. The speakers were brilliant, creative, innovative, passionate, and compassionate, introducing ideas and conversations and missions that will likely change the world in important, exciting, often stunningly beautiful, and necessary ways. I wept in awe several times, bearing witness to excellence and heroism and the ways in which we’re all connected. I felt cracked open to bigger possibilities, drunk on inspiration, energized to live my life with even greater purpose.

While I was mesmerized by every talk for the first day and a half, there was the looming issue of my own talk. I’ve been speaking about Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases and conditions in front of small and large audiences for years. So you might think that a TED talk would be a piece of cake.

Not even close!

TED is a different kind of beast. Instead of having an hour with plenty of room to relax and run, I had 13 minutes. Less is harder. Much harder.

And then there’s the psychological terror. TERROR, I tell you. If I bomb a talk in Fresno, CA, for example, that dreadful experience stays with the people of Fresno who unfortunately had to endure that debacle (thankfully, this has never happened). On the other hand, if for some reason I were to bomb my TED talk, one of two things could happen: 1. It was such an epic catastrophe, TED decides not to publish it, or 2. It’s not a total catastrophe, so TED does publish it, and the entire world gets to see me kind of suck it.

So there was an unsettling amount of anxiety and fear of public humiliation brewing in my body prior to my talk. I told my beloved Joe, “If I go down for any reason, you jump up and finish my talk!” Because what if I pass out on that red dot? I was planning for all contingencies. I was somewhat amused and comforted to notice that speakers far more accomplished and brilliant in their respective fields were as freaked out as I was. We were newfound friends in this strange TED land together.

The night before my talk, I was on the phone with stylist George Brescia, fretting about what I was going to wear, of all things (as a woman, does this ever end?), and he gave me something much better than fashion advice, words of wisdom that very likely saved my TED ass. He said, “Get clear on your intention.” And I immediately got teary, because in that moment, the real reason for that phone call revealed itself.

I sat down and put pen to paper without thinking, editing, or stopping until I was done. An enormous, loving thank you to George for reminding me to align with my spirit, that ‘it’s not about me,’ for getting my head and heart on straight. Hopefully, when you watch my TED talk, which thankfully was not a catastrophe, you’ll feel my intention.

Here it is, the intention and the talk:

My intention for my TED talk tomorrow:

To teach the people in the audience what we know about the neuroscience of Alzheimer’s,

to explain to them what we can do about preventing it.

To be clear and animated, dynamic and interesting.

To show people that Alzheimer’s isn’t inevitable,

that they can have control over their brain health,

that even if they get Alzheimer’s someday, they are still human beings worthy of love and joy.

I intend to ENJOY it and feel the awe and gratitude of BEING here.

I intend to be super present, to be in conversation with this audience, to love them and feel loved by them,

to inspire them to live better,

to inspire them to keep loving their loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

To give a talk I will forever be enormously proud of,

to make my nana giggle with pride.

I am so excited, so grateful, so ready for this BIG, wonderful, beautiful opportunity to connect with so many people!!!

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