How TEDxBeirut revealed the secret ingredient to inspire a team

It’s Friday. The day before TEDxBeirut. I’m driving to the venue. I’ve barely been sleeping for an hour every night for the past week. I’m exhausted, and have little energy left.

Today is the final rehearsal with all the speakers, performers, and production crew. It’s going to be a long and intense day. There’s so much that needs to be done. Too much for just one day.

As I’m driving, I think to myself: “I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the day. I’ll probably go in, and when anyone asks how I am, I’ll reply with ‘Exhausted’. That way, I’ll show them that I’ve been working my ass off. That’ll give me enough attention and energy to keep me going just a little bit more.” I pause, get my thoughts together, and continue:

“Bad idea! We’re all exhausted. Why would I expect myself to be more exhausted than everyone else? Why would I demand attention from everyone else? Bad idea!”

That’s when a smile forms on my face. “I’m OK” I think to myself. “Actually, I feel great! This is what we’ve all been working very hard for. It’s almost here. I’m excited!” And all of a sudden, everything changes.

I arrive at the venue. I’m all hyper and ecstatic. I go inside and start hugging and loving everyone. I can’t get the smile off my face. Everyone smiles back. I can see the light in their eyes. Little do I realize on that day, the effects of my attitude-change on everyone around me.

It’s Saturday. It’s the day of TEDxBeirut. It’s 7:00am. I’m driving to the venue. I’ve only slept for 1hr. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m even beyond exhaustion. It’s as if there are no thoughts in my head. I’m blank. I’m irritated. I don’t have nor the energy, nor the patience to deal with anything that comes my way. And suddenly, I remember the day before.

I remember the attitude change. And for the first time, I realize that by smiling and by being ecstatic yesterday, I was affecting the attitude of everyone around me. I think to myself: “I gotta do this. Everyone is exhausted. If I’m exhausted too, how will we make it through the day? How will we deal with all the problems that’ll arise? How will the audience feel? I gotta be ecstatic and exploding with energy!”

Suddenly, I feel a bust of energy! A smile forms on my face. This energy, along with the smile, both stay with me the whole day. All the way throughout the event. And this has a huge effect on everything. Of course, I wasn’t aware of that during the day. 

At the end of the day, while driving back home, I remember Patrick telling me: “I don’t know why, I can’t help it but smile every time I see you.” I reply automatically without thinking: “Maybe it’s because I’ve been smiling all the time?” That’s when it hit me.

I get a zillion flashbacks from that same day. I remember all the instances when Patrick tells me how I’m inspiring. The instance that Maya tells me how she can feel my energy, and how different that is from others. The instance that Chawki tells me how inspiring I am. All the instances that I’ve spoken to team members, and all of a sudden their eyes spark. All the instances that I’ve briefed a team member who has slept less that I did, and see them jump into action with excitement beyond this world.

That instance, after all those flashbacks, I finally understand what inspiring a team is all about. I’ve been trying to inspire different teams, within and outside of TEDxBeirut for years now. I’ve failed every single time. And now, on the last day of TEDxBeirut, I finally get it.

Inspiring a team isn’t just about being ecstatic, energetic, and passionate. Yes, all these are vital. Yet, a secret ingredient is missing.

To inspire, you have to be under the same, or worst conditions yourself. Please, read this line again.

During the day of TEDxBeirut, I finally managed to inspire, not just because I was full of energy. It’s because I was as tired and as un-slept as everyone else. Yet, I managed to show everyone that even though we’re all exhausted, we can still be full of energy. We can still have a constant and contagious smile. We can still be ecstatic. And when we’re all like this, the crowd can’t help but get infected with this blissful energy. 

I’ve come to learn that inspiring a team might just be this simple and reproducible. To inspire a team to act in a certain way, act yourself in that certain way. And as long as you’re under the same, or worst circumstances than the rest of your team, they’ll get inspired.

Martin Luther King was as black and as mistreated as his community. Gandhi was under worst conditions than his community. And they both inspired big time.

On Friday, that day before TEDxBeirut, I had never imagined that my change of attitude will have such a deep impact. I thank everyone single one of you. You inspired me to inspire.

Yours,
Will

Twitter: @williamchoukeir

 

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