Sometimes I think that the only qualification that puts me in front of an audience rather than in the audience when I'm speaking at conferences is faith. Faith that I belong there. Faith that I actually have something to say. Faith that the organizers knew what they were doing when they hired me. And somehow I continue to be asked to speak in front of more and more audiences. I now have over 80 conferences under my belt and within the next 6 months, that will go into the triple digits. In fact, I speak at so many conferences these days that I had to stop consulting (about a year ago or so) and focus on speaking. I couldn't do both at the pace I was going.
And so it happens that after 80 conferences or so, one gains enough faith that he or she can confidently say, "I'm worth it." But this state is so very fragile. Times change and it only takes a couple of talks with mixed or negative reviews before I'm saying, "Man, I suck. I don't deserve to be here." And it seems that just when I think I'll be okay, I get a call from my speaking agent that the conference organizers didn't like my talk with a list of all the things I need to change about myself and my message to be likeable.
And it's not just speaking careers. Some of the smartest people I know have approached me confidentially to ask what I'm doing right, confessing to me that they are struggling with money and work and negative feedback. These are men and women I believe are 100x smarter and more resourceful than I am. They ask for my advice. Mine! Meanwhile I'm standing in front of my mirror telling myself that I'm good enough, smart enough and dammit, people like me with enough conviction to keep going.
Faith. It's a tough one when discouragement is so plentiful. There is always someone to tell you how wrong you are or how you aren't living in the real world. Not to mention the number of rewards there are for people for taking conventional paths. Some days I wonder if it's a test to see if I'm strong enough. Most of the time I channel Jane McGonigal's work and imagine I'm in a video game and these are merely demons I must battle to get to the next level. If I can just find the potion to summon the super ego booster strength, I can vanquish the doubt-monster and level up! And it works.
I envy those people who were born with a strong sense of entitlement and skin as thick as a castle wall. If only I could find the magic golden gonads, I'd win the game. But I suppose the challenges and setbacks are all part of the learning and growth and if everyone loved me and my message, I would have to worry about being obsolete. The journey is as interesting as the destination at the end of the day.
So if you find yourself discouraged by others while on your path, it just means that you've chosen to live a life extraordinary. There is no map and no guidebook for where you are going and, well, you may very well be headed in the wrong direction...but it's a direction that comes from your soul, so it's worthy. Have faith. It helps me keep mine.