As I prepared my talk at TEDxConcordia last week, I was told by countless people that certain talks would be 'a tough act to follow'. I was told this over and over again in my speaking career. Someone is either about to get on stage or they've been on stage and everyone is buzzing about the talk. This will be the one that nobody wants to follow. The speaker either has an amazing reputation or amazing content that everybody is eagerly awaiting. As someone who is always concerned about being the 'best of breed' on the stage - this used to be a daunting task...especially if I am following that 'tough act to follow'.
But somewhere along the line, I decided to stop being the person who follows the tough act and start BEING the tough act. I thought to myself, "Screw it...Tara Hunt follows nobody...tough or not...I have the ability to set the bar high." And so it went...and I carved my own path. That act that was not an act at all...that would be authentically me. The best me. The VERY best me. No more compromise. No more following. No more act. There would be no comparison because, at the end of the day, I offer something uniquely me. Some people would hate me and some people would love me and there would be nothing in between.
And it spilled into everything else in my life...well mostly everything else. I would be a tough act to follow to everyone around me. And the only reason I was a tough act to follow was that I would no longer compare myself to anyone else. There were no other 'acts'. There would be peers and entrepreneurs and people carving out their own paths, but nothing quite like mine. And there never will be.
People have a tendency to compare. Unless one person is emulating another or copying another, there is rarely a comparison. We have crossovers and similar traits and experiences. We have politics and religions and experiences that may touch others, but at the end of the day, we are unique snowflakes. Yes, you can segment me in certain ways and get me 9 times out of 10, but that doesn't mean you *know* me. And the thing I love most about people I meet is not only how we connect, but how we differ and experience the world.
Being a tough act to follow means that I am going to be the best, most authentic ME available. I drop all pressure about whether you will love me or hate me. I am a divisive person. I know that. I know that there are people that don't like me...for whatever reason. I also know that I will connect deeply with others. And that is what matters to me.
What some call brave or radically transparency, I call ME. The most authentic person I can be is someone that shares her highs and lows to the world. I sometimes wonder why more people don't. I see way more benefits than I do negative consequences. It holds me accountable. It pushes me through the times I feel most vulnerable and alone. And, above all, this transparency helps others feel like they are not alone. I don't know a person throughout history that changed the world who wasn't radically transparent. The passion. The crazy, audacious, delusional dreams splattered wonderfully all over the pages of history. All of that was part of their every day life.
Being a tough act to follow means putting yourself and your beliefs out there in a raw way. Everything that captures us has to do with that. It's not bravery, it's admitting we are human beings living in the human condition in odd, changing, crazy human times. Imagine the world as a place where we could all do that! Where could we go then?
We shouldn't compare ourselves to others, but we CAN be our authentic selves and join those 'tough acts to follow' in being our own tough acts to follow. That's how I became a tough act to follow. And every time I get scared that I don't quite measure up...I recall that there isn't really, truly anything to measure up to other than the best self I can possibly be. Because the toughest act to follow is always my own potential.