Jun. 12, 2020 11:30 am

Talking about change, and fighting through it, on the TEDx stage

Guest columnist Jennifer Robinson always wanted to give a TEDx talk. Neither a terrible accident nor a pandemic were enough to keep her from achieving her goal.

Jennifer Robinson.

(Courtesy photo)

This guest post was written by Jennifer Robinson, the CEO of Purposeful Networking.
Twelve years ago I was involved in a very serious accident in University City where I was pinned under a truck as a pedestrian.

As you can imagine, every aspect of my life was turned upside down as I dealt with a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, serious physical injuries and many surgeries. At the time I was litigator and a newlywed but I had to give up my career and my life due to the challenges that followed the accident. I went through years of recovery and finding my identity again.

I have been involved in volunteering and community endeavors since elementary school. So at some point I realized one of the things I needed to do was to get out of my own head and help others again. It is hard to wallow and be self-absorbed when you are dealing with people and causes that make your own problems look small.

Volunteering is always a win/win because it truly helps you as much as it helps others.

As I went through my journey I became focused on how people withstand such trauma and disruption in their lives. If you talk to someone, there is always a story. Maybe it is not the story of getting pinned under a truck but it is equally challenging.

People go through the death of someone close to them, divorce, job loss, health issues and more. I began to wonder why some are able to change and develop the skills to move on and build a better life and others are not.

I had started a consulting business after not being able to litigate anymore, and I was encouraged to accept a “new normal” that may not involve public speaking again even though that is what I enjoy most.

Fast forward — as I recovered I have grown my business into one that centers on speaking and training.

Along the way my biggest professional goal was to do a TEDx talk. My husband, to this day, does not understand why I became so fixated on this goal, but to me this was the pinnacle of my journey back. To stand on that stage and share my story and message to others going through disruption in their own lives would really mean the world to me.

I applied for years and was rejected multiple times. This did not deter me because I am very persistent and determined and I had a singular goal in mind to be on that TEDx stage.

Late last year I got my wish and my TEDx talk was scheduled for March 17, 2020 at the University of Arkansas. But there were still more hurdles to overcome — as the country shut down the week of my scheduled talk and the news said that no one should fly unless absolutely necessary. “Stay at home” was the call.

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I never thought I’d be giving my TEDx talk in an empty studio during a pandemic but that’s exactly what I did since it wasn’t safe to fly. It was not the experience I had dreamt of for years with my big stage moment and the accolades … but that doesn’t make the message less true.

People are dealing with losing loved ones, being furloughed or fired from jobs and unbelievable financial stressors. It turns out the pandemic was the perfect time to release this talk. I hope that you will watch it and gain something helpful from it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdiO5eA-uX0]

I would also encourage you to virtually volunteer right now. The need is great and there are so many things you can do right from your home. I have personally offered career advice and tips through Career Wardrobe and JEVS virtually, right from my home.

Some of my favorites of the programs I have seen are the adopt-a-grandparent programs where you can stay in touch via cards, letters or video with seniors in nursing homes. They can’t have any visitors yet and could really use the interaction. You can also virtually adopt a high school senior that could not have a graduation.

Do something that brings meaning to your time right now and I guarantee it will help you as much as it helps those in need.


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