Today is a little milestone: my first (and thus far only) TEDx talk—Dying IN Peace to Die AT Peace: New Terms of Engagement—has been accessed 1,000 times. Small by internet standards; a mold spore as compared to a virus. Yet 1,000 people is still a sizable number of people to touch.
I had hoped for the talk to get swept up by “the mothership”—TED itself, added to the Death category, listing at this writing only 14 entries, few of which provide actionable guidance on dying. Placement there guarantees a global audience.
Independent TEDx talks have to excel in delivery and production quality in order to make the TED big time; only a tiny percentage make it. It’s a placement worth aspiring to.
1,000 thousands equals one million. I’m reminded of a million because my father mentioned it during one of our last visits before he died. I’d travelled cross-country to help him downsize before moving out of the condo he’d shared with Mom until she died unexpectedly a year prior. One night we were hanging at the kitchen table—command central and chemical life support (“pills”) dispensary—when he said, “Bart, do you know, I have only one regret.” Ever wry, I countered, “Only one? What is it?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “that I can’t leave you and your sister as millionaires.”
I was dumbstruck; whatever response I uttered was inadequate to Dad’s admission of this goal.
What an amazing comment! It evoked in me wonder, gratitude, and some sadness. Wonder and gratitude for Dad’s generosity; sadness that he hadn’t set a more personally enriching goal. But I understood. A twentieth century Greatest Generation lower middle class guy, he’d bootstrapped himself up to a solid, secure, self-made retirement. My folks were never fancy but wanted for nothing, and they met their retirement goals (for example, they owned a motorhome for some years in which they toured the lower 48 and Canada). He’d come from behind: his college years were interrupted by World War II and a decades-long lag time before receiving his Bachelor’s in electrical engineering impacted his earnings severely despite his workplace brilliance. At 50 he and Mom bought a Sir Speedy instant printing franchise and he applied an engineer’s approach to its operation. He also emerged as a very personable man.
Weeks after that visit I emailed Dad, writing that maybe not in his lifetime, but in mine, the inheritance my sister and I would split might grow to that million (nine years on I can say it’s unlikely…).
But wouldn’t it be something to touch a million people with my work? Hence my aspiration for a talk on dying in peace alongside others addressing death in a venue that’s easily found by hundreds of thousands worldwide.
Dying in peace is a tough topic to broach in 18 minutes—or 30, 60 or 90. I struggle with it constantly, especially since I’m intent on providing actionable guidance (distinct from merely inspirational stories). As I apply for next TEDx opportunities I’m pondering a hugely challenging shift in how I approach crafting the next talk.
Just one shot in a 1,000 X 1,000.