From The Green Room: My TEDxBirmingham Speaking Experience


Just less than one year ago, Matthew Hamilton and I first started chatting about the ideas that he and TED Fellow, Sarah Parcak, had for what would be TEDxBirmingham on March 1, 2014. I knew that it was going to take a lot for he, Sarah and the crew of sponsors and volunteers they’d need to gather around their vision, to truly pull this level of a TEDx event off for all of Birmingham to embrace and support.

And they have done just that.

The energy and overall legitimacy of the event that we all ended up experiencing on March 1st, is something that I am quite sure will make a gloCal impact (global and local) for our city of Birmingham.

Quantifying this, will lie in the hands of those who spoke and those who attended, to testify to the takeaways and push out the content from each speaker, to those in their respective spheres of influence gloCally. Views of each video, social tagging and many other testimonial avenues of feedback will further legitimize what happened at March 1st TEDxBirmingham event and what we will do to make it even better next year.

We need people outside of this city AND inside of this city, to see what happened, pass it along and continue to spread the word of what is going on in our metro area to affect change, so that more people will join in on the progressive front that can help us go to where we all know deep inside we need to go to… one true metro area, unified and powerful, as a diverse group of thinkers, doers and achievers.

I felt led to share my notes from my personal talk, so that those who might want to read them, review them or use them as a conversational topic to continue a dialogue with me, can do so.

March 1st TEDxBirmingham Talk Notes: Jim Cavale – Choosing To Face Your Death With Intent

“In 1985, my mother had to do something that most of will not have to do while here on this earth – she had to face her death” [slides of Mom’s story + use journals to illustrate how many years she faced death and hoped to be a part of my life].

Tell mom’s story based on this video I made when she passed on 6.6.12

[Blank Screen]

I’ve learned two things from her that has given me a great deal of clarity.

1. The Rules – “The Book [of Life]”

There is a book being written. And you’re in it. We are all in it.

A. Every life has a chapter

This book has a chapter written on each life that has ever lived on this earth, it has a chapter in writing on each of our lives currently being lived on this earth, and will have a chapter written on each of the lives that will be lived on this earth.

And while there is indeed a lead author for this book… of LIFE… We have each been asked to be a co-author contributor for our chapter, and even a contributing author for the chapter of others in many different direct and indirect ways.

For instance, even though my mother is now dust, she is (not was) but IS, a contributor for my chapter that is currently being written. And it is my hope that I will not only contribute a lot to my chapter, but like her, to the chapters of many others in this world.

B. Some are many pages, while others are merely a paragraph.

Some chapters in this book are a hundred pages long, while others aren’t even one page long – barely a paragraph, for that matter. Of course, none of us want to have a boring or short chapter. However, if we don’t apply the formula.

C. The chapters in this book are what has gotten us to today

What might be the most amazing part of this book, is how the master author uses each chapter like a puzzle, whether it’s a story of immense triumph or tragic terror, to work together in progression. This puzzle has gotten us from ancient times to the middle ages to today, and in between.

D. Legacy Stories – Global “History” + Local “Personal”

The stories and chapters that inspire me most – the stories that have made the biggest impact on this world, are written about lives of those who either had to face their death or chose to face their death, so that they could live their life with the end in mind.

They are local people like my mom, or maybe your mom, or a coach or teacher… People who had or have a healthy urgency to make an impact on us, in ways that lives through us now unto others.

i. GLOBAL: The History Books (w/Slides)

From Martin Luther who had to face death, so that we could hold this book (The Bible) in our hands…

To Martin Luther King, Jr., who 400+ years after Luther and named after Luther, faced death as he lead a movement to force our nation to de-segregate toward equality…

To Steve Jobs who had his most powerful stanza within his chapter of life, when he faced terminal cancer, but created products and a movement that has empowered people to think different (hold up iPhone)…

To Jimmy Valvano who faced death, only to show people what it meant to not only refrain from giving up, but lived out something every minute that I remind myself of today – “Cancer (death) can take away all of my physical abiliites… but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things, are going to carry on forever.”

ii. LOCAL: Our Teachers, Coaches, Parents, Etc…

But here is the thing, despite what many believe, we don’t have to be “world-famous” to change the world. There are more local stories of parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors, who have changed the world locally, than of the MLK’s and Steve Jobs who have changed the world globally.

Success is not defined by getting into the history books that our kids will read, but by actually impacting our kids through action that can live on through them to their kids and beyond. One thing my business partner Forrest Walden has taught me is that do as I say, is NEVER more powerful than Do as I DO. He’s just another contributor to my chapter in this book.

iii. The Commonalities of the Legacy Chapters (lives) in The Book

In addition to helping me see that I am living out a chapter in this book, my mom taught me to see the formula behind the best chapters. Not only the formula behind her chapter, but the formula behind the chapters of Luther, MLK, Jobs, Valvano, Amelia Earheart, Joan of Arc, and the local heroes who we know have made the same impact.

iv. All great stories begin with the end in mind

If we can take a page from the best stories ever written, from Shakespeare to Hollywood and in between, it’s that they were written with the end in mind. What is your epitaph? Ok. So I know some of us don’t HAVE to face death like the preceding examples, but that doesn’t mean we should face our death full force, and decide today, that we will proactively write our chapter as a co-author with the master author.

2. The Formula for Intent (Use Slides)

Who wants to do this? Who wants to write the rest of their story, their chapter? [Raise Hand] I know I do! Here is the formula for you and I to contribute more proactively to our chapter AND the chapter of others. [Define vmv then show how the formula works, and relate it back to your examples].

A. What’s at stake? (Use Slide)

High Intent = Legacy/Impact v. Low Intent = Slow Death/Regrets

B. Time is the unknown, non-discriminatory denominator (Use Slide)

There is one formulaic component to Intent that the author of this book has not allowed us to contribute to as his co-author – TIME. It’s the unknown denominator that holds us accountable.

For those of us who don’t have to face our death because of disease or persecution, we should still have a healthy urgency to face our death and decide what we want our ending to be, because we don’t know how much time we have left [days, years, months, hours, minutes].

C. Challenges For Us To Live By [Two slides of me and the crowd]What role does your story play in this book?

      1. Have you thought about your ending?
      2. What’s your Intent formula? What’s your vmv? [Black Sceen]
      3. Healthy Urgency – We don’t know our clock! – Jimmy V quote – laugh, think and cry every day – enjoy your life.
      4. Be enthusiastic! – Ralph Waldo Emerson quote – “Nothing Great Can Be Accomplished without enthusiasm.”

2 thoughts on “From The Green Room: My TEDxBirmingham Speaking Experience

  1. "Thrill" says:

    Great job buddy! The video was incredible and your notes were something that I have copied and pasted and put into a word document to keep and review.

    Your mother was and is very proud of you… Keep up the great work.

  2. Pingback: Transforming Your Business with Intent | Thoughts from TEDx Birmingham - Legal to English

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