Back in October, I had to chance to speak again at Ignite Waterloo (#13). This was Ignite’s first alumni event, where all the speakers had previously talked at a prior event. Tonnes of great talks, many with the general theme of personal development. They recently posted all the videos online, mine of which is here:

While my nervousness was a little more apparent than I had hoped (I have a love/hate relationship with public speaking), I still had a blast and was a great experience talking about some very personal stuff. Afterwards I had a bunch of folks come up and give feedback/congrats on the talk, which was great, everyone was pretty supportive.

As with any Ignite talk, you try and prepare the best you can, some folks go by general talking points, while others (like myself) wrote blurbs to go along with each slide. With this approach, I find that sometimes you end up being too wordy when you’re in front of the crowd, or you can’t always account for pauses (laughing, applause, technical issues, etc). I ended up leaving out or shortening bits during my actual talk to compensate.

Since I’m better at typing words rather than speaking them, I wanted to post the actual text of my talk online to help clarify what I was trying to get across. My talk slides (minus the awesome Lego intro) are here: Stop Spectating Your Own Life (Ben Brown)

1. Hi, my name is Ben Brown. I’m a freelancer and a longtime director at Kwartzlab Makerspace in downtown Kitchener. My last Ignite talk was about trashing road signs as a way to encourage people to think behind the wheel. Today my talk is about encouraging you to stop thinking – and just do.

2. I’m sure everyone here has heard the phrase people never change. I don’t believe that entirely. I mean sure, it’s difficult or maybe even impossible to change your personality, but that’s not the only thing you can do. Some of the easier changes you can make are to your circumstances and surroundings.

3. This past March, during a camping trip, I fell and split my head open. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and between the 9 staples and wicked concussion that resulted, I don’t remember much either, except for a doctor telling me that I could have easily not woken up, ever.

4. Fast forward a week later I was at the clinic to get the staples taken out, and I started to seriously think about what that doctor said and what life I would have left behind, and I started to get depressed about it. This part was nothing new, I’ve been depressed practically my entire life.

5. Except over the next couple weeks I really started to dwell on the fact that I was seriously unhappy with how my life had progressed. At the time I was drowning in projects and obligations, I hated my sketchy apartment, and I was keeping secrets about my life away from my closest friends and family that were preventing me from living happily.

6. Worst of all, I knew that I allowed things to get this way, as if I just decided to stop participating and was now sitting on the sidelines of my own life. I dwelled even more on it and started having some very dark thoughts about it all, which were scaring the crap out of me.

7. It was at this point, I realized that things needed to change, immediately. There was no time to pass go or to collect 200 dollars. It was time for me to get off the bench before something bad happened. I needed a strategy.

8. In spaces like Kwartzlab, we have a concept called the do-ocracy, where if a person talks about something they would like to change, they’re encouraged to do it themselves. Do-ocracy is in part meant to discourage another concept called bike shedding, an example of which

9. would be a group that spends so much time talking about what colour the new bike shed should be, they never actually get around to building the thing. Do-ocracy on the other hand, focuses on action with minimal yet useful planning.

10. This concept has more or less worked well at Kwartzlab, so I started applying it to all sorts of things, what I do at the space, even other work, events I’ve been involved with, but never to my own life, and that was the strategy I needed.

11. To start, I took that meticulously crafted list of things that sucked and converted it into a todo list. It became my blueprint for change. The morning after I made an appointment to talk to a counselor about depression for the first time in my life, which has been great.

12. It’s allowed me to work through problems without grinding down my friendships instead, and I didn’t stop there. I got back onto the ketogenic diet that I had abandoned when I had my accident and have lost 70lbs and counting since the beginning of the year.

13. I handed off the stressful projects and commitments that were going nowhere and causing me to go bald. I may not have done that one early enough. I put my notice in about vacating my crappy, crumbling apartment before I even knew we where I’d end up at the end of the month. The landlord was not thrilled.

14 and 15. The most difficult one of all though, was the one I was dreading for two decades. And that was to come out as gay to my oldest friends and family, at 32. To work up the courage, I spent a few evenings watching a wide assortment of coming out videos on YouTube, and after one such evening, I got out of the chair, jumped into my car and started that terrifying process, the brunt of which lasted about 3 weeks, this past May. I talked to my family first, then my oldest friends, and then my extended family. And after all is said and done, everyone was extremely supportive, even the people I wasn’t quite sure about. I had finally done it, and it felt awesome.

16. Now all these changes have been things I’ve wanted to do for years, even decades. So why did I wait so long? I’m sure I could blame a good chunk of that on depression, I had plenty of excuses: I couldn’t afford it, I waited too long, I didn’t wait long enough. I didn’t want to inconvenience others.

17. The reality of it though, was I needed to learn to recognize when I was putting myself on that bench, regardless of what was causing it, and take appropriate action. Am I still depressed? Yeah, that will never go away. But by just doing, instead of analyzing, I have a lot less in my life to be depressed about.

18 and 19. And now, it’s your turn. If you’ve wanted to make a change in your life, stop waiting on it and, just do it. If you’ve wanted to lose weight for years, go home and toss out the junk food. If you hate your apartment, put in your notice tomorrow and start hunting anew. If you’re depressed, seriously talk to someone about it. And if you’re gay, bisexual or transgendered, stop waiting for permission to be who you really are and come out, there’s so much more space for living on the outside of the closet.

20. Embrace the do-ocracy. Do not settle for being a spectator in your own life, because without you, the game doesn’t move forward. Thank you.