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Jessica Ekstrom

Jessica Ekstrom is the creator of Headbands of Hope. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research. Since Headbands of Hope launched in April 2012, it has been featured on the Today Show, TOMS Shoes Blog, Fitness Magazine and more. But more importantly, they’ve been able to donate thousands of headbands to girls across the nation who deserve them.They even expanded it into a brother line for boys called Headwear of Hope. To purchase your headband visit: www.headbandsofhope.com.

What I Learned from My TEDx Talk

In all honesty, I didn’t sleep a lick the night before my TEDx talk. Every time my eyes would start to close, I’d envision my clicker suddenly crumbling in my hands, or the audience in blank stares after I throw out my best joke. It also didn’t help that I had lost my voice a day before from a head cold.

As a professional speaker, I still get the occasional jitters before I go on any stage, big or small. I like that it gives me butterflies because it means that I care. But these weren’t butterflies, these were pterodactyls.

I realized my nerves weren’t coming from the size of the event (it was capped off at 100 people and I’ve spoken to an audience of 20,000 before) but rather the title of giving a “TEDx” talk. It felt like that time in elementary school when I was promoted from the class helper to school safety patrol. I was still doing the same tasks, but now there was an orange sash with a shiny badge and the title of being “safety patrol.” Helping the first graders get on the bus seemed so much more important when I was wearing my orange sash.

TEDx was my orange sash…and shiny badge.

The actual talk itself went by in what felt like a few seconds (it was actually 12 minutes and 10 seconds to be exact). Afterwards, I had a flood of students share their support with me and one even asked me to sign his TEDx book (totally my first autograph).

Of course, my mom poured her compliments and support after. But I could have gone up there and rapped the alphabet and she would have said I was better than Jay Z. Thanks, Mom.

But honestly, I couldn’t even remember what I said. The whole thing was a blur and waiting for the footage to be released was about to push me over the edge (even though it only took like a week).

When I opened the video for the first time, it had been uploaded the night before and was at 609 views. I watched it and, of course, critiqued every move I made. But overall, I was pleased.

The video started to be shared and spread upon release. I immediately started to receive countless emails and texts and phone calls from people who watched it.

But here’s where I made the mistake: I didn’t even take the time to appreciate the feedback because I was so obsessed with the number of views and “likes”.

A handful of my thoughts throughout the day: Why is it stuck at 609? Refresh page. Refresh page. I’ve gotten 39 “likes” and 2 “dislikes.” WHO DISLIKED IT?! Refresh page. Refresh page.

…you get the picture.

I was completely ignoring the whole point of doing a TEDx talk in the first place: to inspire someone.

Sure, it would be nice if millions of people watched my video and it lit a fire in them to get up and do something. But contrary to the viral effect, I don’t need my TEDx talk to get hundreds of thousands of views in order to cross it off as a win. I need one person to watch it and be inspired to take action in the world.

One of the people that reached out to me after watching my talk was a parent I used to babysit for years ago. He said he was glad I was a part of his kids’ lives and he wants to encourage his children to model their lives after mine. Another email was from a stranger who saw my talk on TEDxGlobal and she said I gave her hope that one person can make a difference, no matter  their age or experience they have.

In my talk, I speak about how we need to stop judging impact only through numbers. We need to put a face and a story to every act of philanthropy or service we do. We need to focus on the lives we’ve helped, not the numbers we haven’t reached yet.

The biggest mistake I made was ignoring my own advice. I spent my energy focusing on the growth of a number and not on the people I had already impacted.

Sure, our views can be measured with a number. But our impact can only be measured by the individual people who choose to take what they just heard and infuse it in their lives.

For me, I choose the latter.


Watch the TEDx Talk HERE.