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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The surprising truth about rejection | Cam Adair | TEDxFargo

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Translator: Leonardo Silva Reviewer: Mile Živković

Growing up, I was a fairly normal Canadian kid.


My day consisted of me going to school, playing hockey,

and then going home to play video games.

I was a talented hockey player,

I had friends,

and I was even able to flirt with girls a little bit.


I was happy.

In fact, I was so happy

that my nickname growing up was "Smiley,"

as you can see.

But then, that all changed,

and it changed when I began to experience rejection in my life.

The first time I was rejected by a girl, I was 11 years old -


in the 6th grade.

It was by a girl named Amanda, who I had a crush on.

My family lived in a home by a lake, in Calgary, Canada.

So, naturally, being in Canada,

the lake would freeze over during the winter,

or, as we like to call it, nine months of the year.

With Valentine's Day coming up,

I decided I was going to ask Amanda to be my Valentine.

So, I conjured up a plan with her friends to leave her at the other end of the lake,

so I could skate over like the knight in shining hockey gear I was,

and ask her that all-important question when you're 11 years old.

Nervous, yet excited,

I skated over and, when I got there, I told her I had a question to ask

and, even though I could have waited four more days,

so she had to say yes,

I wanted to know the real answer,

"Will you be my Valentine?"

She looked over at me, and with confidence said,

"No. Sorry."

And she skated off.


Instant pain shot to my chest as my heart broke for the first time.

And I remember standing there in shock for a few minutes,

and I remember thinking that this -

this would be a night I would never forget.

I had been rejected.

Two years later, I was in the 8th grade.

There was a new hockey program starting up

where all the top hockey players in my city would go to a school together.

During the day, we'd go to class with all the other school kids

and, after the class,

we'd have extra ice time with top-level coaches and trainers.

That sounds amazing, right?

It wasn't.

Because I played hockey with a lot of kids,

the year started off well.

Hockey is such an important sport in Canada,

and that allowed me to become a member of the "popular kids."

Unfortunately, this didn't work out how I thought it would.

Although I was a member of the popular kids,

as the year went on, I began to notice that I was the one who was the outcast.

I was the one not invited to parties,

the one who began to be picked on.

It was weird because on my hockey teams, all of these kids were friends with me,

but, at school, it was as if I didn't even matter.

And it only got worse.

Eventually, the bullying got so bad

that the fun game to play was, "Can we put Cam in a garbage can?"

Every day at lunch time,

a group of 9th graders would gang up and chase me around the school,

trying to put me in a garbage can.

I would kick, and scream, and squirm, and do everything in my power

because every ounce of self-worth that I had left

depended on me not being put in that garbage can.

I was in the 8th grade, and still, I was rejected.

Two years later, I was 15,

and I had just made the hockey I had always dreamed of.

Shortly after making the team, we had a game in Red Deer, Alberta,

two hours from my hometown.

After the game, we got on the team bus to head back home.

And, tired from the game,

I was lying down in the back seat, listening to music,

when one of the assistant coach's sons, who had accompanied us on the trip,

came and started poking fun of me.

Tired from the game

and exhausted from years of dealing with this type of stuff,

I decided to just ignore him.

As he noticed that he wasn't getting a reaction from me,

he escalated it further.

"Just keep ignoring him, just keep ignoring him."

So, he escalated it further to the point where he began to spit on me.

He started to spit on me.

I didn't know what to do.

Part of me wanted to go beast-mode on this kid,

but instead -

instead, I froze,

and for the next hour, I laid crouched in fetal position,

holding on to a picture of a girl I had a crush on, named Lindsay,

because I knew the only thing that was going to get me through that experience

was the strength her picture could give me.

I made the hockey team and, still, I was rejected.

I was rejected by a girl, by a classroom, and by my hockey team,

but to me, it was bigger than that

because I felt rejected by people in general.

I felt unaccepted, unwelcome, and I felt unsafe.

I felt like I didn't matter.

All I wanted was to be accepted, but here I was - not.

Most importantly, I felt confused.

Why was I the one being rejected?

Why was I the one being bullied?

Why me?

Here I was, a talented hockey player, an important member of the team -

why me?

Here I was, a smart kid, a loyal friend -

why me?

Here I was, a nice kid who would treat any girl like a princess -

why me?

And, for years, that's the question I struggled to answer,

"Why me?"

Having these experiences and so many others

caused me to isolate myself away.

I decided to just try and ignore it, to escape.

So, I would play video games up to 16 hours a day.

I dropped out of high school twice,

and I retired from hockey, the game I loved more than anything else.

I just wanted to be accepted.

I knew I had so much more potential inside,

but I felt paralyzed, and I felt apathetic.

Nobody else seemed to care about me, so why would I care about me?

I was 18, with no real sense of direction.

So, after two years of struggling to figure out why me,

I decided I had to make a change.

I had to change the way this was going. I just couldn't do it anymore.

And, in a moment of inspiration,

I decided to ask myself a different question,

"If I could change this circumstance, if I could change my situation,

would I?

If I could learn how to make new friends, would I?

If this was actually possible, if I could actually do it,

would I do it?"

And, with every ounce of my being, I knew that, yes, I would.

So, I made a commitment to myself:

I was going to change this situation,

I was going to learn to make new friends,

I was going to learn to be happy again,

to smile again.

So, I set off on a journey.

I didn't really know what I was doing, so I approached it like a big experiment.

I would experiment until I learned what I needed to learn.

To make friends, I needed to meet more people.

So, I started going out,

which led me to go out every single night for three years.

It wasn't to party, though.

So, I did it sober and I kept a journal of lessons I was learning.

I made significant progress

and I felt more comfortable talking to people,

but there was still one problem.

Even after going out for three years, I was still lonely,

and that's when I learned that loneliness doesn't come from knowing a lot of people;

it comes from a lack of intimate connections.

Even though I knew more people, I didn't really know anyone.

Sure, I could give them a high five at a night club,

but that was the extent of our relationship.

I needed to take these connections deeper.

So, I spent the next two years learning that,

and that happened by being curious and asking better questions.

It happened by being vulnerable and asking for help,

because that created an opportunity for us to bond together.

And it happened by getting to know other people's stories

and being willing to let them get to know mine.

To be happy, I started doing things I was proud of.

I always wanted to learn how to DJ, so I did.

A few friends and I bought equipment, and it became a passion.

I always knew I wanted to learn how to DJ, but I'd simply never taken a leap to try.

Taking a leap made feel proud, and I was happier because of it.

At my job, I hated asking for permission to take the weekend off.

I wanted to be spontaneous and set my own schedule.

So, I quit and I launched my own business.

I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't have a college degree,

I didn't have any mentors,

so I focused on learning what I needed to learn.

It wasn't easy, though, and I failed a lot.

In the fall of 2012, I took a trip to Bolder, Colorado,

to meet other entrepreneurs who were pursuing their dreams.

As soon as I got there, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be,

but, if I was to move to Colorado,

that would mean that my girlfriend and I would have to do long-distance.

So, I got scared and I went back home for a few months

to figure out what I really wanted to do,

but, truthfully, I was just terrified.

The day after I got home, there was a blizzard.

It was cold, and I was miserable.

So, I got on a plane and flew to Costa Rica.


What else was I supposed to do?


I'll never forget it:

I was sitting at this cafe in San José, having a morning coffee,

and I was reading a book,

and the first line of a chapter said,

"Oh, so you thought by traveling you could run away from your problems?"


What else was I supposed to do?


"Oh, so you thought by traveling you could run away from your problems?

But you realized that your problems are within you,

so they come with you wherever you go."

That's exactly what I was doing.

I was in Costa Rica, running away from my problems.

The trip was supposed to last for 40 days, and it lasted 12,

and those 12 days were full of stress and anxiety,

and I spent the last week of it in a hotel room in Dominical,

waiting to go home.

I was terrified.

So, I flew back to Canada and felt like a failure.

Five days later, my girlfriend broke up with me.

It's funny how these things work sometimes.

Here I was, my business is failing -

my trip to Costa Rica, a disaster -

and now, my girlfriend leaves.

I felt like a total loser and like I was back to square one.

So, I spent the next four months developing courage,

and finally moved to Bolder, Colorado, in April of last year,

and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Yes, the environment was fantastic;

yes, the friends I made were great;

but truthfully it was the decision to take the leap and have the courage to do it

that made the difference,

to honor something inside I knew I wanted to do,

but had ever done.

Your passions may not be DJ'ing, or traveling, or working for yourself.

Whatever they are, pursue them.

It will make you feel proud and it will make you feel happier.

My friend Alexi Panos says,

"Don't follow your bliss. Be your own bliss."

Finally, I learned that rejection is a compass.

It teaches you what you don't want so you can learn what you do.

My friend Preston Smiles says,

"Out of our biggest rejection comes our biggest sense of direction."

Six months after moving to Colorado, I booked a plane ticket to Europe.

I had always wanted to go to Europe, but I'd simply never booked a ticket.

So, I did and I traveled for two months, and it was incredible.

But, truthfully, I just felt proud

with the fact that I pursued something I wanted to do.

I went after a goal.

When we get rejected, it's so easy to view it as validation.

It's so easy to try and identify with it.

Don't identify with it.

Rejection is not you, it is not you,

and it doesn't define you.

You define you.

Viktor Frankl says

the last human freedom is our ability to get meaning to our circumstances,

and I believe that to be true.

I was rejected, I was bullied, and I felt depressed,

but it was only up to me to change my circumstances.

Nobody could do it for me.

So, why me?

Why are these my stories?

Honestly, I may never know,

and you may never know your answer either.

Sometimes, that's just the way it is;

the answers simply don't exist.

The truth is there wasn't a reason why me.

It just was me.

It's part of my story, and that's okay.

It sucked, and that's okay.

Rejection is okay.

But what I want you to know is that I'm grateful for it.

I'm grateful for it because it gave me a choice.

It gave me a chance to start again.

What I want you to know is that you are not alone.

You are not alone.

You, and me, and so many others experience this exact the same thing

every single day, and that's okay.

Rejection is okay.

Reach out and ask for help.

Be brave.

You don't have to do this alone.

Finally, my challenge to you is this:

what's your turning point going to be?

Mine was when I realized

that, if I could change the circumstances, I would,

and when that light bulb went off,

I knew I had to take responsibility for my life.

So, what's your turning point going to be?

Because, ultimately, you've got to make that choice.

You've got to make that choice for yourself.

So, choose, choose yourself.

Thank you.


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