"The first time we applied to speak at a conference, we didn’t get picked. And we thought that was our first major failure. That was until the following year, when we applied again and were accepted… and the failure really began. That’s because the first time we spoke at a big conference, we bombed. Fall on your face, bumbling through the words, fighting back tears, can’t catch your breath, I can’t believe this is happening, did I really just tell a 'let’s go into the darkroom and see what develops' joke…bombed.
We had practiced for months for this talk — had timed everything down to the last minute making sure to add in plenty of time to allow for audience laughter, so certain we were that these jokes of ours would land to uproarious applause. We knew the material inside and out, had practiced the hand off of talking points like Wimbledon-worthy tennis doubles players in their stride. And then... 12 people showed up. Twelve people in a room that would hold a hundred. And 10 of them were our friends from home. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. And it would have been really easy to quit right then and there on this dream of speaking. But I love what Jon Acuff says when he talks about your 'Nebraska Years,' — about making your mistakes and honing your craft in front of the small groups of 20 or 30 (or in our case, 12) because it prepares you one day for the stadiums.
Ten of the people that day might have been our friends from home. But as it turns out, one of the other two just so happened to be the brand new director of community for the organization who was responsible for the launching of 100 small groups across the country right around the same time. One hundred brand new groups who all needed speakers. And for reasons I still don’t know to this day, she decided to give us our first real shot: the chance to travel around the country and speak to these groups, 10 and 20 people at a time. It gave us the chance to get in front of people. To really learn our craft of speaking and to build a grassroots audience from the ground up. So, that the following year, when we returned to speak at that same conference again... this time, it was standing room only. And right now, once again, we’re in a season of our business and lives with a whole new set of firsts…. and a whole new set of 'no’s. But I try not to worry too much about the 'no’s anymore, because I know that what counts — what really matters — is the trying again part."