Speaking at Think Tank 2019

The room was quiet. The lights were bright. I recited my speech with confidence and enthusiasm. Then — the toilet flushed.

I was in the bathroom.

More specifically, I was practicing my Ted Talk style speech in the bathroom just before I was about to go up and speak.

I started reciting the last two pages, as Janice Xu (co-chair of the Markham Mayor’s Youth Council) pushed open the bathroom door, while calling my name.

“ADARA. ADARA? ADA — “

-Janice

The tone in her voice had me worried. I felt it in my gut. I was late for my speech.

“Is it time for me to speak?” I asked calmly.

“They already called you up.”

-Janice

Adrenaline coursed through my veins, doubt built up in my mind, and butterflies fluttered in circles inside of my stomach. I bolted for the bathroom door and began my sprint to the stage.

Wait a second.

Hold on.

You’re probably wondering how I got here.

And from what you’ve read so far you probably think I flunked this speech. When in fact this was one of the best speeches I have ever delivered.

So…

Let’s start from the beginning.

Today’s story.

January 24th, 2003

Our story begins on this joyous day when Adara Hagman was born at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Her par —

Oh wait… that’s too early.

The time machine is glitching a little, but the Quantum department is working on it.

Isn’t my time machine cool… I wonder where I’ve seen it before?

January 31st, 2019

This was the day that I found out I was going to be speaking at Think Tank 2019 organized & run by the Markham Mayor’s Youth Council (MMYC). I’m on the council and got to find out that I could speak at the event, early.

Every year MMYC hosts Think Tank a night of networking, inspiring keynotes inspired by Ted Talks, and amazing performers. And everything is put together and run by youth. The event has 150+ youth attendees from across the GTA and approximately eight captivating youth speakers.

This year’s Think Tank theme was “Stories that Inspire.”

I was going to be speaking about the lessons I’ve learned from following an unconventional pathway. I hoped to inspire the youth in the room to start spending their time how they would if they had $1 billion. I also wanted to share my unique story and explain why I wanted to be an astronaut (a lot of people ask).

I had high standards for my talk, but low expectations for the event itself. I didn’t think that it would be a highly impactful experience to myself and I didn’t think that I would really captivate the audience and inspire them to the best of my abilities, as they were a more conventional crowd.

Boy was I wrong.

Don’t make assumptions (PERIODT).

March 1st, 2019

Twas’ the night before Think Tank when all through the house.

Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

The children and parents were snug in their beds, except for Adara who lay on her bed.

Rewriting her speech for the billionth time and adding more Unsplash images to her world class slide deck.

-a short story by yours truly: on the events of March 1st

In a nutshell (and a more clear way), I didn’t really sleep on March 1st.

  1. I was reiterating my speech over and over again. Which meant I had to keep adjusting my slide deck.
  2. THE SPACEX CREW DRAGON LAUNCH WAS HAPPENING AT 2:50 A.M. AND I COULDN’T MISS FLOATING RIPLEY → AND NOT TO MENTION SPACEX WAS MAKING HISTORY AGAIN
This is Ripley → SpaceX mannequin being sent to the ISS to test the Crew Dragon capsule.

March 2nd, 2019

The day began with a capsule launch into orbit and booster re-entry.

Next at 9:00 a.m. I decided to start getting ready for my speech.

I did my makeup, curled my hair, packed my bags, and ironed my clothes.

My parents thought I was insane. And thinking back to this morning, I honestly was.

I was getting ready for an event hours before it was due to start. All because I get stage fright.

I’ve delivered amazing speeches before and I knew my public speaking abilities were strong.

In 2017, I spoke about an app I designed to help solve food insecurity locally called “Impact” at the WE Global Learning Centre in Toronto. A.k.a. the WE Movement headquarters. (As part of cohort one of the me to we social entrepreneurship program).

I’m also a drama student and really get into character when I play a role.

Yet the thought of presenting at this event terrified me.

Fear literally took over the control station in my brain… just like in Inside Out.

The butterflies in my stomach kept multiplying as anticipation grew.

I continued to reiterate my speech and slide deck, and practiced over and over again.

I was doubting myself and I was so nervous, so I told myself to use my nervous nervous as fuel to be courageous.

At 3:30 I headed to Party City to pick up some last minute decorations and at 4:30 I started setting up at the venue.

As time passed, I kept getting increasingly nervous.

I tend to overthink a lot, so this wasn’t uncommon for me, but I was genuinely worried I was going to fail this speech.

Which is actually so sad. I was scared to fail, when really we all need to fail so we can learn and grow.

We learn more from our mistakes/failures than our successes.

It was 6:10 p.m.

The event was supposed to kick-off at 6:00 p.m, but it was running behind.

At 6:20 p.m. ice breakers began and I MCed.

After MCing, I felt so nervous inside that I ran to the bathroom to rehearse my lines last minute (I wouldn’t recommend).

I thought that running through them one last time would be a game changer in the success of my speech.

As I paced in front of the bathroom mirror and read over my speech the butterflies worsened and I ended up where this article started.

The insides of my stomach.

As I made the sprint from the bathroom, through the hallway, through the lobby, down the stairs (I tripped), and across the hall towards the stage, my heart raced.

Everyone’s eyes were on me. I was late. I still had to set up my slide deck and had to get someone to film for me.

Shoutout to Kelly for putting up with my last minute filming needs ❤

I thought I couldn’t get any more worried, but then there was no clicker for the slides and I had to manually walk back over to the laptop to change my slides.

I felt like a hot mess, but reflecting on my mental state at the time I caused myself to spiral into a hole full of nervousness and self-doubt. Even though I knew I was capable of delivering a world class speech.

The Cygnus X-1 black hole I was letting myself spiral into. (Credit: NASA).

And that’s what I was going to do.

High standards.

Take a deep breath.

Use your nervousness/fear as fuel to be courageous

— Jeremy Hansen (Astronaut Trainee & Aquanaut at the Canadian Space Agency)

And I began.

Everything just flowed out naturally, I stumbled but kept talking, I laughed and I changed my speech after getting a gage of the audience’s attention. I pretended I was the CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, I spoke with confidence and loads of enthusiasm, I had a huge smile on my face, and I spoke with passion. My body reflected that of boss mentality and I connected with the audience through eye contact. I wasn’t afraid anymore I felt good about what I was saying and how I was saying it.

I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I knew I did my best.

And that’s all one can do.

After my presentation, I had a lot of meaningful conversations with people genuinely interested in my story and what I’m working on.

People gave me hugs and told me I inspired them.

I was told that what I’m doing at sixteen is incredible.

My high standards were achieved and I honestly believe I delivered a world class presentation.

Some of my favourite pieces of feedback were that I connected really well with the audience, what I said sounded genuine and natural, and I made what isn’t relatable sound relatable (things like training to be an astronaut).

I set up a positive feedback loop for myself and now I feel more inspired to use that positive feedback to fuel me to create more world class content.

Thank You ❤

I want to give a huge shout out to the Think Tank team and Mayor’s Youth Council (MMYC) for running this event! The incredible audience at this year’s event, as I said at the end of my talk: I genuinely hope each and every one of you figures out what makes you as excited as Jupiter made me when I saw it for the first time and pursue whatever that is & that you spend your time how you would if you had a billion dollars.

I also want to shed some light on the other inspiring individuals who spoke and/or performed at Think Tank: Stories That Inspire.

  • Barton Lu: Lessons from Humanities & Social Sciences Class
  • Senaida Ng: How to Overcome Stage Fright
  • Allen Lu: Founding Chonchoridum & Mistakes I Made Along The Way
  • Iris Xie: How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
  • Rocco Racioppo: How to Be Confident Without Being Confident
  • Diviya Leonard: What I Learned On My Trip to Ghana
  • Stellar Zhang: What Is Success & My Story

One last shoutout goes to all the incredible TKS (The Knowledge Society) “boss ladies” who spoke at events today. You are all inspiring and amazing humans ❤ Keep crushing it!

  • Nina Khera — Senescent Cells & Longevity
  • Shifra Khan — Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs)
  • Stephanie Porfris — Robotics
  • Arisa Kherani — Regenerative Medicine
  • And special mention to Teddy Porfris — Quantum Computing (not a TKS boss lady, but was an awesome host at the Connect IT Conference (CITC) today)

Key Takeaways

  • Hakuna Matata — don’t worry too much. If you mess up, take it as a learning experience. If you start worrying… just BREATHE.
  • Seek unique experiences.
  • Have high standards.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. (You don’t want to get stuck in the bathroom like me).
  • Talk to people at events & be super intentional about having meaningful conversations.
  • Use whatever fear you have as fuel to be courageous.
  • Start spending your time how you would if you had a billion dollars TODAY.
  • Overall, there wasn’t many key takeaways from this article. This was a bit different from my usual article style, as it was more of a storytime/comedic article :)

It all started in a bathroom… but it ended with an impactful day that I could have never imagined. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak at this event and to share my story with youth all across the GTA. I hope that whoever reads this feels inspired to use whatever fear you have as fuel to be courageous. I also hope that you create world class content and deliver world class speeches. I just hope it doesn’t involve running late because you were practicing in the bathroom.

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Thanks for reading ❤ Now go change the world!

18 y/o researching closed-loop systems for earth + space.

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