The fortune teller gave my mother hope. She said, “I see your second daughter behind a podium, speaking to a large audience.”
This was right before she moved to America twenty-six years ago, so for her, when the future seemed to be a terrifying and foreign blank.
Mother told me this story ten years ago, right after college when I was between jobs and feeling like a loser. I couldn’t afford rent so I was sleeping on her couch. When I commuted to a temp job in the city, she would stare at me — while I was getting dressed for work — all doe-eyed, proud and enchanted by the idea of her adult child going to work. Frustrated, I would grumble my way to the bus stop.
My mother always had big ambitions for me — take for example, that one day I would make enough money to buy her a house (I’ve yet to realize that dream). Her American dreams projected onto me felt like a yoke, heavy and ill-fitting. So when she relayed the vision of her Korean fortuneteller to me one day, I said, “That’s nice,” but winced a bit from the inside.
So, let’s fast forward ten somewhat years, and I am presenting a speech at Toastmasters International in New York City. This was my first, or CC1 speech, presented to a full room of about 30 people.
I spoke about my three core principles of mutual win negotiation:
1. Inviting no
2. Aiming for bigger fulfillment
3. And deeper connection
I must now concede that the fortuneteller was right. That mother was right. In fact, I now want to speak in front of more than a thousand people. I would like to be a keynote speaker at a major conference. I’m starting small, practicing at Toastmasters, and presenting at conferences.
This makes me wonder: Is my destiny something I inherit or make?
To which I’d answer that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s up to you to choose for yourself what to do with the gifts you’re given — whether it be Asian genes, low nose bridge or grit.
Growing up, mother always urged me to speak up — not only because I worked (for free) as a translator, going back and forth between utility companies, schools, and vendors on her behalf, but also because she knew that the key to realizing an ambitious vision is to own my negotiation prowess.
Own it and run with it.