Isabelle Mercier: The Power of Zero Tolerance at TEDxStanleyPark (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of brand strategist Isabelle Mercier’s TEDx Talk: The Power of Zero Tolerance at TEDxStanleyPark conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.


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Isabelle Mercier – Brand strategist

So, there is a five-letter word that’s used by the majority of the human race every day. Many times a day actually, for some of us. Yet, this word has the power to kill. This simple combination of letters kills creativity, it kills individuality, it kills performance, and, worst of all, it kills dreams. And that word is: worry.

1980 was the year when I had my first face-to-face collision with worry. This is me. Oh, yeah. I’m nine years old on there, I am full of life, and, as you can see on this picture, I’m also completely unaware of my slight fashion deficiency. Let’s leave it at that, all right? Look at those glasses.

However, what you cannot see on this picture is that I am eaten alive by worry. Really? What do I have to worry about? I’m nine years old, for crying out loud! I’ve got a roof over my head, mortgage-free. I have food on the table, I have my favorite color pens in my pencil case. What more could a creative kid want, right?

Most importantly, I have parents who absolutely adore me. Yet, for an entire week, which, I’m going to tell you, felt like months, all my energy, all of it, is spent avoiding at all cost, one girl: Stephanie, the bully. Why? Because she has decided that, in order for me to prove my worth, I am to steal her a pack of cigarettes at the corner store. Really? Did you see that face earlier? That face over here? Does this look like the face of a criminal to you? No?

And “no” is precisely what I want to say to Stephanie. I want to say “no” to her, but, honestly, I can’t bear the thought of the consequences that my “no” could, and, in my nine-year-old head, would absolutely unleash.

So, my solution? I avoid her some more. Well, do you know how exhausting it is to be at avoidance mode 24/7? Well, I’m going to tell you. It’s a full-time job, that’s what it is. The shenanigans I did to avoid her, Oscar-winning performance is all I can say. Believe me, you do not want to mess with this girl. She is the biggest bully and she’s also the leader of my inner circle of friends, and I am petrified.

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I don’t want to be known as a wuss, and I certainly don’t want to create my own social suicide at nine years old. Oh my God, I realized that my “no”, me saying “no” to her, could literally ruin my entire life. Remember, I’m nine years old. This is dramatic here.

So, the phone rings… and I quickly say to my mom, “Mom,” she’s right there – “remember the deal, right? ‘Je pas icitte!,'” I am not here.

Well, she answers the phone. To my surprise, I hear this, “Just a sec, Stephanie. Isabelle happens to be right here.”


“Oh, yeah.” She leans in, hands me the phone, and says, “Isabelle, ‘Pauvre petite fille!'” Literal translation, “Poor little girl!” Actual meaning, though, in her tone of voice, “Why? Why are you doing this to yourself?” And she went on and said — in French, of course, but I’ll spare you — she said, “Do not, I repeat, do not be afraid to speak your truth. If you can’t say no to what you don’t want, Isabelle, you will never have the time and the energy for what you do want.” Yes. Thank you.

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