Overcoming Your Own Worst Enemy…YOU: Kent Grosswiler (Transcript)

Kent Grosswiler at TEDxYearlingRoad

Full text of artist and writer Kent Grosswiler’s talk: Overcoming Your Own Worst Enemy…YOU at TEDxYearlingRoad conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Kent Grosswiler – Artist

Hello. I’m curious how many people here have had a project or a potential hobby? Something you want to try on the back burner?

Or, something you maybe started into a little bit and decided you were no good and quit? If I could see a show of hands, please… okay! So we can relate to one another on this.

That’s been the story of my life and I’m not really sure where those messages came from.

I don’t remember anybody telling me stuff like this when I was a little kid. I know I have some friends – maybe it was their parents or older siblings or a teacher or a coach gave them some negative self messages.

But you know a lot of my life, if somebody would tell me I can’t do something, I would get kind of aggressive and say ‘Watch me!’ And I’ve always been really puzzled with this.

When certain things were offered like ‘You should try this’, or even if I would think myself like, ‘I want to try this’, this voice up here would be like, ‘Oh man, you’re not going to be, any good at that; like so why even bother!’

And a lot of things, when I was a child I would start. My parents enrolled me in all kinds of different activities – gymnastics lessons, different kinds of sports, piano lessons, swimming lessons.

And you know there would be this disconnect. I would see older kids who had been doing it so much longer. And I particularly remembered it at gymnastics lessons. I was doing my little forward rolls and I was watching older kids do handsprings and back flips, and there was just this disconnect in-between like where I was at in this timeline with work involved and where they were at’. And so I quit.

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And I would quit everything I did up to a period of time.

Like one thing, as I got a little older… one thing like that I did stick with for a while was playing drums. I’m a musician. But I need to tell you like by the time I got into high school I was starting to drink a lot and I would start to do a lot of drugs.

And you know a little bit further into high school, I had begun my own criminal enterprise. And of course that was one of those things people like, ‘Dude, you can’t do stuff like that’, I was like, ‘Yeah, watch me.’

But you know when it came to anything productive, I mean just the negative self-talk up here like I would always quit or not even bother. Like the amount of space in the top of my skull would like probably fit in a soccer ball, like it’s not very much space but to me like it’s the wild wild west, or it’s the set of a Mad Max movie.

And that serves me really well in my creative endeavors. But like the voices up there can be awful like the jury that I put myself up against or the committee, and all the talking.

I mean even right now like maybe you’ll think, ‘I’m doing a good job’, but there’s voices up here like, ‘Dude, you can’t give a TED talk.’ And you know I’ve moved through it long enough to it’s like, ‘Oh that’s funny, because I’m doing one right now.’

The one thing that I was doing and was starting to do okay at (is) playing the drums. Other things I was doing just snow balled and I eventually like eradicated all the good opportunities I could have had as a musician.

And so you know I’m getting into like going to fast forward a lot of this, and I do want to say like I may or may not be a member of a certain organization that follows this 12-step agenda and meets with some regularity in church basements and serve some of the worst coffee on the planet.

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This talk involves a little bit of that. But this talk isn’t about that because you know if I were a member of that, you guys could come hear me give that talk for free. And I’m not trying to create a bunch of drama with the TEDx organizers and y’all want your money back like once you can find out that fact.

Late 2000 I was 31 years old and I pretty much wrecked my life. I was looking at getting my left hand amputated. I was looking at some prison time.

And so maybe the first time ever I thought that I’d try something new which I did not want to do. I ended up going to a treatment center, six-month inpatient treatment center. I really did what I was told to do while I was there. It was not easy and I look back and I laughed because they really weren’t telling me anything crazy. It was like…

  • Get up at the same time every day
  • Be on time for the meals
  • Make your bed
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Don’t sass staff

Like really simple stuff. But at that point in time in my life it seemed impossible. But you know I was willing to try something new. And at the end of that tenure we had to go apply for jobs and I didn’t even know. I was 31 years old (and) didn’t know how to fill out a job application.

Fast forward. Things got a little bit more a year later. I mean I spent a lot of time there. I lived close to it, felt really safe, and I was there a lot. I would do volunteer work and I got a phone call from a friend of mine who you know had the program manager position. He was like, ‘Man, why don’t you come work for us as a counselor’s aid?’

And it took him like in my head it’s like, ‘Oh! I can’t do that… like I just don’t think I can do it.’ And fortunately his persistence, he made an offering its like, ‘Look if it doesn’t work out, I’ll keep you on retainer, you know, if you just want to do like different little projects here and there.’ So I did it.

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And about a month into that he put in his two weeks’ notice and there’s again you know this voice up in my head like, ‘Man, that looks like a really cool job. Like you should go talk to the director and telling me we’re interested’

then this other voice is like, ‘No, no, and that’s an adults job. You can’t do that job!’ And then the other voice over here is like, ‘Look you’re 32 years old, like that qualifies as an adult. So maybe it’s time you get an adult’s job!’

And so I went and told the executive director I was interested in it. I got the job and I ended up working there for seven and a half years. And after my first year I had that my first year evaluation and he said, ‘What were your goals, you know, within your first year?’

I said, ‘Not to get fired!’

And he said, ‘That’s it!’

I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’

And he was like, ‘Well, you far exceeded that!’

And the same can be said for today if somebody were to ask me like, ‘What are your goals for your TED talk?’ Like the first thing I thought of is like, ‘Not to get escorted out of the building by the authorities!’

And you know I think about it for a minute like, ‘Oh, hopefully to help somebody!’ I’ve got no experience giving a TED talk but I probably could get a PhD, like being dragged out of places by the cops.

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