I was in India last week to deliver a talk on failure. My talk was the last one of the day and just before the awards ceremony and I was presenting a concept that I’ve come up with to a room full of coaches from around the world. The pressure was on.
My flight was an overnight from Beirut via Doha to Mumbai. I arrived at 4 am with barely any sleep and spent the next two days working furiously at perfecting my storyline, adjusting presentation flow and creating impeccably visual slides.
What people saw was an awesome presentation and me receiving an award. The Facebook story if you will. In fact, yesterday a friend called asking for presentation advice because she said I was a ‘natural’.
I nearly cried remembering the two hours before my talk when I sat listening to another speaker while I imagined my talk being the stupidest thing people heard all week, my work being completely ridiculous and meaningless, and me freezing up on stage with my dumb words stuck inside my dumb throat. I nearly threw up with anxiety. I had barely eaten anything those two days that I was so focused on being talk-ready. My husband of course got the usual text message: I can’t do this! Who do I think I am?!
Yesterday I posted a drawing on a sketching group on Facebook, Everyday Matters. It’s a group for anyone who loves sketching regardless of level. The caption: I just started Danny Gregory’s Art Before Breakfast Workbook.” One of the comments read: “I startet too. But it looks very different. Great respect.”
My response: “Thank you! Don’t be fooled though. I’ve been messing around with sketching for about a year now. I’ve only just rummaged the courage to post work.”
I’ve learnt from experience that we are our own worst enemy. The assumption that so many of us make is often this: other people are better than I am. And we don’t qualify that with when, how or why. We just say: I am not good enough. And quit.
It’s rarely ever true that other people are naturally good at something while you’re not (genius is excluded). You have to know that they are good because they’ve put in hours of time into reading, learning, practicing and adjusting what they do and they have become good.
I’ve read volumes on presentation skills, including how to create slides, what to say, how to structure a talk, how to tell a story and I’ve taken Train the Trainer that included presentation skills practice. I’ve given over a hundred talks and presentations to have gotten to this point (total freak out before a talk, ha!). I promise you my first few talks were horrible. My voice shook, my hands trembled, my slides were horrendous and my message incoherent.
What I’m saying here is two things:
- Don’t assume you’re just not good enough by nature at whatever it is you’re trying to do. What you see in others is only a blossom that’s had a lot of plowing and weeding and tending and watering behind it.
- Don’t give up when you mess up. Time and learning get you there as long as you keep moving forward.
Consider this: if you’re 50 now, you probably still have a good 30 years to learn new things. If you go on the ten year rule (remember Malcolm Gladwell and 10000 hours to mastery?), you could master three different skills in that time. Now if you’re only 20, how many careers could you have?
I’m planning at least four more for myself 🙂