I present for a living. I teach and train and present to groups of 10-60 and sometimes larger. It’s how I make my living and I feel good at it.
Leading up to every presentation I’m pumped. The day before I have a flood of ideas. The day of I can’t wait. And then, without fail, with one hour before presentation time, I feel fear.
That fear quickly morphs into terror and “doom and gloom.” I begin to imagine everything that could go wrong happening all at once. The content doesn’t land, people become enraged, tables get flipped, a riot ensues…or mostly just the first one, that the content won’t land.
Once I’ve begun presenting, I feel strong. After I present, I feel satisfied. But right before I feel fear. Why is that? Why do we sometimes feel most fearful right before we do the thing that we may be very best at?
It’s the cruel paradox of strengths. Sometimes the things that we are strongest in are the things we feel most anxious doing, especially if we do them for the outside world. “What if they find me out? What if I’m not as good as I thought I was?”
The reason we feel this way is because we care about doing it well because our identity is wrapped up in that thing. If you ask me to organize a spreadsheet I don’t care much if I fail because I can punt on it and say, “Well of course it was bad; that’s not my strength.” But when it’s something that is so tightly a part of who we are we feel anxious that if what we offer the world is “average” our self-image and self-worth is threatened. If you’ve felt what I feel, here’s my advice:
1. Preparation trumps fear. If you are prepared to do whatever it is you do best you can at least remove one factor that sometimes causes fear.
2. Develop your talents. If I have a talent for motivating people through communication and I want to use that to become a great teacher I will gain confidence by adding skills to that talent — what teaching methods, skills, techniques, knowledge, and tools can I add to my talent to take it to the next level?
3. Do it anyway. You will find that what you have to offer is enough. The alternative is to bury what it is that you do naturally well and that’s a losing proposition.
The world needs people who do what they do best. We need you. Too many people work jobs that require them to live in weakness. The result is that ~80% of the job market is disengaged in their work. Imagine a world where everyone is engaged and contributing their talents to the world.
It starts with overcoming the terror and taking the leap.
By the way, the presentation today went great. At least, no tables were flipped.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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