Day 4: Befriend Your Fear
Fear is a terrible storyteller, but it’s an incredible story-starter…
Before you had to speak in public, have you ever imagined the worst?
Of course you have. I have to!
Imagining the worst has probably kept you from public speaking till now, or trying it more than a few times in your life. Jot down what you think will happen. After your presentation it may be interesting to go back, read it, and realize that literally none of the things on your list actually happened. Our imagination often lacks… well, imagination.
Here’s the thing: everyone feels fear. The remarkable people are the ones who act anyway. That’s why they are remarkable – they’re the ones we tell stories about. You’ll never tell someone else about the time you went to an open mic and there was a person there who wanted to get up and perform but got too nervous and didn’t do it.
Speaking of stories, they are a great way to think differently about our fear. Every story hinges on a conflict of some kind. I like to think of a risk or challenge or inner/outer conflict as a story I’ll tell later. “One time at an open mic I was really nervous but I got on stage anyway…” is already a better story no matter what happens next.
One problem with fear is that fear is actually a terrible storyteller. That’s just not what it’s good at. Fear is good at pointing out things you shouldn’t do. Fear is great at identifying possible conflicts, but then convincing you to run the other way. Fear is great at coming up with reasons not to take a risk, put yourself out there, or even leave the house.
Fear is a terrible storyteller, but it’s an incredible story-starter. If you’re willing, you can notice the fear you feel about public speaking (or any meaningful pursuit in your life) and let that fear drive you forward. Let it identify the direction you absolutely shouldn’t go (like a cartoonish “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” sign on an amusement park ride) and then go in that direction anyway.
Because if you are willing to speak publicly, you put yourself in a successful minority of people willing to do so. It’s the best way to stand out, and by doing so you’re write a much better story than your fear ever could.