I was stressed!
I was recently invited to speak at a Seminar called Raise Your Game. The 18-minute speech I was going to give was a fresh keynote on a topic closed to my heart <<The Authenticity Code>>, which is also the topic I am writing about in my book.
Although I have been a speaker for 5 years and a trainer for over 10 years, I still felt the stress because it meant a lot to me. I’ve always wanted to give a Ted Talk, and this is so far the closest I come to giving one. Additionally, it was an event organised by Asia Professional Speakers of Singapore (APSS), which meant I was going to be speaking alongside my peers in the professional speaking circuit.
As I was crafting this speech, I reflected my journey to forge my speaking, training and coaching career, and distilled 3 key lessons.
Lesson 1: Embrace a Beginner’s Mindset
Even though I am not new to speaking and training, I knew that there’s always more areas for growth. I wanted to speak on bigger stages, to share my message and inspire more people. That was why I joined the APSS in the first place. There, I found myself surrounded by some of the most successful speakers in the world. I remember feeling so intimidated and small that I wanted to quit. However, I reminded myself that I was there to learn, and not compare myself with others. From my experiences, comparison is one of the Biggest Killers of Authenticity.
I needed to embrace a beginner’s mindset again, and that leads to my second lesson…
Lesson 2: Focus on the Process, Not the People
Instead of comparing myself with the amazingly successful speakers there, I turned my focus on their processes. These are people who have walked the journey and succeeded, and since success leaves clues, the least I can do is to reach out to them and ask them to share their process with me. If they can succeed, by following their processes, I could accelerate my own process. Since then, I have learned from my many mentors in APSS, who have taught me a lot about the business of speaking, from marketing to sales, from speech crafting to relationships building. They have helped me to grow my speaking business over the last few years.
Through this, I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Niels Brabandt, a global keynote speaker, who shared at a speakers’ conference a couple of years ago.
“You’ve to Attract the Stage. The Stage is a Privilege, Not an Entitlement.”
In order to become an even more successful keynoter, I have to work on my craft! In the words of professional comedian and producer, Steve Martin, I needed to “be so good they can’t ignore me.”
Anyone can sound clever, knowledgeable and cool…
Anyone can be dramatic, emotional and loud…
However, I have learned that in order to craft a speech that resonates with people, that connects with people’s pains, hopes, and dreams, I have to take an inner-journey of introspection, reflection and empathy. I had to craft and re-craft, write and rewrite my speeches several times so that they have the right blend of emotions, (too little and it doesn’t connect, too much and it’s flooding), and entertainment (not enough and it’s too dry, too much and it becomes pure comedy and jokes). Sometimes, I find my own thoughts twisted in knots because I wanted to cover so much, and I wanted to share all that I have researched. To put my thoughts together in a succinct yet compelling manner, I’ve had to challenge the assumptions I hold, clarify my thoughts and dig deep into my personal convictions.
The process of crafting and delivering my speech has changed me inside out, and I’ve grown a lot from the process.
Lesson 3: It’s NOT about You, But It’s Up to You
In my speech, I shared that part of living with authenticity is to fulfil our potential, to Become the Best Version of Ourselves. The obstacles to our quest for actualisation are the defences we have. One of the most common defence mechanisms is “staying comfortable.” Instead of pushing ourselves to grow, we tell ourselves “we are not the kind of person who _______.” Worse of all, we do that by justifying that we are only just being true to ourselves. Our true nature is way beyond what we tell ourselves we are, and we can all surpass that. I share more about our defences in this article here.
Another defence mechanism is limiting beliefs, belief systems that are designed to keep us safe, but prevent us from growing. For me, one of the potential limiting belief I’ve had for a long time is the “Impostor Syndrome.” As I battle the frustrations of getting stuck at times, I did think of quitting, thinking to myself “Maybe I am not good enough for this?” I’ve have made it all about me.
That’s when I am reminded that whenever we make things all about us, then we are allowing our defences to keep us small. The fact is, I didn’t have to do this in the first place, nobody held a gun to my head to force me to deliver the speech. I had made the choice, and if I were to make the most of it, it’s Up to Me.
With that, I return to focusing on my process, to become the best version of myself, to be so good thy cannot ignore me.
What about you? Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do but never quite given it a shot? What is something that, if you knew you would not fail, you will absolutely “go for it?” When we see others succeed, we often fall for the illusion of thinking it’s effortlessly easy. We don’t realize that the success is a result of an elaborate process. By embracing a beginner’s mindset, and by focusing on the process, not other people, we can grow towards becoming the best version of ourselves. We don’t have to put ourselves under so much pressure, it’s not all about us, but it’s up to us.