From BOOK. Before You Begin: BELIEVE
Thanks for taking time to read my articles and blogs. Before I resume with my articles on success, career, and leadership, I want to give you one more part of my book, Speak With No Fear.
The following is the short chapter that precedes the 7 strategies to overcoming fear in public speaking. Check it out.
- Mike Acker
You are welcome to jump into the strategies. I won’t stop you from taking action. Just promise me that you won’t start with doubt.
Doubt deters you from taking strategies seriously. Doubt erodes confidence. Doubt makes truth seem like lies. Doubt will feed your fear and give you more speaking nightmares. So you have to let go of your doubts and start believing in yourself.
Where you are is not where you have to be.
This sentence was included in my introduction. Do you believe it? Do you believe in yourself? At least some part of you does. Otherwise you wouldn’t have picked up this book! Let’s build on this belief. Take a moment and whisper the immortal words from the classic story, The Little Engine That Could, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
Are you struggling? Do you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts? “It’s not going to work for me.”“I’m just not a good speaker.”“I’m an introvert. I just can’t.”“I’ve tried in the past, and it didn’t work.”
If you are struggling to believe, will you suspend disbelief while you read?
Read this book as a believer, not as a skeptic. Education will often teach you to think critically. Keep that mindset for work and academics. This book needs you to think receptively. Trade in any negativity for positivity. Think well of yourself. Believe in yourself. Where you are is notwhere you have to be.
I have lived this mantra. I really can help you live it as well. That is why I started my coaching practice, ADVANCE, Coaching and Consulting (stepstoadvance.com). I help people take their next step forward so they can advance their goals, business, skill sets, careers, and life. I want to help you. And belief is where that help begins.
I believe in you. You can turn your speaking nightmares into living your dreams.
MY SPEAKING NIGHTMARES
Imagine (or better yet, recall) one of these scenarios: You are asked to give a toast for a wedding. You are requested to give a presentation on your area of expertise. Your company has grown and you want to pitch an idea to obtain additional capital. You need to give some kind of speech or presentation. And what happens? You’re nervous. Sweat starts to pool under your arms. Butterflies begin to flutter in your abdomen. You want to throw up. Your anxiety causes you to endlessly ramble. You wish you could quit the speech and run away. But you can’t; you have to get up in front of people and speak.
If you have a speech coming up, then you are being forced to face the number-one fear in America (above even death). Yes, you read that right; public speaking is often ranked as the number-one fear in America. Do you relate? You would rather die than speak in front of people!
If you feel fear, anxiety, and nervousness at the prospect of public speaking, then you are not alone. Hundreds, thousands, actually millions of people are right there with you. And each day I get to help some of them overcome that fear.
You don’t have to have that same fear forever.
You really don’t. I believe in you. You canconquer that fear!
I can help you. I can’t erase the fear but I can give you understanding, tips, and skills that will ease your fear. That fear can devolve into the appropriate type of energy. I can teach you how. It’s what I do.
Don’t wait to get started. Don’t push this off to another day. Today is the day! Don’t delay.Unattended fear only feeds on itself and grows into nightmares.
Every time I spoke in front of my middle school and high school class, I was made fun of. It became a common theme for people to laugh at my stage presence. Each month, I had to wrestle that familiar sensation that struck me when yet another presentation was assigned to our class. I grew friendly with the fear of public speaking. Over time, I learned how to manage the fear, but every presentation was still accompanied by fear.
Outside of my school fear, I had the opportunity during high school to speak at a banquet. I had some good thoughts to share but when I spoke it came across poorly. While I meant to honor another person, my speech seemed to focus only on myself.Later, my mom pulled me aside and rebuked me. She was embarrassed that I had talked so highly of myself. But I didn’t mean to brag! I was honoring someone else. However, my speech went wrong and I was humiliated. 20+ years later, I’m still embarrassed of that speech.
These negative experiences tainted me. After the banquet, I panicked at the next opportunity to speak in front of others. “What if I screw up again? What if I embarrass myself? What will my mom think? I should just shut up. I should run away. I should fake sickness. I should move to Australia. I should become a silent monk. Yes, I will become a monk.” And that is what I did. I moved to Australia and became a monk. I don’t have to speak to people anymore…
Of course not. That isn’t how life works. You can’t run from public speaking. At some point in your life, you will have to speak at your business, your school, a wedding, a memorial, a party, an interview, or one of a hundred different scenarios. You will have to get up in front of people, so you might as well learn how to do without fear. And that is what I did. I gradually worked on managing my emotions. I learned how to use my personality, how to switch my focus, and how to use fear for good. I began to believe in myself.
I internalized how to ease my fear and turn the negative to something positive. My only wish? I wish I’d started earlier. Don’t delay it anymore. Begin to believe in yourself today.
GARY’S BELIEF CHANGED MY LIFE
In college, I took my first class on public speaking, a small class at my small private university. I stood there in front of people with the battling emotions of fear and excitement (two sides of the same coin). My abilities had grown since high school, which alleviated some of my fear. At the same time, I had failed in front of other audiences, which made me relive moments of panic.
When I gave my speech to the class, I didn’t die of a heart attack, but I didn’t inspire my audience, either. I guess my battling emotions agreed to call it a tie.
After the speech, the professor invited me to join the college debate team. I told him no. For a few months, he persisted. He believed that if I pushed past my insecurities, weaknesses, and fears, I could do well. He believed in me. He had coached hundreds of people to overcome their fear. He had helped hundreds of people develop the skill of public speaking so that they could attain a higher level of excellence in their career. He impressed upon me the importance of learning how to speak in front of others.
Let me do that for you. You can push past your insecurities. Your past failures don’t have to mark your present reality. Your weaknesses don’t have to define your work. Your fear can be relieved. As Gary believed in me, I believe in you.
As you develop this skill of public speaking, you will do better in your career. Don’t miss the value of improving your speaking skills. The famed investor, Warren Buffet, attributes part of his success to taking speaking lessons as a young man. The better you speak, the better you will do. The small actions you take here will translate to great actions out there in your world.
Professor Gary Gillespie convinced me that if I joined his traveling debate and speech team, he could do something great for me. He promised me that I didn’t have to remain a novice. He told me that he wanted me on his team.
(Later, I realized that the incredible senior class was graduating and the debate team was in desperate need of new members, but I didn’t know it at the time!)
Finally, I believed him. I started imagining myself not to be a bad speaker, or just an okay speaker, or just a good speaker. I believed I could be great.
Youdon’t have to be the same nervous speaker you are today. You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to be insecure. You can become great.
“Mike, I’m skipping to the actions.”
Don’t skip ahead. The most important action to overcome fear is to believe. Reading this book will help you believe in yourself and believe in your ability to overcome your anxiety, nerves, and dread.
BELIEVE YOU CAN
Did you see Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc? In one scene, the actor Harrison Ford must cross a deep chasm with a pit below. If he turns around, he will forfeit everything. Compelled by a deeper understanding, he puts one foot over the chasm, believing that somehow he will be able to walk across. As he steps out in belief, his foot lands on an invisible yet solid bridge. His faith allows him to move forward.
Step out in courage. Believe in a deeper understanding. You can do this. You will do this. And each time you do this, you will get better.
I guarantee you that if I were to speak to you face-to-face, or if you were in one of my seminars, I would look you in the eye and say, “You can do this.”
Remember Mark Twain’s words: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.”
FROM TEENAGER TO ORATOR
On September 23rd, 2016, tragedy forced together our community in Skagit County. A shooter entered the local mall less than a mile from our home. He killed five people. The community reeled in shock and quickly rallied to support each other. Three days later, we had organized a vigil outside of where the violent act had occurred. I worked with the Mayor, a well-known pastor, the police chief, and other community leaders to prepare to bring peace back to our towns which fear had stolen away.
Word of the vigil got out. Our event on September 26, Light up the Boulevard, welcomed hundreds and hundreds of people. The team of volunteers extended the blockades to hold the growing audience. People brought candles of all shapes and sizes. The police chief was speaking to two other chiefs from neighboring towns.
He beckoned me over and said, “I’ve never seen something like this here in Skagit county.”
“How many people are here?”I inquired curiously. The lights had faded. It was impossible to count. Even the pictures failed to capture the people who crammed into the cordoned parking lot.
The three chiefs looked at each other and sized up the space. “At least 3,000.”
At least 3,000.
Almost 20 years earlier, teenagers had mercilessly teased me when I stood to speak to them. Now, I was about to walk onto a stage to speak about hope to more than 3,000 people.
The moment came for my presentation. The stage called me forward. All eyes were on me. Insecurity, doubt, and fear no longer marked my interior. My nerves ignited into energy as I stood to speak to the audience of 3,000 neighbors. As my presentation began, so did the nodding. 3,000 people stood holding their candles, listening to my words in agreement with me. I was not alone. I didn’t have to rush; instead I confidently took time with my words. The presentation took people from feelings of darkness to anticipation of light.
Your journey can mirror mine. You don’t have to be afraid any longer. This is what life can look like. Begin to believe this truth. You can learn to enjoy presenting, selling, educating, storytelling, and speaking in public. The same strategies I used in my life, you can use in yours.
These strategies are not miraculous, but they are miracle workers. If you take action and do the assignments, you willexperienceresults. If you take heart and believe in yourself, you will see how the work you do becomes the miracle you hope to see.
If you change your perspective, invest in your preparation, and take time to practice, then I promise you, you will overcome your fear of public speaking.
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