Public Speaking is Dangerous!
That’s right. Public speaking, stepping up as a leader, even just sharing something that really matters to you is DANGEROUS! It’s dangerous to get noticed by the group! Look at what happened to Socrates and Jesus, and Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy and Joan of Arc and on and on… They got noticed by the group and it got them killed! That’s why public speaking ranks up there with dying in terms of the fear and anxiety it causes, because getting noticed by the group could be a fast way to dying, especially back in the day. If you spoke up and the group didn’t like what you said and tossed you out you were essentially toast. People don’t do well living in the woods by themselves, so evolutionarily we really value being part of the group.
It is NOT about fearless… Fearless gets you killed!
My Father is a Marine Corp. Captain Ret. and he was in combat in Viet Nam, so he knows whereof he speaks. And, he told me very early on, it’s not about being fearless. You do NOT want a fearless foxhole buddy. That guy will get you killed. You want a courageous foxhole buddy. Someone who has their fear, but who also has the courage to act in spite of their fear, when the situation calls for it.
So, if you’re scared of public speaking that’s actually good. If you’re not scared of public speaking that’s what would really be scary. And, that’s why I say that it is always an act of courage and generosity to take the stage, or accept a new level of leadership, or speak up in service of something matters to you more than yourself. It’s terrifying and it’s the only way we ever make progress. So, thank you for being willing to step past your fear.
Now, How Do you Actually Do that?
And that’s where genius of the Dogg comes in. Snoop Dogg is an undisputed poet, a brilliant performer and an under-appreciated philosopher. He gave me some of the best advice I think I’ve ever gotten in my life. He said, very simply, “Don’t be nervous, be at their service!” And that, my friends, is poetry, performance and philosophy all rolled together into one extreme gem of a 7 word sentence. “Don’t be nervous, be at their service!” Brilliant stuff, Snoop!
And, it just so happens that I got the very same advice, but said quite differently, from one of the top leadership coaches in the entire world, Candace Shivers Morgan. She told me: “John, if you get on stage and you have your attention on yourself, then you have your attention on a minor ball of petty concerns that makes no difference to anyone but you…” Ouch! But, it’s true! She went on to say, “If, however, you get on stage and you have your attention on the audience and the difference you are going to make for them and the difference they are going to make for the people in their lives with it… Well, now you’ve got your attention on something worth thinking about!”
Who Is Nervous About?
Think about it for a moment, it’s a weird question, but who is nervous about…?
YOU! That’s right! It’s about you, worrying about what the audience thinks about you! You, you, you! So, the easy way to say it is: Stop being so narcissistic! <big wink> But, really… When I’m nervous it’s just me worrying about me and that is not inspiring! However, when I put my attention over there on the audience, and the message I’m delivering and the difference I’m out to make something shifts… A tiny bit of the nervousness goes away and once I’m focused on the audience I call the feeling that remains “excited!” Physiologically they’re essentially the same. So, when I’m focused on myself and being a narcissist it’s called nervousness. But, the moment I shift my focus to the audience, the feeling becomes just a little more bearable and I call it excited.
And, which talk do you think will go better? The one where you’re focused on yourself and nervous, or the one where you’re focused on the audience and the message you have to share and you’re excited?
You’re right. The one where you’re focused on the audience and excited!
I believe that when you get your attention on the audience and the message and the thing for which you’re willing to risk being noticed by the group and you summon your courage and step through your fear, there is almost nothing more inspiring or fulfilling in the world.
So, as Snoop Dogg says, “Don’t be nervous! Be at their service!”