I’ll never forget that night. It was several years back and I was sitting in a hotel lobby preparing for a talk I was about to give. I opted to skip dinner that particular evening because the nervousness set in and my stomach wasn’t up to any food at all. It was my first event after taking over a year off from speaking, so I was a bit anxious, even though I was prepared. While I sat there in that busy lobby, my mind started to wander and those doubtful questions started to rear their ugly heads: Why am I doing this? Why subject myself to all this pressure?
For the first time in my career as a professional speaker, I wanted to back out. There was simply too much stress in my life at the time and ensuring that the audience received the value they expected (and deserved) from my speech just added to that stress. I started asking more doubting questions such as “Why not stick with Toastmasters?” After all, it’s fun, I get to do speeches and the speeches are quick and easy. And then I enviously thought about some friends that I knew who were sitting at home either watching TV or playing video games.
But then my contact for the event walked in and my focus shifted. He and I started discussing the logistics and last minute details as we walked to the room so I could start setting up. I did my usual setup routine and familiarized myself with the layout and surroundings. Audience members then started arriving so I started chatting with them to learn as much as I could about the group. Some told me that were looking forward to my talk — a crucial confidence builder that also helped shift my focus.
Before I knew it, it was time to take the stage and I was up there giving my talk. And while just an hour prior to that, I was wishing that I was anywhere else, at that moment in time I was where I needed to be. It wasn’t my best talk, but it was a good talk. And as I drove home afterwards, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought to myself “wow, this feeling inside is why I love doing this and why I must continue going down this path.”
Now the moral here is that you need to push yourself and take risks to reach your full potential. Challenging yourself may be scary at times, but you won’t know how far you can go unless you try. It reminds me of when I was an adventurous kid eagerly wanting to explore the woods behind my house. It was a bit scary to go beyond the edge of my parent’s property, but doing so helped me discover such wonderful things such as an old shack, a great fishing hole and numerous wonders of nature. Now much of that land has become a neighborhood with its own school so had I waited until I was an adult, I would have missed those opportunities. So when you’re pushing yourself and you get that nervous and queasy feeling, it’s probably a sign that you’re doing the right thing.