In the late 1970s I was invited to give a 20-minute presentation to over 1,000 Shaklee distributors in Cincinnati, OH, where I grew up.
I had just completed the Dale Carnegie speaking course and did pretty well. So the local director chose me to give the talk. He wanted to sell training by illustrating that the Carnegie program could take someone from novice to polished speaker in less than a year.
While I was thrilled to be chosen, I was scared as hell. My hands turned sweaty whenever I thought about it; which was every single day after I agreed to do it.
When I tried to memorize my speech, my mind froze. It wouldn’t absorb because it was so consumed with fear.
As presentation day approached, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t think of anything else. I was miserable and wished I’d never been asked.
My parents, girlfriend, sister, and several friends planned to attend. I cannot remember a time when I felt more pressure. I thought catching the flu as an excuse to bail out would be a blessing.
The day finally came. I laid awake all night. Driving to the event was a mindless blur. Walking into the ballroom my hands were sweaty, yet cold.
So how did I do? Don’t have a clue. When it ended, I had no idea what I had said or how it sounded.
My family and friends said I was great. What were they going to say? I stunk?
Why look for the big moments in life
I share this story because it was a watershed moment for me. I discovered that scary moments often become big moments, the events that take us up a notch in life.
I’ve given hundreds of presentations since that day, and gotten pretty good at it. Learning to articulate in front of people (from living room to ballroom) has been a significant contributor to my success. If I hadn’t given that Shaklee talk, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today.
The big moments matter
I’ve often written about how fear of rejection and embarrassment are merely dents to the ego, mental bruises. Yet these fears are often the greatest inhibitors to what we achieve over a lifetime.
Because fear of failure is often more powerful than the desire to stand out, we tend to avoid scary moments. Our mind is simply not programmed to put ourselves in uncomfortable, sweaty-palm situations.
Yet when we avoid big moments, we eliminate big opportunities. The fear of blowing big moments keeps us from seeing what we should really fear: not doing everything we can to fulfill our highest destiny.
As we become older, we look back and realize that the risk of blowing big moments was really no risk at all. We celebrate what we achieved and forget what we could not get done. Our legacy is who we become, not the failures it took to get there.
For those just getting started, I beg that you look for and savor big, scary moments in life. If they don’t present themselves naturally (usually they don’t), find them. Or get out and make them.
A truism in music that also applies to life:
It only takes one hit record to become a rock star, but it likely won’t happen unless you step out on that scary stage many, many, many times.