What if you fail on stage?

Today I gave a speech at my physical Toastmasters club.

[about a week ago…]

I go on Toastmasters website, click on Basecamp, pick my “Innovative Planning” Pathways curriculum, select project for level 3 which states the following purpose — “Become aware of his/her thoughts, feelings and responses on the audience as well as a two-week assignment on turning negative thoughts into positive”.

I immediately thought — “hmmm, how? I need to find situations that I tend to think negative about and feel a lot of weird stuff inside… but what?”

If you’re anything like me, these thoughts and feelings may seem familiar:

  • “I can’t do it”
  • “I’m not ready”
  • “I’m feeling anxious”
  • “I’m feeling nervous”

Do you notice a pattern of these in a specific situation in your life? Where does this normally happen?

FREAKING PUBLIC SPEAKING

To me, it’s a love and hate relationship still, but hopefully not for too long. Either way, I think and feel a lot when the opportunity appears and it gets closer to the event.

I then decided to take a step further and make it a bit more intense; — “What if I don’t prepare my speech at all? Completely wing it and see what happens? Will I freak out? What different sorts of thoughts and feelings will arise? Will I fail terribly and pass out on stage?!”

Well, that’s what the assignment is about. So I decided take up the challenge.

Isn’t it funny how much control we want in life? The tendency was to at least mentally think about my opening or closing, or some points I could bring up during my speech. It was hard! Apparently it’s harder not to prepare a speech than it is to prepare, rehearse and do it! There’s this innate need to control the situation whenever possible. Quite modestly, I can give decent speeches once I’m given a topic, enough time to prepare and practice. It became easier and easier as my time in Toastmasters went on and I was completing project after project. The challenge though, is standup on a stage with dozens of people for 5-7 minutes and speak. For some this might be a piece of cake, but for me is almost as bad as my own heart-attack.

As the day of my speech approaches, my mind keeps wanting to think about some ideas for my speech, even though I didn’t jot anything down. The need for control was intense, I wanted more certainty! But I insisted and kept my mind occupied with other subjects and concerns as much as possible.

The date and time finally arrived. I’m not going to lie, nervousness, anxiety, excitement, fear and much more was felt right before it was time, as well as countless well-known negative thoughts of “You’re going to fail”, “Everyone will see that you’re a fake speaker”, “You can only give prepared speeches”, “People will no longer want to connect with you”, “Not today, do another day” and much much more that I could write an entire journal on…

It’s finally time. The Toastmaster of The Day introduces me, I step up on stage and the result? Normal. Yes, just normal. It was surprisingly calming and peaceful up there. A feeling of comfort and surrendering poured over my body, I realized was OK. It’s OK to not know anything I was going to talk about, it’s OK to be nervous or having a lot of thoughts, it’s OK to not be always prepared, it’s OK to experiment and try something new, it’s OK to feel, it’s OK to fail.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was my best speech with the most amazing subject. Though it was my best internal preparation and performance.

Where else would I be able to have a safe space where I can try these sorts of things out? To me, only at a Toastmasters club.

Attitude of gratitude, here we go again…

The first time I heard this sentence, it came out with a disgustingly childish tone from the person who mentioned while I listened to a podcast episode at the time; “The attitude of gratitude, bleeeeehhh…”. It kind of pinched my heart a bit, because I respected the podcast host and his show, and thought it wasn’t a funny joke. I brushed it off at the time, but whenever I hear the word “gratitude” I have flash backs of the event.

I used to journal pretty consistently for about a year, and one of the things I’d write about is a list of three things I am grateful for in that day. As you might have noticed, I said “I used to journal”. I haven’t been in almost 2 years by now and wasn’t planning on continuing. Until I stumbled upon a Innovative Planning Pathways project called “Focus on the Positive”.

This seemed like a different project than the other ones I’ve done before. Its main assignment was to not only prepare a speech on a given theme, but also keep a journal for two weeks, with three things you’re grateful for, and write about negative things you’re seeing in life and rephrase them as positive.

The moment I read the assignment I thought to myself “An attitude of gratitude, bleeeeeehhhh….” just like that Podcast guy. But then immediately switched to thinking about how much I’ve done it before during my journaling days, and that I actually might enjoy giving a speech on my experience with how much or how little that assignment has changed me.

Although I’m only a few days into my assignment, I honestly am feeling more optimistic, resilient, seeing the bright side of many situations, appreciating people and things more and overall feeling lighter and even happier.

I’m not sure whether I’ll keep journaling past the two-week assignment or not, but all I can say is that I’m enjoying it today and am grateful for finding this project in good timing.

I’m looking forward to give my speech on it soon!