In college I was always the guy in the group who would volunteer to do more of the “real work” so that I wouldn’t have to speak in front of the class. The fear of speaking in front of people was so pervasive, I would take a lesser grade just to get out of it. Although I’m closing in on my forties and have learned much, that fear has never really left me…
Yet when I think back to some of the most amazing events in my life, there has often been an element of fear to them. I’m not talking primal, afraid for my life scared (in most instances), but the fear of the unknown. The one where doubt and uncertainty seeps into your thoughts. The one that’s not quite terror, but something that gets the fight or flight adrenaline going. Like…
- That time when a very good friend was visiting VT and she, my wife and I came up with the (adult beverage enhanced) idea to go sky-diving. When the next day came I thought for sure that we’d all bail. I would have if not for two reasons. A- The ladies went first. B- I got shoved out of the plane. Until the day I die, I will never forget the image as I rolled onto my back and watched that plane fly away from me. There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve never experienced a physical event that was as exhilarating as that one.
- That time I decided to change jobs… More than once I’ve been told that I’m an enigma. I love comfort, but if I feel that I’m getting complacent, I get an itch to move. That doesn’t mean that these changes don’t come without a lot of sleepless nights and self-doubt. Each and every time has been an enlightening and enriching experience.
- That time I became a Dad… I’m not sure this one requires an explanation. It’s the biggest, toughest, scariest job I’ve ever taken on. The day we left the hospital, I’m pretty sure I drove home at about 15 MPH. My dad said that the train of cars behind us was epic. I didn’t notice because I was staring straight forward, hands white-knuckled at 10&2 on the steering wheel.
Beyond fear, what all of these moments have in common is that they’ve shown me something about myself. They’ve reinforced my self-worth and they’ve invigorated me to do more. In every case I’ve found myself inspired by our humanity and our ability to help each other. Overcoming that fear can force you to acknowledge, sometimes against all that you hold true, that you’re capable of incredible feats.
Which brings us back to the present tense. For some unknown reason (perhaps it was the KBS eh Callahan?) I thought that I could impart something of myself onto my peers by presenting at a major technology conference. For some reason I thought that I would be able to bring some value to individuals by giving a touch of myself. I’m pretty sure that I knew I’d get rejected, which to be 100% honest was part of what convinced me to actually go through with submitting my proposal. Imagine my chagrin when we actually got accepted to speak… to present… to stand up in front of my peers… to expose myself to their critiques. Hundreds of them. HOLY $H!T!
Susan could tell you, I pored myself into preparing for VMworld 2017, but the doubts persisted. Even after I did OK in my first vBrownBag, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I arrived in the hall with plenty of time to spare. There was no other way, as I’m someone who needs to be prepared, but … being there and watching people continue to file in…. Did I mention HOLY $H!T!
And then it was time. When there are hundreds of people watching you, not to mention that big TV camera, well there’s nothing you can do but get on with it. I’ll let you be the judge of my performance, but that’s not what post is about. It’s about the experience. How you learn and grow from it. In the end my experience was amazing. It certainly was fear inducing, but like many things once you get past the first few minutes, the situation normalizes and you have no choice but to try and do your best. Focusing not on the pitfalls, but on the job at hand can be a key element to overcoming that fear.
I think we did pretty well, but even more important, we helped some people. My favorite part of our presentation was answering questions and talking with folks afterwards. Being able to share and connect with other people was pretty humbling. I’ve worked on some decent projects and I’ve had my fair share of success professionally. However this experience was more like skydiving: I can assure you that I have never been so jacked up after a professional experience as I was after our presentation.
So despite the fear and trepidation, it seems that scaring myself has been a pretty solid way to grow as a person, and now as a professional. With all of our natural instincts to run from threatening situations, if you stay and face the situation, the possibility for growth can be mind blowing.
With that, it’s time to sign off. I’ve got another presentation to prepare for…