We recently took my 6 year old son, Alex, to the Carnival. Alex doesn’t have the greatest sense of adventure and has a pronounced fear of heights.
When we got to the big Ferris Wheel, my wife asked Alex if he was sure he wanted to go. Alex said, “I want to face my fears, Mom”.
Things that I’m afraid of: heights, snakes, getting in front of an audience and making a fool of myself.
Guess Who Didn’t Get On the Ferris Wheel.
That would be me but two years ago, I agreed to co-present two different sessions at Sage Summit last year. This year, I submitted a session and was invited to co-present another session. Holy Cow! Who would have thought that this introverted, nervous wreck would ever agree to do something like that?
Let me take you back to the list of things I’m afraid of: heights, snakes, getting in front of an audience and making a fool of myself.
Guess what! I didn’t make a fool of myself…well, maybe only a little, but I learned from the experience to never talk about the zombie apocalypse in front of an audience again.
Not only did I not (really) make a fool of myself, I got a ton of compliments. One of my co-presenters called me after Summit last year to thank me and tell me what a good job I’d done. He hadn’t even realized that I hadn’t done that before.
Pretty crazy stuff!
I thanked him because if he hadn’t asked, I’d have never done it.
What Did I Do To Prepare?
As soon as I was asked to participate in the first session, I Googled Toastmasters and the name of the city where I live. I found the Toastmasters Find a Club link. I found a Toastmasters club that meets every Tuesday. I joined and got involved.
This is the principle of mithridatization as explained by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile (affiliate link). By taking small doses of a poison you can gain immunity to the poison…or at least a higher tolerance. When we face our fears a little at a time, we inoculate ourselves against those fears and develop an immunity to our fears.
But what happened on the Ferris Wheel?
Alex rode the Ferris Wheel. He had fun. He will probably ride it again. He still doesn’t like heights but now he knows more about what he can handle.
I can now get up in front of an audience without getting completely freaked out. I still get butterflies. I still occasionally forget my lines. However, in the end, I know I will survive the experience and actually can have a lot of fun speaking to an audience.
Remember, courage is not acting without fear. Courage is acting in spite of fear.