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7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream
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At 19 I dropped out of college to go live in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, arguably the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city in the world in order to work on my dreams of being a music journalist and promoter. Here I am sitting on my couch, maybe everything isn’t perfect – but I still get to talk to high powered music executives all day and party with rock stars all night and I don’t need a “Real job” to support it all. One question I get asked all the time is “How did you manage to do this at such a young age?” Here are seven keys I used to unlock this kickass lifestyle!

1. You Don’t Need A Plan From The Start

When I started blogging at 14 I didn’t really have a grand vision. I knew I liked hard rock and heavy metal and was all about 80s pop. I wasn’t sure what I could ever do with that. All I knew was that it was fun to write about it on weekends. As it grew I realized that one of the best strategies in life is to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. This is a lesson I still use today, I regularly attend concerts or industry events with no real goal in mind beyond “meet X individual” or just “hang out with Y band and see what happens” and on a surprisingly regular basis, things turn out well.

The thing is – people like people who are, (in the words of that Bud Light commercial:) “Up for whatever happens”. If someone invites you to an after party at 2 in the morning you have to go – not just because you’ll probably have a good time and get to do cocaine with a bunch of hookers, but also because of the connections you’ll have a chance to make. If you’re willing to just go out and play it by ear mighty forces will come to your aid unexpectedly – and it will be glorious.

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2. Be Ready To Improvise

Building on that previous point is the notion that you have to know how to improvise. This goes far beyond being “up for whatever;” it means that you also have to know when to use caution when deciding a new course of action. Being able to improvise has gotten me through many a sticky situation – it helps you find your way into exciting new situations that can advance your career and give you a great story for your grandkids.

The point being – improvisation is an incredibly valuable tool and not one that is easily learned. But when you learn to apply it and use it on a regular basis then you can rest easy with the confidence that no matter what you should be able to handle the struggles of day to day life in whatever dream you want to live. No one said this would be easy, and a key aspect that many of my mentors have emphasized to me is that you need to be flexible and ready to take life as it comes if you want to get anywhere.

3. Habits Lead To Results

Now this next point is obviously far removed from improvisation but is just as important. I’ve mentioned in other articles on here that you need to place discipline over motivation, but perhaps even greater than that – you need to form habits. This is key for several reasons. First of all – it allows you to do something every day that you know that will help build towards your dream. For example, if you want to be a guitarist this might mean practicing two hours a day no matter what, if you want to be a runner then it means you go running five times a week. What I’m trying to say is I know from experience that if you do anything long enough and with enough dedication eventually you will become good at it!

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Furthermore – when other people see your habits they will be impressed with your work ethic and want to work with you. People are drawn to individuals who they see can regularly produce results – and if you prove that you can produce results (or better yet, multiple results!) every day then the more potential partners you will find. No one wants to work with someone who hasn’t proved themselves to be reliable – it is those individuals who have proved their dedication that end up getting the most offers and taking their work to brave new worlds.

4. Prove You Want It Most

Building on the idea of habits leading to results is the notion that you have to prove that you want it most. In all honesty – most people don’t know how to build habits like this and being able to makes it easier to prove you want something the most. Kanye West once spent an entire summer locked up in his apartment making beats because he wanted to succeed so badly. Hunter S Thompson would type up entire novels from his favorite authors to become a better writer. Obama would wake up at 4 in the morning to learn English. It may not seem like it at the time, but these things pay off.

The fact of the matter is that with concrete proof that you want something more than anyone else things will start to fall into place for you. There’s a difference between saying “I really want to live the rock and roll lifestyle” and “Here’s 4,000 posts I’ve made about rock and roll”. My entire vetting process for potential employees basically relies on them coming out and showing me not credentials, but rather concrete evidence of the work they’ve done. This is perhaps the hardest of these keys to pull off but it is also one of the most valuable.

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5. Remember To Be Nice To EVERYONE

I don’t think that anyone wants to be thought of as an asshole by the masses. There’s an easy way to remedy this – be kind and respectful to everyone. This doesn’t mean being weak – you should be able to set limits – but it does mean that you should always be willing to help people and guide them forward. It means that you shouldn’t call people out on social media and it means that you should be very cautious before putting out any sort of controversial opinion into the public sphere.

Am I saying you have to be politically correct? No. I literally talked about doing cocaine with hookers earlier in this article – clearly that’s not a priority. What I’m saying is that resorting to ad hominems and poorly thought out opinions is the place of the Republican party (You saw the last debate – I’m not being partisan) it’s not for someone who is trying to live their dream. So be encouraging – give advice to people getting started and try to find mentors who also ascribe to this philosophy.

6. Enjoy The Ride

This is one of the most important parts and something I used to forget. At times you may feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re not going to get any bigger. But always remember to take a look around and realize “Huh, I’ve been able to do a lot to achieve my dreams” There are plateaus in everything you do, that’s how life works. The trick is to embrace those plateaus as quiet times in between the madness that so often defines day to day life. If you’re not enjoying the ride why bother? As Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary band Motorhead once said “The chase is better than the catch!”

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And I know as well as anyone that desire to succeed can be crippling. You reach those moments where you feel like everyone is against you and won’t let you reach the next level and you start to suffer. But here’s the thing – if you keep going people will respect you. If they see that even in a tight spot you kept your cool and decided to plow forward and not give up and did so with a smile on your face then they will know that you’re the real deal. In a world where you’ve to to fake it until you make it  you might as well enjoy the madness.

7. When You Get To The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

One of the most important books in my life is Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp. One of the books key ideas is: “When you get to the top of the mountain – keep climbing.” I’m not being facetious when I say this is perhaps the greatest of all these keys. In my rise to living my dream every time that I thought I had reached the peak I decided to keep going, and things ended up even better than I possibly could have imagined. As far as I can tell, short of marrying Pat Benatar, there is no actual upper limit to what can be done in this world and you need to take full advantage of that as you push your way forward.

To tie into this, Jack Kerouac, in his book The Dharma Bums writes, “You can’t fall off a mountain” And this is the final message I want to leave you guys with. No matter what you do – as long as you maintain your honor and integrity it’s pretty hard to screw up badly enough that you get sent back to square one. Always keep pushing and know that with these keys you might just be able to do something great!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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