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7 Life Lessons from Sherlock

7 Life Lessons from Sherlock
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We still have a few days until series four of Sherlock starts on New Year’s Day. But while we wait for the return of our dear crime sleuths, we can look back at our previous encounters with them and learn a few life lessons. Yes, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have not just given us exciting crime stories to watch and enjoy, but they have taught us much more than just crime solving without us even realizing. Looking closely at the series reveals that there are life lessons we can learn from these characters, and indeed some very important ones!

1. Pay Attention to Details

What makes Sherlock Holmes so successful in solving his cases? He notices the things that we generally miss. There are many times when the solution is right in front of us. However, we are so absorbed in the world we live in that we tend to miss those clues that can lead to resolving the issue at hand. Developing Sherlock-level attention to detail may be challenging, but it would definitely be worthwhile.

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2. Focus on What Really Matters

“Listen: [pointing to his head] This is my hard-drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters! Do you see?”
~Sherlock Holmes

This means that useless information in the brain is like having junk all around the room. It makes it difficult to store something important or to find what is needed. Sherlock suggests that peripheral distractions that clutter the mind can derail the focus from important things and goals. So say no to activities, people, issues, and meetings that distract you from the goals you have and pay more attention to what’s really important.

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3. Don’t Have a Job or Are Unemployable? Just Create Your Own Job

Our consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, also shows us that being unemployed or unemployable is just fine, or perhaps more than fine. One can invent their own job and do what they are passionate about. If they give it their best shot, utilizing all of the strengths and skills they have, then lo and behold: the job is done!

4. One Good and Like-Minded Friend is All You Need

For many of us, the philosophy is “the more the merrier”. However, from Sherlock we can see that even one friend or a few trusted ones are enough. Sherlock is a solitary character with only Watson as a sounding board. Hence, he gives us this lesson that having a friend who understands you, gives you honest opinions, and guides you when you are going in the wrong direction is all you need. With this friend, you can share and discuss anything and everything, voice your thoughts or vent your frustrations. It is also not necessary that the two have similar personalities, as Sherlock and John are two very different people. However, they should be able to understand and value each other.

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5. Never Let Failures and Criticism Drive Your Life

Facing failures and getting criticized by people are inevitable aspects of life. Many times people lose hope when they fail, or they feel dejected when they are criticized for their failures. However, all is not lost as long as one doesn’t lose hope in themselves. We can see that for Sherlock, too, success is not a luxury. Instead, he works it out by means of careful planning and utilization of his skills. During many cases that he takes there are ups and downs, and many times he faces failures. Similarly, despite all the fan-following that he has, he is criticized by people for a variety of things. The episode, “The Reichenbach Fall” illustrates how a person at such great heights of popularity suddenly becomes the “Fake Genius” in the eyes of the people. He is also called a psychopath at some instances. However, he doesn’t allow any setbacks or criticism to stop him from doing what he wants to do and being who he is. His attitude towards both failure and criticism teaches us how not to give these the authority to rule our lives.

6. There is Always More Than One Way to Approach a Problem

Sherlock Holmes makes use of many approaches to problem-solving. Sometimes he disguises himself, other times he searches for information and then makes a plan, and at other times he makes use of clever deception for drawing the players into the game. In case an approach fails, he does not end his pursuit of the solution, but looks for other options and approaches to take. Hence, we can learn from him that there is not just one way of approaching a problem. To be clear, I am not suggesting to take his indoor target practice as a lesson; there are many other approaches apart from that to learn from him.

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7. Don’t Judge Anyone by Face or Appearance

How do we perceive someone we have met for the first time? We tend to judge that person, assign him or her to some sort of category, or come up with some explanation of what that person is or what he or she is likely to be. Sherlock shows us the extent to which one can be wrong when they judge anyone by face or by some of his or her initial actions. This we saw through his initial judgment of Moriarty as gay and how he was later revealed as a totally different person. Even though Moriarty was disguised that way and wanted Sherlock to believe him to be gay, Sherlock only judged him by his appearance and did not look beyond that when he first met him.

Conclusion

These were a few lessons that I learned from Sherlock. There are many others that you may deduce on your own if you pay attention. Fingers crossed for the new season that is set to bring some more life lessons and be just as entertaining as the previous ones!

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Featured photo credit: Sherlock via pbs.org

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Mehwish A. Wahid

Writer and Researcher

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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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