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10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Follow Your Passion

10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Follow Your Passion
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It’s tough to follow a passion and make it your life. A lot of people will tell you to forget following your passion and try to find something that makes money that you don’t mind doing. In fact, telling people that following your passion is bad advice seems to be the new trend. Why? Because a lot of people either fail at making their passion into a viable living or they simply don’t know what their passion is.

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, says that “The problem is that we don’t have much evidence that this is how passion works. ‘Follow your passion’ assumes: a) you have preexisting passion; and b) if you match this passion to your job then you’ll enjoy that job.

“When I studied the issue, it was more complex. Most people don’t have preexisting passions. And research on workplace satisfaction tells that people like their jobs for more nuanced reasons than simply it matches some innate interest.”

How can you follow a passion, then, if you don’t have one? Well, you can’t. But if you have a passion — even if it’s skiing or surfing, you can follow it or let it lead you to new and exciting possibilities.

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I’m a dog musher and a writer. I don’t make a living as a dog musher, yet, although I hope to one day. However, I do make a living as a writer and editor. I use the money I make from one passion to pay for the other. And I hope that one day I will be able to gain enough sponsorship and race winnings to let dog mushing pay for itself.

1. Talk up your passion

If you let others know what your passion is, you will have a hard time hiding from it. Find occasions to make presentations about your passion. Are you a nature photographer? Maybe you could hold a class at the local library. Do you love to write? Start a writers’ group. Getting involved with other people who also love your passion is important for making us feel like it’s a worthwhile pursuit. I never feel better about the hours and days I spend alone on the trail with my dogs than when I’m at a symposium or race with other crazy dog mushing people who understand my obsession.

2. Be obsessed

I’ve been obsessed with dogsledding for about 20 years now. I read about it, think about it and do it all the time. In the summer when we can’t run sleds, I run my dogs on a bike. In the fall, we train on a four-wheeler. When I’m not writing fun articles like this one, I am usually writing or reading about dogsledding. Since my first ride in 1994, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it…even during the times when I didn’t have a team and pursued other goals. Likewise, when I decided to become a writer, I was obsessed with publishing books. Accomplishing that goal and being published by a ‘big’ publisher was a dream come true. Following these passions and being obsessed with them has helped me accomplish the things I want to accomplish. Obsessions can be good — as long as you don’t ignore your kids or partner along the way.

3. Do it for love

You might not be able to support yourself with your passion, at least not in the beginning. And that’s OK. Do what you love for the love of it. Don’t worry about the money. While it’s true that the money will often follow, you will need to do something to pay the bills in the meantime. Try and find a job doing something close to what you love. I’ve worked in veterinarian’s offices, walked dogs and done other things just to make a living doing something ‘doggy.’ In fact, I’ve even baked dog treats for farmers markets and made collars and that sort of thing, just so I could talk dogs and make some money at the same time.

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4. Keep hope alive

OK, this sounds cheesy, I know. But even during my darkest, non-dog-owning days, I always had a glimmer of hope that I could run dogs again one day. This helped me get through some really long days and even helped me sleep at night. If you can’t follow your passion right now, for whatever reason, don’t give up hope. Do the little things — visit related websites of people who are doing it, keep learning by reading books or taking classes in your passion’s field.

5. Easy doesn’t do it

Easy is getting a job at the ice cream shop in town. Becoming a professional golfer is hard. Really hard. If your passion — your true passion — is how you want to spend your days, then that’s how you need to spend your days. There is an old saying, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you truly love something, then doing the hard work — even the little tedious things — doesn’t really seem that hard.

6. Face the odds

I have many people in my life who are fond of telling me that the odds that I’ll win a sled dog race someday are pretty small. These are usually the same people who told me that the odds I could get my first book published by a ‘big’ publisher were pretty small. I smiled pretty big when my first book was published by Viking and had many reviews, including one in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the odds are against you — or if you’re like me, if they do, you’ll just want to make it even more.

7. Make it profitable

If you really want to make a living from your passion, then you need to find a way to make it profitable. More people than you think actually do this. Bakers, cake decorators, writers, photographers, all make a living doing something about which they are passionate. Or, maybe, you can support one passion for another, as I do. If you’re true passion is expedition kayaking, you might not be able to make that pay — but writing books and blogging about expedition kayaking might just work.

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8. Cultivate passion

Maybe you don’t have a passion. Or maybe you really enjoy reading anime. Being passionate about something doesn’t mean it has to fall to you from the sky. You can seize opportunity and cultivate a passion too. Maybe you’ve noticed a need for a certain app in your life. Cultivate that passion by learning how to create the app and promote it. Sometimes hobbies should stay hobbies, but you can take a passion for something and let it lead you to something great.

According to Newport, “Steve Jobs, in his famous Stanford Commencement address, told the students (and I’m paraphrasing here): You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle.

“If you read the press and social media that surrounded the event, it’s clear that many people interpreted this as him saying, ‘follow your passion.’ If you go back into the details of his biography, however, you discover this is not what he did. He stumbled into Apple computer (it was a scheme to make a quick $1,000) at a time when he was ‘passionate’ mainly about eastern mysticism.

But Jobs was open to opportunity. When he sensed that his scheme was bigger than he imagined, he pivoted and poured a lot of energy into building a company around selling computers. He cultivated passion. He didn’t follow it.”

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9. Don’t lose steam

It happens. You start out really enthusiastic for a project and then, over time, you lose interest or excitement. Sometimes this is an indication that it’s not really what you’re meant to do. On the other hand, sometimes, you just have to keep plowing forward, even through the tedious times. Even the most exciting jobs and passions, like dog mushing or writing, have tedious times. I know when I’m writing that if I start to bore myself with what I’m writing, then it’s time to take a break. I also know that there are some mornings when the sheer effort involved in hooking up 12 or 14 dogs and going for a 40 mile run just seems exhausting. I have to, in those moments, put one foot in front of the other and get things done. Usually, after all of the tedium of hooking up and packing up is done and we are on our way, I find my joy again.

10. Get to work

It almost seems counterintuitive, but your passion or the thing that you love doing, should drive you to work hard for it. No one is going to pay you to sit on your couch and watch TV. If that’s your passion, you might need to cultivate a new one. Sometimes, finding a passion is not the same as finding passion — or joy — in our work. No job is perfect. But if you ask most people who enter one field or another, you’ll likely find that there are aspects of a job that they enjoy. A plumber might enjoy working alone, solving problems and working with his or her hands. It is doubtful that your plumber will say they have a passion for plumbing. But it’s likely there are things in the job that bring joy. Sometimes, that can be good enough.

More by this author

Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Michelle is an explorer, editor, author of 15 books, and mom of eight.

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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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