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What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio

What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio
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A collective sigh of sympathy went out to Leonardo DiCaprio when he failed yet again to win an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street. I was shaking my head in empathy. Hang on. Did I say empathy? Yes, I was reacting to what I thought he must be feeling. Okay, it’s not  easy to put myself in his shoes, much less see the world through his eyes, but you know what I mean.

We’ve all experienced a painful loss — a job promotion, admission to a dream university, a much needed scholarship, a financial investment or a lasting relationship. The big difference is Leonardo DiCaprio’s losses make headlines.

He most probably is disappointed over his latest Oscar miss. But I bet he is already moving on to his next project in film, philanthropy or environmental activism.

Skeptical? Let his words throughout his career support my bet, and let’s pick up lessons along the way too.

“My mom, Irmelin, taught me the value of life.  Her own life was saved by my grandmother during World War II.”

DiCaprio grew up with his mother who remained friends with his father after the couple divorced when Leo was a toddler. Both parents shared in his upbringing and encouraged creativity. His mother was born in Germany, moved to the U.S. in the 1950s and worked as a legal secretary. DiCarpio remains close to his mom. She was his “date” at Oscar night.

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Leo knows about valuing life. Dwelling on loss would be a waste of precious time. 

“Brothers don’t necessarily have to say anything to each other — they can sit in a room and be together and just be completely comfortable with each other.”

An only child, DiCaprio has a close friendship with fellow actor Tobey McGuire, which began when they were auditioning for the same child actor roles in the 1980s. He also keeps a regular close group of friends.

Leo’s enduring friendship with a professional rival shows no grudges over missed roles or awards.  Friendships and relationships carry more weight than personal loss.

“Don’t think for a moment that I’m really like any of the characters I’ve played.  I’m not.  That’s why it’s called acting.”

DiCaprio’s portrayals of fictional and real life characters are not easily forgotten. Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Catch Me if You Can) and Danny Archer (Blood Diamond) are, to me, the most poignant. He chooses film projects not by genre but based on how interesting the character is.

Leo has no attachments to roles or awards. Devastation over a loss comes mostly from a perceived attachment. 

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 “I’m not the kind of person who tries to be cool or trendy, I’m definitely an individual.”

A maverick is how he is described. While other leading men get comfortable working for years in an action franchise, DiCaprio does not mind doing supporting roles and is not afraid to play hateful protagonists and villains. He knows what moves him and does not go with the crowd.

Leo will not allow the Oscars to define who he is. Self-awareness keeps you centered in who you are.

“Drugs?  Everyone has a choice and I choose not to do drugs.”

DiCaprio has had his share of drinking and partying in the 1990’s but states he has never done drugs. Seeing drugs at an early age and growing up poor helped him make the decision not to go in that direction.

Leo used a difficult situation to make a wise choice. Wisdom comes from awareness, courage and commitment to a decision.

“I just really love doing what I do. I know every career is fleeting and there will be time periods when I don’t get the opportunities that I’m getting right now, so I’m taking advantage of them.”

DiCaprio is also a film producer and has worked with respected directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

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Leo understands the financial and creative aspects of the film industry. Losing an Oscar will not stop him from finding — or making — the next big opportunity. With purpose and ideas, a loss becomes irrelevant.

“I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what really makes me happy and it’s taken me a while to admit that acting like a little child and being a jerk and a punk is fun.”

These words may have come when DiCaprio was younger but it shows maturity — wanting to learn about himself, accepting his discoveries, and not taking himself too seriously. He has stayed connected with his parents and he has real friends to relax and act like a child with.

Leo has other pursuits beyond movie making, and losing an Oscar will not make a big dent in his life. Developing all areas of life enriches perspectives, making any loss purely incidental.

“You can either be a vain movie star, or you can try to shed some light on different aspects of the human condition.” (and) “Raising awareness on the most pressing environmental issues of our time is more important than ever.”

DiCaprio is among the first actors who has put fame to meaningful use by bringing public awareness to environmental and humanitarian concerns utilizing media projects, campaigns and grants. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gave a US$3 million grant to Oceana, an advocacy group working for the world’s oceans.

Leo’s philanthropy and environmental activism seeks to positively affect large parts of the world population. Losing an Oscar is trivial. Being aware of a greater need makes you realize how much you actually have and cuts your disappointment down to size.

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What about his Oscar-losing streak?  Statistics-wise, a series of losses means he is close to winning.  But law of probabilities aside, the fact remains:  losing an Oscar is not an obstacle for Leonardo DiCaprio to continue living a highly successful and meaningful life.

So the next time you think “Poor Leo” (or the more common variation, “Poor Me”), think again.

Featured photo credit: Izzie August 344 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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