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Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

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Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

I’m beginning to hate blogging.

Not because I don’t like writing or talking to people. But because every time I sit down to write something, I have to make a choice—I have to decide who I want to present myself as. With each word I write, I have to decide if I should be my “real” self, or if there’s some enhanced internet Daniel that I should be more like. And if there is, I have have to figure out what the hell that guy would say. On top of all the other decisions I have to make every day, that’s just tiring. Who is reading this? How do I sound to them? How do I want to sound? What will they think of me, and if they don’t like what they read… will they stop reading?

And honestly, I get worried. A lot.

I get worried that people will read what I write and think I’m some prick, fake-phony bastard snake oil salesman internet skeezebag. Or I get worried that people will genuinely start to like me, but then I’ll let them down somehow.

I’m sick of worrying. I don’t want to worry anymore.

The downside of having figured some things out, made some money, done some cool business things and made some small achievements… is when you tell people the two or three things you’ve figured out, they expect you to have answers to other problems too.

I don’t have any answers. That also worries me. Am I supposed to have answers?

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Oh God, if I am supposed to have answers at 25, I’m drastically behind. If someone were to ask me “are you a worrier” though, I’d probably say no. But I’d be lying. I worry about a million little things every day. Don’t you?

Sometimes we don’t even realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

Today, I was at the gym working on my vertical jumps off those little teal and purple stackable step blocks and there were two guys working out in the aerobics room on the heavy bags. As I kept stacking the blocks higher and higher, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the jump. I had this terrifying, completely vivid blu-ray quality mental image that my clumsy toe was going to catch on the blocks, and send them all crashing down, and I’d land in a horrifically twisted pile, writhing in agony.

Then the guys would turn around and laugh at me. Or maybe they would just look in the mirror without turning around, shaking their heads and laughing at me. Or worst of all, maybe they would come and try to help me up. That would be completely emasculating. I don’t fucking want help. Then, from that day forward, all of us would know, if only non-verbally, that they were the alpha males and I was just a tiny beta male peon. And every time I passed them in the gym, I would feel inferior.

All those scenarios, their outcomes, and the potential accompanying emotional states flew through my head in about 3 seconds before I attempted to make the jump, stacked 19 blocks high.

And I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it, man.

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I felt slow. I felt like there was a glassy haze over my senses. My brain was just too cluttered. I stood there frozen. All the spring was sapped from by calves. All my energy was drained. I was literally paralyzed. I made a couple feeble attempts to get my spring back, but I just felt like my grandma trying to get out of her chair.

Have you ever felt utterly paralyzed by worry?

If there was some version of me that could have made that jump, some doppelgänger out there in a parallel reality that had the athleticism, another doppelgänger might as well have put a gun to the first guy’s head and blew his beautiful little brains all over the linoleum.

I killed myself in three seconds with worry.

Sometimes I wake up at 3am worried. Will my business keep going well? What if all my clients dry up, and nobody wants to work with me? What if I can’t feed myself? What if I make a stupid mistake and everything I’ve built gets torn down? One time I got in a fight with my girlfriend and she said that I “wasn’t even her type anyway”. Was she saying that just to hurt me? What if I’m really not her type? Is she going to cheat on me? Is she already cheating on me? I think she likes dark guys. Should I start going to a tanning booth?

Worries, worries, worries.

Compound worries for the future with over-analysis of the past and it leaves precisely zero percent of your mental capacity to seek opportunities and enhance your creative muscles in the present. Zero. Why are we even worrying so much anyway? What’s there really to worry about? I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not at my best. I think when I’m worried, I actually get dumber.

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I haven’t run any statistical tests to back this up, but I think if you were to take two IQ tests, one when I was fraught with worry and one when I was at…I dunno, say…Disney World or something…you’d find that I am much smarter on Space Mountain. When I’m happy, when I’m not agonizing over the past or obsessing about the future, I actually make smarter, more insightful, more creative decisions. When I’m not worried about anything, I’m actually pretty brilliant.

As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to get any dumber because we are worrying about things we can’t control. To have the clarity to make smarter decisions, we have to stop worrying so much about things that are outside of our locus of control and instead, only focus on the things that we can control. Period. We have to mentally clean house. Our brains are computers,and when a computer has too many programs running in the background, it crashes. Let’s sort things into 3 buckets:

  1. Things I can’t control.
  2. Things I can control, but I’m choosing to let go of.
  3. Things I can control and I’m going to act on immediately.

Notice how there’s no fourth category that says: “Things I can’t control but I’m still going to think about incessantly until I can find a way to control them, or if I really can’t find a way to control them, spend energy being worried about the potential outcome.”

Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Fuck that bastard. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option. And while you’re at it, banish the options in buckets 1 and 2 as well. Anything you can’t control in bucket 1 gets the mental DELETE button. 99% of everything in the entire world falls into this bucket. What people think of you. The actions others take. The way people feel about things you say or do. Events that happen as a result of things you can’t control. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

This isn’t to say you should be a thoughtless prick. Be kind to others and do your best, but if that’s still not good enough, throw your hands up and be done with it. Some things you can control, but you should choose not to engage them. Just because you CAN make a choice, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the tradeoff just isn’t worth it. You could choose to continue a business or personal relationship that causes you worry and anxiety. You could push through. But why? DELETE.

You could choose to continue a fruitless argument, but in the end, it won’t make a difference whether you “win” or not. The damage is in the arguing, not the outcome. Just DELETE.

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I only want to deal with things in bucket 3: things I can immediately engage and have an impact on. If there’s something I can do that will resolve the situation, or at least make the situation better, I want to do it immediately. Otherwise, I’m not going to let worry and clutter simmer in my subconscious and take up precious mental energy. This isn’t the same as saying that I don’t care about outcomes. I do. I’ve just come to realize that I rarely have the power to change the path of people or events in my life. So I do my best, then I just stop worrying about it. Because worry has never helped me solve any of my toughest problems. And I’m only interested in being alive if I’m solving tough problems.

Worry is a doppelgänger that’s come to murder our creative selves. So I’m just going to stop worrying. I’m done with it.

What do you think?

You should leave a comment. That’d be cool. If not, that’s ok too. I’m not going to worry about it.

 

– Daniel

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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