Lone triathlete swimming in a lake at sunrise

Sunday morning I will wake (by choice) at 4:00 a.m., and do something that scares me. Even after several triathlons, the swim and I… we’ve never been friends. At my first triathlon, my daughter asked, “Mommy, why are you going in the muddy water?” Why indeed.

Earlier this week, I gave a presentation to a small group–about 15 people. Just like the triathlon, I had volunteered for this, even applied for a speaking slot. But here’s the thing: I hate public speaking.

Why did I volunteer? Simple. I’ll never get over my fear if I don’t face it head on. And I feel passionately enough about my subject that I want to help people with it. My desire to share what I know overshadows the fear. For triathlons, I need to prove to myself that despite being a proud band geek with no hand-eye coordination, I can be an athlete too.

If you’re afraid of public speaking, chances are–like me–you could use some practice. Yes, you’ll hate it. But you’ll be glad you did it.

Long ago, one of my first bosses required me to attend Toastmasters meetings every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. I was 22, and did not yet appreciate the possibility and opportunity found in those quiet, early hours. And I was terrified. The thought of talking to groups of people made me break into a cold sweat. But a funny thing happened. I went to those meetings, where you basically practice being put on the spot. I never got completely comfortable with it, but I improved.

I don’t think out loud. Like many writers, I prefer to ponder on the page before sharing my opinion. But to succeed in communications, you have to be reasonably competent at both written and verbal communication. To succeed in business, you have to speak up sometimes. Chances are, if you’re wondering about something during a meeting, others are too. And when they speak up and ask your question, they’ll get the credit for that great idea, or pointing out something the group hadn’t considered. Sound familiar?

So, sign on to do something you’re not comfortable with. You might hate it, but I bet in the end you’ll be glad you finished it.

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