Have you ever given a talk? Did you prepare weeks in advance? Or did you type the last word on the final slide 10 minutes before you spoke?
I gave a talk recently at Agile and Beyond, a regional agile conference in Dearborn, MI. I presented the material 3-4 times before, but I always get a little nervous before I present.
Throughout the day, as I visited the speaker room, there were other presenters in various stages of practicing and polishing their slides. I was in awe of the last-minute preparations. How could they just show up, finish some slides and nail it?
And most of them do nail it. I’ve heard them – articulate, funny, expertly fielding questions from the audience. No one has any idea that they never ran through their slides in their entirety out loud. And I’m so jealous.
I felt completely out of my league. It had been a few months since I gave my talk so I practiced the week prior then I ran through it twice on the car ride there. All the while with typed-out notes so I wouldn’t forget key points.
Why can’t I just wing it? I know this stuff! This particular talk is about my journey of discovering how I can add value. So why do I still need notes? And how am I in the same room as a girl literally hitting save on her slides as she left to go give her talk?
Ok, so maybe there are other explanations. Maybe she’s given that talk 10 times and was just tweaking something minor. Maybe she’s written countless articles about her subject. Or maybe, just maybe, her “practice” is the hours she spends coaching and teaching on a daily basis.
I guess none of these “maybes” matter anyway. I have to remember that we all have our own style of learning, practicing and mastering skills. Just because I don’t follow the same steps or pattern doesn’t mean that I can’t achieve the same success.
…Just like climbing a rock wall. At a gym, there are 100’s of holds to help you get to the top. But evenfollowing the same route, no two people will ever use the same exact combination of holds to achieve the summit. A hold that is perfect for my reach is too close or too far for yours. We are each made gloriously different so we must each make our own path to the top.
And thankfully, we don’t have to go it alone. My first experience climbing taught me the value of having friends to guide your way. When you are hanging onto a wall, trying not to plummet to your death (those ropes are SO thin!), your face is inches away from the wall. You can only see the holds that immediately surround you. There are moments when you feel frozen, with no hope for continuing.
Your friends on the ground can see the whole wall. They know that just past your view is a perfect hold that will help you. They yell things like, “Let go with your left hand and reach straight up 18 inches. You can do this!” You don’t want to let go, but you trust their guidance and, reach by reach, make it up the wall.
Trust and let go…
Trust that your path is going the right direction and let go of pre-conceived notions of what success looks like. You will never follow the same exact path as someone else so stop comparing and start honoring your own journey toward mastery. And don’t forget to listen to friends for guidance when you can’t see the next step. Each climb gets easier and less frightening (I hope!).
Where do you feel out of your league? What do other people breeze through while you stress out? And how can you honor your own journey?