About 4 months ago, I had the opportunity to speak in front of 1,500 people on a massive stage. I had only 2 minutes to prep (the prep had to be done up on the stage) and I had to speak for 5 minutes. Not to mention, the pressure of just winning the national championship in impromptu speaking was looming over my head. I was petrified. I was so focussed on the possibility of failure, but it ended up being one of the best moments of my life.
In the past few months, I’ve done a lot of scary things. I came to the realization yesterday, as I was trying to muster up the courage to go to a meetup I was nervous about, that of all the scary things I’ve done in the last few months every single one of them was worth it. In every situation, I’ve gained invaluable skills, courage, friends, and new opportunities.
Here are some of those situations:
After winning nationals in impromptu, I had to give a speech in front of 1,500 people (same situation that I referenced above). Clearly, it was terrifying. I walked away from that situation with a newfound confidence in who I was, and more importantly, who I wanted to be. I see this moment as a shift in my life. The “ah ha” moment that I’ll look back on years in the future as the moment I discovered my life passion. That realization has been so much more powerful in my life than the fleeting fear of speaking in front of so many people.
Praxis Pitch Competition
After the big scare of the showcase of excellence, I knew that if I wanted to continue to improve my speaking, I had to one up the intensity. A few months later, I signed up to compete in the pitch competition Praxis was holding. I was terrified (noticing a theme?). It’s one thing to speak in front of 1,500 blurry faces. It’s another thing to speak in front of 20 very real, very close up people who you respect and look up to. This was my first presentation in front of any Praxis people… what if I failed and embarrassed myself? I was shy, awkward, and unsocial leading up to the presentation. I stayed in from a fun night in the city to put more work into the presentation (just kidding, I mainly stayed in and stressed for a few hours then went to bed). The next morning I had a knot in my throat and in my stomach.
Remember how I told you about my “ah ha” moment? This moment was similar. This pitch was a pitch for Ethos Communications, a company that was only an idea at the time. Only a few months later, I packed up everything, moved to Austin, and made that idea a reality. Who knows where I would be today if I hadn’t overcome the fear of that competition.
Talking to people on the street
Fast forward a bit. I’ve been in Austin for about 2 months now. I have my idea, I have some offerings, but I have no idea if I’m headed in the right direction. One scheduling mixup results in me being stuck in downtown Austin for the day (There was no way I was leaving after paying $15 for parking). I get a text from my mentor that tells me to ask 5 people about my ideas… just walk up… interrupt someone’s day… and start a conversation. HECK NO! I can’t do that!
I stood next to a guy in a coffee shop for 5 minutes trying to get the courage just to say the first sentence… “hi… are you involved with the tech community?”. The guy ended up invited me to sit down and we continued to have a pleasantly encouraging conversation. Very similar situations happened 7 more times that day. I walked in extremely nervous and walked away knowing that my company was solving a real problem that existed for a lot of people.
Last but not least, during Austin Startup Week, I was invited to go to a Women in Business networking event. If you gathered from the previous point, walking up and introducing myself to people is slightly terrifying. I decided to go anyway. I spent two hours starting conversations with women from all kinds of backgrounds. Every new conversation was just as hard to start as the first one. One conversation after another… I had to keep going.
At the end of the night, I was able to walk right up to the CEO and Founder of the company hosting the event and offer my services as a public speaking consultant. Could have ended terribly. It didn’t. She loved the idea and we’re working on scheduling a workshop together.
These are just a handful of examples…
I’ve jumped into the ocean in the dark, tried weird looking new food, moved to a new city, tried a crazy new haircut.
In all of these situations, I almost chickened out. It was only a single moment of courage that forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I don’t regret any of it and I can’t imagine where I would be today if I had chickened out on any of these opportunities.
Life is scary. Most of the time it’s easier to play it safe. Most of the time it’s accepted to play it safe. You won’t get where you want to go in life if you play it safe all the time.
Debaters, are you wanting to try out a new strategy that scares you? Are you afraid that if you try you’ll fail or lose the round? Try it out. Some of the best things I learned in debate happened when I was trying a new argument that scared me.
But obviously, this philosophy goes past debate.
What are you not doing in life because you’re scared? Do it.
What opportunities are being missed because you won’t take the next step? Take it.
Where will your life be tomorrow if you hesitate? Don’t hesitate.
Do it. Take it. Don’t Hesitate. Because when doing the scary thing turns out good… your life will too.
Abbey Lovett is a veteran NCFCA competitor. In her competitive years, she received two national titles (One in TP Speaking and one in Impromptu). In real life, she is using the skills debate gave her as a public speaker and communications coach. She is an entrepreneur and participant of the apprenticeship program Praxis. Her passion is to inspire young people to become the person they want to be. She writes daily on her personal blog: abbeylovett.com