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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The High Wire

I had a talk this weekend. At at state-wide conference.  

The stage can be intimidating. Terrifying. Make a tough guy quiver. The spotlight magnifies every move. Every word. Sometimes, you don't know what the next word is until you say it. You're piecing together sentences a word at a time. Most of the time, you pull it off. Sometimes, you run into a dead end.

If you're funny, if you're entertaining, the crowd is more forgiving. But there's a balance. Try too hard, you look desperate. Start apologizing, you look pathetic. Stay present. Be honest. Know this, you'll never win them all. Some won't like you. No matter what. But that's not why you get on stage. Not to get their approval. I don't know why you do it. It's just not that. 

Even the most seasoned speaker gets nervous. Maybe not like it was in the beginning, but it still happens. When it does, the veteran knows that the crowd has no idea your heart is trying to break your ribcage. They don't feel the cold panic harden your gut. They don't know any of these things. 

Unless you look down.

You stay focused in the present moment. Allow space for all your fears. Allow those life-threatening sensations to surge through you. But you don't look down. You stay here. You focus on the next step. And the next. 

Even when your thoughts become stones. Why is that asshole in the front row glaring at me? What's the deal with the sourpuss in the third row? I'm going to fail. Failing. I'm failing. And they're going to laugh. They're laughing at me. I'll die up here. I'll die. Die. Die, die. DIE.

But they're thoughts. Not stones.

You take the next step.


  1. I know the feeling. It's awesome when you know you've connected. And gut-wrenching when you feel like you didn't.

  2. and that's why i love having an attention span of about 3 seconds. in the moment is all i've got. what was your talk on?

  3. Did a talk on computer design. Went really well. Felt locked into most of the crowd. I love that. But there's always talks when it doesn't.