Konnichiwa to all 38 of you beautiful people.
Welcome to another installment of Pursuing Progress.
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The judges blankly stared at me as I stood at the podium to present our team’s findings. You could hear a pin drop in that room. Instead of listening to the words I had rehearsed hundreds of times, I was drawn out by the sound of my heart, beating out of my chest. My feet, planted. My knees, locked. My mind, empty.
I was living every speaker’s nightmare.
Backtrack a few months, I was in the second semester of my first year in college. As a student in the business school, we’re often required to work in teams and present our information in front of a group. It’s practice. It puts you on stage. It sets you up for the “real world”.
As first-year business school students, we’re required to take an introductory management course. It provides a general overview of business in the traditional sense. Over the course of the semester, my team and I were to research a company, find their competitive advantages, their target markets, and propose an alternative solution in our final presentation to a panel of judges.
I’ve given plenty of presentations before. I’ve spoken to groups of 40+ in sports teams. I sang and danced on stage for crowds of over 1,000.
The day before presenting, I was walking to the rehearsal space, whispering my perfectly cohesive lines to myself.
“Hey Sean, you ready to go?”
“Born ready. Let’s get this over with.”
We crushed the rehearsal. Our PowerPoint was sleek. The content was exceptional. And our lines, well, they were absolutely packed with flair. All we needed to do tomorrow was do it again.
I jumped out of bed the next morning and paced to Bauer Hall by 9AM.
I dapped up my teammates and told them, “I’ve never been less worried about anything in my life.”
The classroom door opened and our professor called, “Group 7, we’re ready for you.”
We gave each other a head nod and walked single file into the classroom. A panel of 5 judges — our professor, and 4 TA’s — locked their eyes on us as we made our way across the room.
“We’re ready whenever you are”, said our professor.
Teammate #1 executed to perfection. She was smooth in her delivery and warm in her presence. I was up next. And as she made her final remarks, my head was exploding with my rehearsed lines.
Was I nervous? Yes, but I knew exactly what I was going to say. I shouldn’t be.
“Now, I’ll turn it over to Sean who’ll dive deeper into our competitors.”
I grabbed the pointer and calmly made my way to the front. And the first words that came out of my mouth…perfection.
I didn’t even think about my lines. They were rolling off the tongue like a ball on a hill.
“Let’s look at some of Darden’s competitors. Many of them…”
Many of them what? What Sean? What are Darden’s competitors like? Tell me!
Remember when I said I couldn’t be less worried about anything? How utterly wrong I was.
5 pairs of eyes stared into my soul as they waited for my next word. Hanging on, praying, that I’d keep going. I felt the weight of my teammate’s disappointment as they realized I froze. My legs, planted. My knees, noodles. My mind, in shambles.
I opened my mouth in hopes that something, anything, would come out.
I stood in silence for what felt like an eternity, in reality, it was no longer than 10 seconds. And by some force of magic, the next word reared its head from the back of my mind. I finished my piece and silently joined my teammates in the back, hanging my head in shame.
The presentation finished. We received positive feedback from the judges. And escorted out of the classroom to make room for the next group.
“I’m sorry guys. That one’s on me. I choked.”
That day, I promised myself I’d never choke on stage again. Not like that. Never again.
1) Cohort 1 of Performative Speaking
The past 5 weeks with Performative Speaking have been the most transformational of my life. This was my first time participating in an online course, and my wildest dreams couldn’t have predicted the cohort to look like this.
Did we become better speakers? Yes.
Are we more confident, clear, and concise? Yes.
Is the community as strong as you thought it’d be? Even stronger.
Don’t take it from me, take it from the students themselves.
2) I published my first video
In the spirit of never choking on stage again, I want to force myself to step on that stage. In this case, that stage is not the classroom, but video.
Our final video for PS was to show our vision for 2021. This is mine. Let me know what you think.
3) “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy
Pursue high-achievement. Invite failure. Do it over and over again.
You’ll be bound to success…only if you continue after each failure.
That’s all for this week, my friends.
If you liked this installment, why not share it with friends?
If you never want to choke like I did on stage, DM me for PS Cohort 2.
I’ll see you next week, from Tokyo!