“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops… until you stand up to speak in public.”
That was one monotonous sundown of May 2010 at home. I was occupied with the assignments for the next day when I felt a hand tug and pull at my shirt. It was my little son of seven years with gleaming eyes and full of pride, who had just returned from school. “Dad, I won the first prize at school in the impromptu speaking contest today, he claimed.” That is amazing, and I am so proud of you, son,” I acknowledged, before hugging him.
Before he could hastily retreat into his room, he shot back and asked, “Dad, have you won any prizes at school”?.
“Son, I err…, yes…, no…, I must have, I babbled …”. And I succeeded in saving my neck that day, and on quite a few occasions later.
Four years later, in his eleventh year, the day he was awarded a Black Belt in Karate, we were driving back home, and he asks over,” Dad, you’ve never told me any of your achievements in your school days. What were they?”.
I didn’t want this embarrassing weird silence and sinful glance to last another time. So, I had to blurt out the truth about my tough past, of which I am not proud at all. I said in a muted tone,” in all my life, my son, ‘None.'” He asked surprisingly, “Never?” and I replied, ‘No, son, I haven’t won in anything at school.’ Whatever little success I have achieved in life, I have done so after my schooling.
I didn’t want to tell my detailed past for his own well-being.
Admit, if I must, I was a total introvert at school, suffering from shallow self-esteem and low self-worth all my life. I never participated in any event of whatsoever kind. I was average in academics and miserable failure in non-academic activities. The most straightforward questions directed at me by my teachers in the classes would go unanswered and leave them fuming. I would dare not answer, even if I knew it. My inferiority complex was so unacceptable that I only had one friend in all of my school life, my classmate, who was worse than me in this behavioral aspect.
I was taken twice to a psychiatrist by my well-intended relatives to understand ‘what is wrong with the boy’!
I used to skip school on occasions where events and competitions of any kind were announced prior. I will never forget the day in my 10th grade when I was startlingly called on the dais on the annual day meet to receive a consolation certificate for my class yoga participation, and I fainted in the arms of the chief guest and had to be dragged away backstage.
Somehow, I wriggled out of my school life and managed to make it to the final year of my engineering, where, on one fateful day, I was called on the dais to ‘Introduce myself,’ during a session for campus interviews and recruitment. Finally, the death knell hour came knocking, my turn; and when I stood up, my mind sat down and I forgot everything, including my name!
I said, I, I, I …. and nothing more for sixty full seconds, the time allotted for my introduction.
Sixty seconds later, which seemed like an eternity, tears were streaming across my face, and then the sounds of giggling and howling began followed by the vicious laughter of my classmates. That was the last nail on the coffin. I stood there dumb faced till I was led away.
“Every speaker has a mouth, an arrangement rather neat. Sometimes, it’s filled with wisdom; sometimes, it’s filled with feet.”
I never knew adversity that day, held in it the most exceptional seed of benefit, and it was the day my life would turn around. There was a banker seated amongst the other recruiting company heads who were present. At the end of the session, the banker said, “Come along with me, boy, I need to talk to you for five full minutes,” I squealed, “No,” traces of tears still apparent on my face. Now, he demanded I must come in a gruff and authoritative tone and took me to the cafeteria.
There he said, “I have just witnessed your pitiful attempt to speak. “I want you to know about me and the good work I do to help people like you,” he said, lowering his voice and changing to a tone of friendliness now. He said, “My passion besides my banking job is to craft speakers and help them find their message in life and share it with the world. I have an organization that produces brilliant speakers. Would you allow me to work on you?” I shivered and said, ‘No way,’ recollecting the horror I had been subjected to – just minutes ago.
He flinched and said, look, Son, ‘There are two roads visible to you now,’ The first one is to say goodbye to public speaking and never cross this path and remain like you have been all your life until now. The other one is to come back with a vengeance. He resounded, “The best revenge is a massive success.”.
Something in me greatly wanted to avenge the embarrassment of what had happened in front of my classmates. So, hesitatingly, unwillingly, unenthusiastically, I dragged myself for the next two months to his sessions on weekends and found others there who were just beginning like me.
I slowly began to realize that “most of them like me,” “have suffered more from simple cowardice and have been more horribly ashamed of it.” And I decided to make my weak point my strongest asset. Finally, I hit upon the quickest and surest method ever devised to conquer cowardliness, Public Speaking. I participated wholeheartedly in the speaking club week after week, grabbed every opportunity to be on the dais, threw my heart into the cause of public speaking, and by going out and speaking out for that cause, I transformed myself into one of the most confident speakers of my club. In the next twelve months that followed, I went through a metamorphosis, and life was never meant to be the same again.
“The worst speech you’ll ever give will be far better than the one you never give.”
After that, each time I spoke, the message became more evident to me that “I was born to speak, and the stark revelation that I am re-connecting with the higher purpose for which I was created, – To Speak.” Today in my twenty-second year as a public speaker and leadership coach, I am blessed to have addressed audiences as large as 25,000 and coach top several fortune 500 companies and corporates of every imaginable size across the world. Looking back, at the passage of time that has led me into this beautiful life today, it is impossible to fathom the roots from where I have arisen.
I am blessed and highly favored by God to have addressed over 2.5 million people in these twenty plus years.
The message I intend to make clear is if I, a labeled introvert at school, can not only today speak in public but also get into the highly rewarding world of speaking as a career, anyone can become a speaker par excellence.
Your PAST has got nothing to do with your FUTURE.
Today, when people ask me as to how I have transformed myself into one of the most compelling and in-demand speakers, I humbly reply, “I did it by failing enough times and doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it!”. I tell them If I can learn to speak effectively, convincingly, and persuasively in public, you too definitely can”.
Effective speaking is much more than just, “saying a few words to the audience. It is the illuminating expression of a human personality”. There is no foretelling; how far the ability to speak on your feet can take you. It will appeal to your pride of personal triumph. It will set you off from and raise you above your equivalent men. It will give you a sense of strength, a feeling of influence. There is a magic in public speaking and a never to be forgotten ecstasy.
Today when we look at the successful world leaders with awe, praise, and admiration, let’s not also forget that they were all excellent speakers apart from their contributions to the world in different fields Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Dale Carnegie to name a few.
You might be under the impression that public speaking is not essential for you. Although the ability to speak well before groups may be absolutely essential in a few professions, the need to do so can arise in almost any line of work at one time or the other.
I have witnessed many lives that have been dramatically transformed by the ability to speak; many of them have received elevation far beyond their dreams or have achieved positions of prominence in their professions and community.
The benefits of public speaking are diverse. You become a more sharp-eyed person; your attentiveness, dexterity, and query-handling skills increase. You become a self and psychologically balanced person, more relaxed, more humorous, and with these qualities, you will be able to project an image of assurance and credibility wherever you go. Apart from these skills, you will have the ability to think on your feet, body awareness, endurance, memory, verbal, and imagination skills.
Wow. Is there so much to public speaking? It sounds like a miracle. It is a miracle, a 21st-century miracle, that will lead you to the path of fame and glory!
Though many of us are aware of the multiple benefits it can bring into our lives, the underlying problem that stands between successful public speaking and us is FEAR.
The chief reason for our anxiety is that firstly, the audience is listening to you and looking at you as a group, but you are facing them alone. Secondly, it seems to you, although not to the audience that every movement you make, every gesture, every slip of the tongue is magnified a thousand times in size and proportion.
But when you hear a great orator speaking, you listen to his talk. Your attention is riveted on the ideas he is projecting. You are not conscious of his appearance, gestures, looks, dress, and other minor details. What is true of him is true of you! So the next time when you feel under-confident, hesitant, or shy, stop and ask yourself, where is the need to do so?
One of the psychosomatic reasons for fear could be the fact that we have all been well trained in the role of audience members. At a minimum, the first twenty or more years of our lives have been spent as learners and receivers as members of the audience. However, there comes the point when, if we are to be successful in life, we must turn around and become teachers, givers, and leaders.
It is very well said, the moment you begin speaking to a group, you automatically become the leader of that group, and who doesn’t want to lead?
Like Dale Carnegie brilliantly puts it,” The ability to speak is a short cut to distinction.”
Public speaking is an adventure that can change you in and out and make you lead a richer and fuller life.
Public speaking can give you a major breakthrough in life; in areas that are beyond one’s comprehension, help you accumulate a record of successful experiences behind you and serve as your gateway to the hall of fame!
“The ability to speak is a shortcut to distinction. It puts a person in the limelight, raises one head and shoulders above the crowd. And the person who can speak acceptably is usually given credit for an ability out of all proportion to what he or she really possesses.”― Dale Carnegie