Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Several years ago, I had a chance to perform one of my songs at a local songwriter’s open mic night. I remember I went there with my wife, signed up, and sat down to wait my turn. We sat there, listening to the other performers, and enjoying the songs.

Then it was my time. I stood up, picked up my guitar and stepped up to the microphone. I had just recently written a new song, and I was quite proud of it. I had decided to be edgy and pull this one out, even though it was brand new.

As I stepped up, I got nervous. I started the chords, and my guitar was out of tune. I stopped and retuned it, making me more nervous. Finally, I started the song for real. My vocals were stretched and tense, I forgot the words in a place, and the chords in another… It was, overall an awful performance.

All because I was so afraid.

In the years since then, I’ve done a lot more performances. I’ve leaned a thing or two about fear. I thought, I’d share those thoughts with you now, because they make a big difference in how you approach business.

1. Fear never goes away

In spite of the fact that I’ve performed a lot over the many years since that night, the nerves are still there when I step up to the mic. I’ve learned that they always will be. Whether you’re singing, or speaking, or making a sales presentation, or starting a new business, the fear never goes away. It’s true that you feel it less as you get more and more experience, but it never really, fully goes away.

That means that I have to accept that and deal with it. Being afraid isn’t a mistake on my part. It’s not wrong. It just is.

2. Feel the fear, and do it anyway

Once you accept that the fear is going to be there, you don’t have to be afraid of it. That’s right, you can be afraid of fear. That sounds kinda loopy, but it’s true. I’ve been caught in that sort of circular thinking before. I don’t want to go on stage because I’ll get all tense and nervous. Why? Because I’m afraid. So, I’m afraid of being afraid.

Let yourself feel the fear. Embrace it. It’s a part of life.

And then go ahead and do the thing you’re afraid of anyway. Sing the song. Give the presentation. Register your business. Make the commitment. Once you feel it and push through it, it’s amazing how much smaller it feels.

3. The more you are prepared, the less you fear

Even though being afraid that night on stage wasn’t a mistake in and of itself, I made one big mistake. I wasn’t prepared. I performed a song that I had just recently written, and I hadn’t taken enough time to practice it. It wasn’t learned fully yet. So, I fumbled with the lyrics and the chords, and I was more afraid. I was on uncertain ground.

So, before you move ahead through the fear, it’s often a good idea to prepare. Learn what you need to, gather information. Practice your presentation. Anticipate problems. Never try to use any technology in a presentation that you haven’t tested beforehand.

Fear is a part of being human. It’s a part of what keeps us safe. It can also hold us back from our biggest successes. Feel it, enjoy it, even, and then do it anyway.

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