Learning from experience
HAVE you ever had that moment where you were about to do something when all of a sudden, something triggers your memory, causing you to pull back and stop what you were doing?
The feeling is similar to the kind of fear that envelops some people just before an exam, but not quite. This particular emotion is much stronger, its paralysing effect more severe.
That stomach cramp-inducing feeling for me used to come during public speaking. It happened in school when I was in Form Three. My teacher had informed me about the topic just a day before the event. I was tasked with writing a speech and delivering it at the school’s assembly.
It was my first time on stage in school with over 1,000 students as my audience. The weather on the day itself was hot and sunny, and the assembly was held in the afternoon inside the school’s hall.
I’m not sure whether it was due to the hot and humid conditions inside the packed hall or I was starting to get tensed over the fact that half the school was staring at me as if I had broken the law; but nevertheless, I began to sweat profusely.
With my heart pounding fast, I made my way up the stairs and on to the rostrum. As I uttered my first words into the microphone, it became clear that I was nervous.
Halfway through the speech, the butterflies in my stomach got the better of me and I stared blankly at my audience hoping that the words would just roll off my tongue.
But, it didn’t happen. I ended up publicly declaring that I was nervous and stepped down from the stage.
Many of us have likely had embarrassing stories from the past like mine. While I think it is always good to be able to share these stories in an open and positive manner, it is more important that we learn from these experiences and move on.
I’ve gotten a lot better since that particular incident. Now, when I speak in front of a crowd I make sure that the jitters don’t overcome me midway through the speech by preparing a lot earlier and talking to family members before each speech begins.
Perhaps this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving First Lady of the United States, captures it best: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face... You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Do not let sour past experiences hold you back. Instead, use them as stepping stones for success.
After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?