Lessons Learned The Hard Way

They say people can’t change . . . much. But if we make enough small changes it can mean a big shift in how we think and act. As I look back at how I approached things ten, twenty, and (gulp) thirty years ago I cringe, but I am where I am because I tried some things (which didn’t work) and adapted. Here’s three examples.

• Trust Yourself
When giving a speech the worst thing you can do is to try and memorize it (or read it). The first time I did a showcase speech to create a demo video I knew it would be a permanent reminder of a temporary moment, and I wanted it to be perfect. I wrote my speech, memorized it (at least I thought I did), and then delivered it . . . in a stiff, rote, and forced way. (I can’t watch the video today without wanting to find every copy and destroy it.)

So my answer was to use notes to refer to when I spoke (sort of like a crutch.) It was better, but still not the best way to connect with an audience. On a flight to a speech the airline lost my luggage and my notes. I was forced to speak from memory and from the heart and I received a standing ovation. Needless to say I never wrote out another speech, tried to memorize it, or used notes ever again.

• Let Go of the Outcome
I’ve said this many times before but writer’s block(procrastination) is simply fear. One of the fears a person faces is being judged by what they write (or anything else they produce). To make sure I did the best I could to win approval I researched my books to the point where it was a form of procrastination. I spent months learning e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g there was to know about a topic. Then I was overwhelmed with information, which created more anxiety.

The solution was to set limits (time, pages, books, websites) I would use and then let go of the rest. It was hard at first thinking that maybe I missed something. (I later realized nobody else would know or care.) I also wrote for the reader (or course) but I also let go of things that didn’t “wow” me. It was a filter since I was a lot like the reader. Finally, I stopped taking such copious notes (that I would never reread anyway) and instead used index cards and only wrote down key words or important facts.

  • Details Do Matter

I wanted to be known for speed. I prided myself on being the first to turn in a proposal, respond to a request, or act on a lead. They say, “Speed kills,” and they are correct. So many times in my rush to reply I would miss something and look like an idiot. I also would jump to conclusions or say or write something in my response I would later regret–having thought it through with my head and not my heart (Read: Emotional). There is a long list of examples where haste made waste for me.

Taking your time to craft correspondence and calling back or texting after letting something sink in isn’t always a luxury–but sometimes it’s still a necessity. I still try to be as fast as possible by sending a quick note but also asking for (a little) more time to carefully and thoroughly review an important request. Not everything requires due diligence, and for those things that do, I just get it done as fast as I can. But the important stuff where details do matter, I would prefer to pause, ponder, and put together the best possible response rather than jump to conclusions and make mistakes.

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Lessons Learned The Hard Way

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