As an ever-evolving perfectionist who is also a professional communicator, if I want to learn something, I go DEEP into it. I want to know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of it. And I don’t stop at just reading about it in a book.
I am a perfectionist by nature. Since I was a tiny kid – I’ve been reading since I was barely out of diapers (big words on the back of yogurt containers.) I potty-trained myself (no joke – walked up, sat down, done.) I hated getting dirty as a kid (not a stain on my white dresses.) I ate with a spoon off a glass plate in a high-chair (my mom still has the plate.) I corrected everyone’s grammar (especially my parents.) I edited my friends’ papers (in high school and college.) I loved making sure all the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed. Everything in its place. Everything executed according to a plan.
As I became a public speaker, I watched other speakers intently – finding the method to the madness of speaking. I learned how they moved on stage, what they said, how they gestured, their inflection, their methodology, their personal brand, and ultimately, I learned from their mistakes. I watched the audience. I watched their interaction with the audience. I especially watched the response of the audience and the play between them and the speaker. Speaking was about executing according to a plan.
But as I watched more intently, I saw powerful speakers use the stage as a barrier between themselves and the audience. I watched life-changing stories end at the stage stairs as they exited the room. I heard great leaders talk about big ideas and then leave through the back door without connecting with one person. And the more I watched, the more I saw a huge lack of vulnerability – if there was even a little, it was fake. Every one of them was executed according to a plan – and they were failing to truly connect with their audiences because of it.
So, I dug deeper into what makes a great speaker. I watched Brené Brown be unapologetically herself and share stories of truth with her audience without trying to be great. I watched Benjamin Zander break all the TED rules and show you why you should love classical music. I watched President Obama pull at your heartstrings with his conversation around one word: hope. And I saw Mel Robbins tell you why just counting down from 5 could get your ass off your couch. These speakers weren’t certified public speakers – they were real humans speaking from their hearts. Without permission from anyone around them.
As I sit here typing, I am now a full-time international keynote speaker – and I train speakers to be their unapologetic selves on stage. I had a call recently with my latest group of Rockstars (that’s really what they are) and as we were going through the course and what they should expect, I stopped everything and led a visualization with them.
As we walked through the visualization together, I asked them to step up onto the stage on the last day of the course and feel what it felt like to be ready. I asked them to feel the excitement, the energy, how it felt in their body – and how they wanted the audience to feel. And I left them with this: “It’s NOT about YOU.”
As they shared their feelings with the rest of the Rockstars, one man started sharing by saying he didn’t plan to share since it made him really vulnerable. Then said (in front of a LOT of women), “I felt unworthy.” But then he continued, “But as soon as you said it wasn’t about me, that changed everything.”
Well, guess what – YOU ARE THE GIFT.
And when you walk into ANY room with a posture of “you’re welcome,” you remind everyone in that room that you are the gift.
You don’t need to ask permission to be there.
You don’t need permission to say what’s on your mind.
You don’t need a movement to walk with those who need you.
You don’t need a revolution to finally do what’s right.
You don’t need to swear to make your point.
And you SURE don’t need to censor yourself.
You don’t need to tear someone down to make yourself feel better.
You don’t need a stage to give the talk of your dreams.
You need to give YOURSELF the permission to stand up, be confident, and do better than you’ve ever done. Especially because it’s not about you.
Say what needs to be said – even if it doesn’t come out right.
Write what needs to be written – it’s not going to be graded.
Do what needs to be done – especially if it lifts others.
Throw out the damn plan – and write a new one.
Be who you are meant to be – because it’s not about you.
You are perfect – just as you are. You don’t need to change a thing to “fit” anywhere or anyone. So, if you need permission to be you, here’s your permission. BE YOU. Unapologetically. Walk up onto whatever stage you need to take on – with a posture of “You’re welcome.” Because YOU are the GIFT. And they should be grateful they got a chance to hear you speak.