I used to shy away from certain activities. Why? Because I believed that I had to do them well or not do them at all. If I didn’t have any natural talent, then clearly they weren’t for me. On to the next pursuit.
Sometimes this approach makes sense. Take, for example, trying to play the violin. If, after many lessons, your “music” is jarring to your own ears and you don’t enjoy the experience, perhaps consider giving up what initially seemed like a good idea. You can lead an amazing life without ever picking up a violin again.
Yet, there are other scenarios in which giving up your interest in an activity wouldn’t be a good outcome. Perhaps the violin keeps calling to you. You can’t imagine what’s enticing you to keep playing (your inner masochist, perhaps?) but you know you’d hate to give it up. Even though you’re not good at it, even though it’s frustrating, you’re still drawn to it. You continue anyway, hoping that one day you’ll “get it,” enabling you to move to a higher level.
Or quite the opposite might occur. You might decide to give up not only playing the violin but playing any musical instrument, telling yourself you’re just not musically inclined. Disheartened, you come to believe you can’t keep a tune, so you avoid singing — even with a group. Passing harsh judgment on your voice, you decide to shy away from public speaking. And as you have no desire to make a fool of yourself, you nix all creative endeavors — even those that actively appeal to you, like photography and painting.
Well, I am here today to tell you that as inadequate as you may be in any pursuit, practice and preparation make a big difference. Here’s my personal story.
My first exposure to being on TV took place many years ago. Lucky me, I started at the top. I landed an interview with Katie Couric on the Today show, discussing my new book It’s About Time! which focused on How to Overcome Procrastination. I was so excited about the show and so worried about how I would do, I hadn’t thought much about what I actually wanted to say. Katie, being as sweet in real life as she appears on TV, helped me out in my most frazzled moments, injecting the right words as I floundered in my own anxiety.
While I continued to do TV shows after that, more experience didn’t make me much better. I knew I wasn’t awful but I also knew I wasn’t doing really well. I concluded that though I sparkle with a live audience, my fizz disappears when I lay eyes on the red light of the camera.
Then I did something that turned things around, enabling me to feel confident and competent despite the presence of the camera. What did I do? It will sound simplistic but it made all the difference. Practice and Preparation. Not that I hadn’t given lip service to these concepts before. I used to prepare, but not much; I thought I’d be too stilted if I prepared too much. This time, however, I wrote out answers to questions and rehearsed them. When asked a question, I responded with informative, insightful, interesting answers. I took deep breaths to calm down. Not only was the camera on, but I was on too. I went with the flow. And, much to my surprise, I enjoyed the experience!
Now, what about you? What pursuit would you like to get better at? Whatever it is, don’t give up on yourself. Put in the time. Put in the energy. Practice. Prepare. Practice. Prepare. Nix any hope of perfection. You won’t be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect. Just do the preparation. Then let yourself be.
You’ve done it! You’ve confronted your challenge with poise and pride. Smile. Pat yourself on the back. Celebrate what you’ve achieved. It’s a glorious day!