“Um… I can’t think of the word.”
I am not the most articulate person in person. It’s something that I’ve had to work on. A lot.
Mostly, it has a lot to do with my personality type. What’s going through my head sounds quite coherent to me, but I tend to say things first and think second. That makes me stumble in the middle of sentences and prefer to put words to paper instead of lips.
I didn’t really know this was a problem until my last job. A position that was all about public speaking. Speaking. Out loud. All the time. But I did well and survived. Here’s how you too can turn your weaknesses into strengths:
1. Do it small and awkward first.
I practiced my first big speech in front of Ryan. Doing speeches is actually much more difficult in front of people you know. Ryan and I weren’t dating at the time and never really hung out, but I thought he was cute and I wore a cute dress in preparation.
And it was so ridiculously embarrassing.
I don’t know what possessed me to think I could speak publicly in front of the guy that I had liked since the moment we had met, but it was awful. I was sweating. I was hot. And then cold. And I couldn’t even look at him. I looked behind him. At the corner.
Lucky for me, it worked. It totally worked and I aced the speech a few days later.
Make yourself uncomfortable before you have to perform for real. Most bloggers I know had a blog before their current blog. Companies test imperfect products with small groups before a launch. Runners do three miles before ten. You’re not the exception. No magic fairy dust for you. Only awkward, pride-swallowing affairs that give you mad confidence and oh-so-valuable experience.
2. Appreciate that weaknesses are your best asset.
The second time Ryan and I ever met and hung out, we got into a huge argument outside of the bar. And then he walked me home and asked why I was so cute when I was so angry. (And no, I didn’t let him come up.)
It’s totally annoying to fight with someone you like, but when you realize that you fight because you care things get better. You see, weaknesses are inextricably linked to strengths. They are the manifestation of fear from the things you want the most. And we avoid things that are scary to us. Like success. And love. And hard work.
But really, it’s not scary to take the first step towards being promoted to bank manager, or writing a book, or learning to swim as an adult, because then you just take another step, and then another.
3. Stop buying into natural talent.
Ryan is constantly telling me, “Relationships take work.”
I huff and I puff and then I agree. Because really, what do I know. I didn’t grow up with an example of a good relationship. Ryan did. My father died when I was in second grade. His parents are still together. My examples were happy endings. His were real people, not characters in a movie.
Nobody is excelling without practice. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests it actually takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any area.
“The people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else,” he reports. “They work much, much harder.”
And according to the 10,000 hour rule, I still have two or three years of serious relationship practice left before I get my happy ending. But even then, happy endings take constant vigilance because happiness is such an attention hog. Nobody ever tells you that, right? Like, usually when you reach your goals/success/nirvana the work is supposed to be over.
But since Tiger Woods isn’t taking a day off, neither can you (except maybe when it’s 83 degrees outside after a Winter in Wisconsin). The real meditation is in the constancy of habit.