Jennifer’s friendly, anxious face blinks at me over Skype. She helps women create better boundaries. She’s been asked to give a talk to a few hundred people. She wants me to help her get rid of her nerves, and remember every word of her script…
Tom nods so much I’m almost dizzy. He’s giving a big speech on fitness, and he wants to blow the room away…
Laura wants to be able to tell uncomfortable truths to her boyfriend without him being upset….
Over the years thousands of people have told me what they fear and desire most when speaking….
“…I don’t want to feel nervous….I don’t want to go blank…I don’t want to say the wrong thing….I want to inspire people….I want to change lives….I need to feel more confident, more certain, more in control….I need to get it right….I must avoid….I can’t….I have to….I am….I’m not….”
‘Negative’ or ‘Positive’ Everyone Focuses On Insignificant Things, Never What Truly Matters.
Some people have a very strong ‘negative’ focus; all about what they want to avoid. Some people have a very strong ‘positive’ focus; all about what they want to achieve. Most have a mix of both. Generally speaking, focusing on what we want to achieve is a big step in the right direction.
But it’s still disempowering. Most people I’ve ever coached, taught or chatted to have deeply disempowering perspectives on how to get better at speaking. The same goes for nearly all the courses and blogs I’ve ever come across too.
Of course, their intention is always to empower themselves and others.
These are all good people. There are great teachers out there, with lots to offer. Many of the ideas, tricks and techniques seem to empower, to a certain degree. They help you gain a certain level of confidence and skill. They can make you a good speaker. You can feel better and do better. And for lots of people, maybe that’s enough. Great!
But the ideas, tricks and techniques that can help you become a good speaker will stop you from ever being your own unique greatness. More than this, they’re part of a paradigm of thinking, feeling, being and communicating that is fundamentally disempowering.
With the best intentions in the world, all the ideas about how to get better come from, and feed into, the same paradigm that disempowers us in every area of our lives. The paradigm of control. People want, and teachers teach, ideas about how to control how we feel, how we speak, how others perceive and receive what we say, and what effect it has on them.
Controlling our nervous energy. Controlling our thoughts. Controlling the flow of words coming through us. Controlling how the audience sees and hears us. This is true onstage and in conversation.
It’s often very subtle. People who would never consciously think of themselves as being controlling, do it. Trying to only feel good is control. Trying to not make any mistakes is control. Trying to perfectly prepare, perfectly remember and perfectly deliver a script is control. Wanting to make a good impression, be convincing, inspiring and admired is control. Wanting people to believe us and agree with us is control.
Again, it can be very subtle. But almost everyone is trying to control how they feel, think and perform when they speak. And how others receive them.
To a certain degree it works. But you'll never discover the depth of connection, depth of shared humanity, depth of inspiration, flow and magic that you want until you let go control.
You know that feeling, when the air itself changes, where everyone is somehow a brighter bigger version of themselves, bathed in the energy and emotion of what you’re saying? When suddenly somehow, we all remember who we really are, how powerful, how beautiful, how full-hearted we really are? That feeling, where the words are the tiniest part of what is transpiring between you?
You don’t get there by managing yourself, others or the moment. You get there by being open to yourself, to others, to the moment.
Clients come to me wanting to fix, get rid of or transcend all these surface level issues they have. I tell them - that stuff is nothing but a distraction you use to avoid stepping into your full-hearted power and making magic happen. Our maniacal little managerial minds would happily spend eternity writing to do lists of things we need to fix about ourselves. I know mine does. Mine is relentlessly fixated on what needs improving in me.
The mind is scared of how huge we feel when we drop the veil of bullshit and drop into our full-hearted selves. Since I discovered how to feel completely free and plugged into magic onstage, I've actually often run away from doing it too often! Because the little control freak in me is terrified of being swept away in that wave of pure being.
At the same time it's all I desire and when I do it, everything goes beautifully. When I don't, everything is a struggle.
Once you’re willing to step into your full-hearted self, tricks and techniques are very cool to play with. But if you’re not willing, they’re just one more way to play small and pretend your power is outside yourself.
In your power, coming from love and respect for yourself, others and the moment, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Say what you want. Make a million ‘mistakes.’ Say crazy shit that logic would forbid from ever passing your lips. Go blank, be palpably shaking with nerves, have a dry mouth. Completely lose track of what you planned to say.
And it can still be spellbinding, life-changing and unforgettable.
If you’re not in your power, you can perfectly deliver that perfect script with all the tricks, and still, something is missing.
You are missing.
You are what people really want. The only gift you have to give. When we connect to that, we get limitless energy, confidence and flow. When we don’t, we end up drained and trying too hard.
Controlling yourself, and then trying to motivate and pump yourself up, is like damming a river and then calling a plumber to turn on your taps.
Are you willing to stop focusing on all the bullshit that never mattered that much anyway? Willing to stop trying to control yourself, and others and the moment, even a little? To start opening up to your genius, which exists only in this present moment? To start speaking from your heart, which is a physical force, only in this present moment? To start speaking to the actual humans there in front of you, really speaking to them, not to your idea of them?
Once you ask yourself this question enough times, there’s no going back. Once you take that breath into your full-hearted self, feel the energy of what wants to be shared in the moment, and really let yourself be moved by the presence of these humans who miraculously listen to what you say, you know you never really desired to be in control anyway.
That was just fear. We’re taught that confidence is being in control, but it’s the opposite. Confidence is trust, and trust only occurs beyond the edges of what we can control.
You don’t want to control your nervous energy - you desire to learn how to let it cascade through your veins until it fills you to overflowing with the chemical manifestation of your soul showing up to set the room alight.
You don’t want to control your audience’s perception of you - you desire to show your humanity to them, your vulnerability and your grace. You desire to see theirs too.
You don’t want to control your words - you desire to get your vital message across of course, but you desire to be open to the flow, to the lightning strike of inspiration, to the steady ripples of surprising fresh thoughts too, because you know you need to let your message come alive.
You don’t want to have an impact on people - you desire to honour their own wisdom and strength, and speak to the whole person they are, leaving them free to make up their own minds and have their own experience. And because of this, you can be completely free to hold nothing back when it comes to expressing how amazing your message/offering is.
Are you willing?
Dave Rock teaches and coaches Heart-Fuelled people to Live Their Gifts, and is an award winning spoken word artist, storyteller, and lover of climbing stuff and odd jokes.