We’ve all heard the adage “Be Authentic.”
But the truth is – You have to WORK at being who you really are.
I’ve never been afraid to do the work when it mattered, and I know you can relate:
Sports/dance/band practices, sometimes in the suffocating heat, to ensure a championship performance. Sit still, be polite, follow the rules, and speak only when it’s your turn. Exercise daily to keep weight and health in check, especially after gaining the freshman 15. Log the miles to run a marathon or hike a mountain. Earn a Bachelor’s then a Masters degree, then climb, climb, climb the corporate ladder.
We spend our lives training to be accomplished, presentable, worthy and well-rounded.
So WHY was it that when I quit a successful market research career (one that inflated my bank account and deflated my spirit) to start a business, I felt defeated, awkward, foolish, and unprepared? I had the fancy credentials…but lacked the ability to promote my own ideas.
That’s like being a shark without any teeth.
- Networking events wasted time and money because I asked questions of everyone else yet rarely talked about my business.
- During presentations my body tensed up, mouth got dry and a “professional” monotone voice put people to sleep.
- And business meetings? Let’s just say I didn’t want to bother people with what I had to say.
Despite having important ideas and goals, I couldn’t make them happen. So, I lost access to clients and decision-makers, missed out on opportunities, left money on the table and became a best kept secret. This led to a steady stream of stress instead of success.
So, now what?
Sometimes what you need to do to get around an obstacle – real or imagined – is do what you’ve done a thousand times before. Set the goal. Build your stamina. Put yourself in situations where you have to do the work.
I joined Toastmasters, hired coaches, attended workshops and conferences, joined networking groups, signed up for singing lessons, enrolled in standup comedy classes and said yes to leadership and business opportunities that forced me to put myself and my ideas out there. I relied on my yoga and meditation practice to keep me grounded, focused and committed to the vision.
You know what I learned? Formality weighs a TON. You have to get really strong if you ever want to shake it off.
When you have the fortitude to let go of the conventions and status quo it’s easier to:
- Connect with clients, peers, prospects…anyone
- Capture attention and command any room
- Express ideas and get your message across with ease
- Give engaging presentations and speak up more in meetings
- Or…disrupt the stagnant energy in a windowless conference room, after listening to 19 people introduce themselves for 5 minutes each, by standing up, throwing your hands in the air and shouting “WOOOOO!!!!” to ensure all eyes are on you when it’s your turn to speak. (Been there, done that. BTW, everyone put down their phones, sat up, and a few came up after the meeting to discuss what I did for a living.)
Whatever it is about your public persona that’s holding you back, understand that persona isn’t you…it’s you in restraints.
And if you’d like to live without them, let’s get to work.
Not quite ready to shed all of the formalities?
Here is some data to back up the story…
- For more than 20 years I’ve helped professionals feel more natural speaking, networking, facilitating.
- Host, Shed The Formality podcast (formerly Engaging Voices)
- Quoted in the Boston Globe, Toastmasters magazine, South Shore Living, Boston Magazine, Boston Voyager and other national and local media.
- Named a “40 Under 40 Emerging Leader” by the South Shore Stars in 2011
- M.Ed. and B.A. degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Earned Distinguished Toastmaster, highest designation in Toastmasters organization
- Currently living out my childhood dream to be a singer. I take voice lessons through the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA and recently sang solo in my 4th voice recital.