168 Hours (and a loooong interview with me) is featured in this month’s fear.less magazine (that link takes you to the downloadable copy or you can read it in your browser; I’m on pages 14-22). My interview is right before the section on Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Zappos. While Hsieh was quite able to come up with an awesome way to sell shoes and handbags, he confesses in this first-person piece that he used to be deathly afraid of public speaking.
Guess what? So is, oh, 95% of humanity.
I’m not sure why this is. I suppose that facing a crowd always raises the risk that they would literally attack you, particularly before the era of civilization, so perhaps this is why this trait is wired into us. On the other hand, before the era of print or broadcast, public speaking was really the only way to convey anything to large groups of people. So one could also make an evolutionary case for why humanity should be comfortable with it. But we aren’t.
Hsieh writes that he got over it by practicing, giving lots of speeches, and also trying things that had an even higher potential for humiliation (karaoke). I think this is good advice. There are some people who are naturally better at things than others, and I will never be a charismatic speaker on the order of, say, Bill Clinton. But as I say in the fear.less interview, it’s good to know that “talent is not a fixed and immutable [thing].” If you want to get better at something, and throw yourself into practicing, you will. We get better by doing. Practicing is always a good use of our 168 hours.
How have you overcome a fear?