“There are many victories worse than a defeat.” ~ George Eliot
Growth is about commitment. Unless you’re totally committed to shift, odds are you’ll remain exactly where you are. Find out what’s holding you back from getting to where you want to go and remove those crutches. Give yourself no option but to catapult out of your safety net.
Seven years ago, I stood up in front of my peers and flubbed one of the easiest questions I’ve ever been asked: “Lara, can you tell us a little about yourself?”
It was a beautiful summer day and I was on a cruise, sailing the Toronto harbor with 70 other ISES Toronto members. I had just recently left my 15-year career as a brand strategist to oversee sales and marketing for my family event business. I’d joined ISES because I wanted to network with other people in the industry. This was only the second event I had been to and I had expected that I’d be hobnobbing, playing some poker and enjoying some tasty hors d’oeuvres. Little did I know that while eating at my table a spotlight would shine on me and I would be the featured person for ISES’ monthly “member moment.”
I was asked to stand at a microphone in the center of the dance floor and tell everyone who I was and what I did. At that moment my heart stopped and I ceased being easy-going Lara and was transformed into a sweaty-palmed, cotton-mouthed shell of my former self. As I stood at the microphone with all eyes on me, I could barely get out my name. I had forgotten who I was and what I did. I was humiliated. I had glossophobia –the fear of speaking in public. I realized that if I ever wanted to be great at selling my business or myself I had to conquer my fear of public speaking.
We all have fears – some rational, some not so much. But worse than our fear is our desire to cling to what’s comfortable and safe. It would have been easy for me to stay in my cocoon of places and situations where I could get lost in the crowd. Instead, the moment I got home that evening, with no speaking experience and an utter fear of standing at the front of a room, I submitted an application to be a speaker for a national industry event.
This was my point of no return. It’s what I refer to as my “Burning of the Boats.”
In history there are many sordid tales of commanders who, after landing in a hostile country, ordered their men to burn down their ships. “Why on Earth would they ruin some perfectly good boats?” you might ask. By doing so, the men were left only two choices: die or win. The words retreat, safety and escape were erased from their vocabulary.
Once I removed these words (or should I say the things that held me back), I had no choice but to advance. I worked diligently for three months to come up with the best presentation I could.
The day had come and, oddly, I was not as nervous as I expected. 60 minutes into my session, I finished my last word, which was followed by a standing ovation. Yes, the entire room stood up and clapped. At that very moment a switch turned on in my head and I knew I had found my new calling.
Seven years later I’ve spoken to audiences in Asia, Australia, Canada, the US, the Caribbean and beyond. I’ve met so many incredible people around the world all because of my decision to Burn the Boats.