You’re terrified just THINKING about it. But a fear of public speaking or related performance anxiety can be overcome…take it from a doctor who did it.
Here’s that TEDMED talk btw!
– What’s up everyone, ZDogg. Look, I go all around the world doing talks and sometimes it’s 10000 people like Emergency Nurses Association. And I have to tell you people are like, oh man, it was great, you look like you’re natural on stage, everything goes wrong and you just seem to blow it off and make jokes about it and are in the pocket. And what they don’t realize is I, for years, suffered from crippling, I mean debilitating stage fright.
I mean, and even that name stage fright, Mark Twain invented it. It doesn’t do the horror justice of what this is. Imagine the days before you’re supposed to do a talk, you’re just seized with this panic in the pit of your stomach or right here like an elephant sitting on your chest going . You’re gonna have to talk in front of people that you don’t know. Or worse, that you do now. And I realized over the years that there’s an evolutionary reason for this. We evolved our sense of reason and communication to actually tell other people in our tribe things that are important about our own emotional state.
So in other words, I think it’s really important that we hunt this bison this way, right guys? Are you with me? And in that moment where you’re talking to the tribe, your life is actually in danger. Because if you say the wrong thing, if you fail to persuade them, if they become hostile, you could not mate, you could not eat, you may lose your hunting privileges, you may lose your status. And that will threaten your life. Now go back to what stage fright feels like. It feels like there’s a lion in the other room and you’re about to walk into that room and square off against this lion. It’s a fight or flight adrenaline response. And it feels like you’re dying. Some people actually have the physical manifestations with the dry mouth and the sweaty palms and the tremor and actually tunnel vision which comes from this dump of adrenergic hormone. And it feels horrible. And people try to avoid public speaking for this reason. Even when they have a gift to give, so this is what happened with me, for years, anytime before I’d go on and do a talk, I would live in panic and fear, and the minutes before I got on stage were the worst. I was involuted in a ball just thinking about how this audience was gonna tear me apart, all the mistakes I was gonna make, how I’m a worthless unfunny piece of crap and I have nothing to give them. Yeah, that’s gonna go well, right? So already you’re at a disadvantage. So how do you get over this? How did I then, now I look forward to talks, and I’ve transformed that anxious energy into an actual excitement that I have a gift to give the audience. I still get scared right before but that fear is actually adrenaline that gets me woke enough to get onstage, get in the pocket, and get in the flow state. So what did I do differently?
There’s a few things. And this is my advice. Number one: do it a lot. So like any phobia, exposure is ultimately the antidote. The more you practice, the more you do it, the more you realize that although we evolved to have to survive by communicating and we’re in danger, this is not one of those occasions. The audience wants to get a gift from you. They want to be with you and receive what you’re giving them. And they’re on your side. When you frame it this way, that fight or flight starts to transform. The second thing you do is practice. So do your thing so that it’s unconscious. The minute you have to think about what you’re doing, you’re done, you’re finished. Performers know this, athletes know this. It’s called getting in the pocket or in the zone or in flow. When I go on stage, okay yes, I get this burst of adrenaline right before I go on, I look at the size of the audience, and now it doesn’t even matter whether it’s three people or 30000. I feel the same rush of adrenaline and it’s channeled into excitement that oh wow, I get to go onstage and be with these people and get into the state that I love which is a flow state. Then you go on stage and you’ve done it.
You know that what you have to bring is important and you have to believe that. And then you bring it. You don’t think about it, you respond in real time. You know, there’s a story about Martin Luther King, the I Have a Dream speech. “I have a dream” wasn’t in his speech. You can see it happening. He was reading off the thing and then someone behind him says, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” And he put down his speech and he was in flow state, and at that point, you were in church with Martin Luther King. I have a dream. And in that pocket, the audience is there with him and imagine there’s a hundred thousand people or more all in a flow state with Martin Luther King. That is what’s on offer when you let go, when you transcend this evolutionary fear and you harness it to actually power you through performances. That means practice, it means working on confidence, it means taking a breath and centering yourself. Or you can take a beta blocker and give the same crappy talk that everybody else in healthcare gives. Just devoid of passion and devoid of feeling. Those drugs do nothing but blunt our experience. A coward and a hero feel the same fear. They just respond to it differently. And when it comes to speaking, we can all respond in a way that allows us to give our gift to others on stage. All right, guys, do me a favor; leave a comment on how you’ve overcome your fear of public speaking or if you still struggle with it. What do you do about it? Okay, share this video. Become a supporter if you wanna support the work we do and come see one of my shows. They’re kinda dope. I have confidence now. Right, Tom Hinueber?
– [Tom] You’re okay.
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