1776 by David McCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Belief was a strong characteristic that enabled George Washington to stay with his task even when discouraged and feeling hopeless. His belief in ‘why’ they were defending the United States gave him remarkable courage and determination to stick out the war. At a time when he may have been the wealthiest person in the US it would have been understandable if at any time he would have backed down.
The book is great and written in a way that keeps your attention page after page. McCullough may be my favorite author.
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I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Depending on the circumstances of us meeting, if we’ve met, there will be two dramatically different responses to this revelation. Very opposing responses.
If we were introduced socially, you’re already in on the secret. If someone were to ask you “did you know this about her” your reply would be “isn’t it obvious, everyone knows that about her”.
Suppose our meeting happened in a professional setting. Revealing this truth about myself would receive a much different reaction. “No way”. “It’s not possible”. “Not her”.
Here’s the secret
I am not just a little bit shy. I am deathly shy. My preferred role in a social setting; wall flower. The thought of having to introduce myself to total strangers and be able to make small talk with them gives me the same pit in my stomach as having just ate some bad sushi. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I remember being on a bus trip and someone yelled out “why don’t you ever talk”? My valiant hero responded “she never talks”. Shy. So shy. Paralyzed with fear.
In a professional setting a totally different persona comes to life. A hostess with the mostest, A larger than life very social figure. Someone who is outgoing, approachable, even . . . LOUD. Put her on a stage and let her speak to the room and she shines. Who is this person? Where does she come from?
It wasn’t always this way. I remember early on in my career I would have to do morning sales meetings. As I began to speak I would feel it. The burning red creep. It would start on my chest and the warm burning sensation would climb. I would think “don’t be visible, don’t be visible” as I felt it creep up to my neck. “Don’t be visible”, now my ears are on fire. “Don’t be visible”, my cheeks are certainly crimson with the burn. The horror. Complete terror.
What is different now? Competence. Studying your craft, becoming an expert and doing something over and over again until you build competence. Action builds competence. Competence then breeds confidence. Look at the athletes about to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics. As they are about to begin their event they radiate confidence. It wasn’t always there. There was fear. Confidence came with repeated practice of their sport making them competent.
There are two reasons I decided to share my secret with you. First, you may be holding yourself back because, like most people, you have a fear of speaking. This can be conquered. Be a subject matter expert and keep throwing yourself into situations where you have to give presentations. Eventually, it will get easier and even become enjoyable. Second, as you’re working on yourself at the onset of the new year you may have some limiting beliefs about your abilities that are preventing you from setting certain goals. I can’t possibly give a presentation, don’t you know that I’m shy? Maybe it’s not speaking, perhaps it’s writing. Maybe it’s exercise. Just start doing it. Action builds competence and competence breeds confidence. You can do this.