Your heart is throbbing. It feels like battle drums are pounding through your chest. Your breaths are short and fast. A laser-like focus on the task at hand overwhelms you and takes a hold of you. Nothing else matters. Your knees feel like they are buckling, but still, you feel strong. Are you afraid? You’re trembling. But ready. You’re scared. But determined. You’re impatient, yet calm. And then all hell breaks loose.
What I am describing are some of the visceral ongoings getting ready to step into an arena and fight. However big or small a venue, your emotions are very similar. What’s interesting is that these are very much the same bodily mechanisms that go off right before entering a stage for public speaking gigs, holding a talk or lecture. I’ve done both, and you get addicted to the anticipation, the self-doubt before the event and the absolute high after you have accomplished something very few people will even dare.
Come to think of it, it might be the two least favourite activities for any human being to endure. To step onto a mat, into a cage or ring and actually fight some unknown individual in a moderated life and death situation or walk onto a stage, with lights burning bright, in clothes that are always uncomfortable, and to speak to a silent group of people staring at blankly at you.
When I get asked to hold talks I go deep, deep into concentration mode. I devote every, single free hour I can muster to get the presentation ready, and I always work into the night the night before. I’m never happy with the result, I just get less displeased with it. This, of course, sounds truly grim, but I immerse myself in the topic to the point where I’m confident only a handful of people in the audience know it better than me. I also have a secret weapon. I devote at least 3 times as much time to the delivery than the topic. Rhetoric, the tone of voice and body language are all skills that need to be worked on and mastered. I live by the words of Marshall McLuhan:
“The medium is the message.”
Now, a lot of my senior colleagues have at times given me grief for spending valuable time, thus resources, and not being able to think on my feet because I use so much time in readying. I respect their viewpoint but they don’t have, and likely never will understand what kind of standards I put in preparation.
I have learned, through many fight camps leading up to fights that they absolutely suck. They drain you to the bone. Every single class, you push yourself to a limit you never thought possible. It is not a rare occurrence to see grown men break down and cry in these situations. You ready yourself to the absolute limit. Try to take in everything you can, learn all there is, and finally become the fight master you were destined to be – just like in old training montages from the 80’s. The problem is.. it never happens. You’re just one step ahead from where you were yesterday. But it’s in those incremental improvements that you get ahead, and prevail.
You cannot afford to not be ready for a fight.
This is the work ethic I bring with me into public speaking. I believe that discipline and hard work gives me freedom and that the time invested in a great performance outweighs the valuable resource of time spent. Never compromise on quality.
So the next time you are getting ready for a presentation, however big or small, treat it like you are getting ready for a fight. Nothing is worth doing half-ass, or as I like to say:
Never Half Ass Anything. What Ever You Do, Always Use Your Full Ass.