I’ve heard it said that we should all do one thing that scares us every day and although I question the wisdom of going out of my way to experience any perceptively negative emotion, I see the logic of the idea. Familiarity breeds stagnation in many contexts, and I certainly know the value of trying something new, whether it be a word, a phrase, a restaurant or a path to work.
My trip to New Zealand this spring was a brilliant exercise in stepping up and out of the familiar. I tried luging and I added a lot of wonderful new people to my circle of friends. I feasted my eyes on the spectacular landscapes of a beautiful country. But the part that was really designed to knock the socks off participants in the Live Your List/Waterbearers adventure in the South Pacific was our planned Ted-type talk to an expected 3,000-5,000 people in the Forsyth Barr Rugby Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.
As part of the trip, all 38 participants were expected to create an inspiring talk that would be delivered as part of a fundraising initiative in honour of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, an organization that helps teenaged girls avoid—and leave—abusive relationships. The organization’s namesake, Sophie Elliott, was murdered by her boyfriend after a five-month relationship, and her parents have vowed to devote their lives to sparing other families the trauma of such a hideous fate. This was a tremendously worthy cause and it was an honour to be included among the speakers.
It was the thousands of people that would potentially be in the audience that gave me pause. I speak a number of times every year and I enjoy speaking – I get through each talk by realizing that it’s not about me at all, but rather it’s a way to share ideas to support the people in my audience. But thousands of people is a lot of people, and a rugby stadium is a very large venue. I was in the company of some highly polished and experienced speakers and it was inspiring to see how everyone else handled the potentially frightening prospect of speaking to a huge crowd. It was a massive chance for me to step up.
In the end, the day of the presentations turned out to be quite chilly and there certainly weren’t thousands of people in the audience. It was still a big job to present my talk calmly and professionally and it was a treat to listen to all the other speakers’ fabulous talks. The next day we each delivered workshops indoors at the stadium and I was thrilled to have a good turnout for my workshop about using your book as a bridge builder.
The experience in Dunedin was a remarkable opportunity to stretch and grow, and do something bolder than I would normally challenge myself to do. It was a little bit terrifying and a whole lot of exciting. And the best part is, that if the opportunity to speak in a stadium ever presents itself again, it will be something I’ve already survived. And if you can do it once….