Sep 1 2014.
I was up in front of my 125 odd engineering batchmates, asked by our Language and Communications faculty, Dr Alam to deliver a speech on any random topic of my choice for 2 mins at the least.
I sucked up. Sure, I spoke for entire 2 minutes duration. But nevertheless, I was not good. I was really bad. I wasn’t confident at all and in the end, I was shivering and sweating like a marathon runner does at the end of an hour long run. My shirt was literally that wet, especially around my lower back and underarms. Why did that happen? I had no idea. But, I knew one thing for sure. I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking.
So, what did I do to turn the situation around?
I did just what I was afraid of. I began to participate and practice.
I began participating in a host of group discussions (GD), debates, extempores, panel discussions and speech competitions. Any activity which would make me go in front of a number of people and talk, I would do it. No second thoughts.
My principle was straight forward and simple.
It didn’t matter if I made a fool of my self in front of people. All that mattered was that I did it with confidence. I had the clarity in my head which decreed that the day I would have accumulated that deal of aplomb in my guts, I would have won over my vulnerability as far as public speaking is concerned. The goal was not to become a great speaker. It was just to go out there and not feel anxious or afraid about doing something that my mind and body would have otherwise preferred not to do. Doing things that would be way out of my comfort zone.
In the 4+ years of my college life to this day, I have won over 6 Panel Discussions, 5 GDs and Debates, 2 Case Study presentations, 1 B-Plan contest, 3 Extempores and 1 Business Presentation Contest.
I don’t know what the reader would make out of those numbers, but I believe that those are quite decent figures. And, if I have won those many, rest assured that I must have participated in at least 3 times those number of events and competitions to become worthy of winning them. And, you know what? I won most of those competitions in the last two years and not in the initial two years of college. In fact, my performances in the successive events have been immense improvements over their very preceding ones. Why? Because of compounding. Just as money compounds exponentially if invested deftly, so does confidence one holds. I didn’t know that until I myself experienced it.
I was no more afraid or apprehensive about whether people would approve of my thoughts and be congenial with my acts and ideas or not. What people would think or say about what I say, that was no more my concern.
I would no longer feel antagonized when I would have to compete against a host of good speakers because I had grown confident that I myself am not a bad speaker either. Also because I would be aware of the reality that if I would stay focused at the event and what others spoke, that would be enough for me to do better than I did the previous time. All because I have been used to that pattern now. The more I participate, the better I perform in every successive event. My confidence and performance level keep compounding.
Today, I know that even if someone dictates my name out of the blue and gives me a random topic to talk about in front of hundred-odd strangers on the stage, well, I will surely work something out on the spot. That’s what practice does to you. It breeds an unprecedented deal of confidence in you.
Unprecedented. Mark that word.
Every time I was going out and competing in some competition that involved public speaking, I was basically doing something that I was not comfortable doing. And, by doing that same thing which I was uncomfortable doing, and doing it again and again and again relentlessly, it was a natural turnout for me to begin to feel comfortable going up on stage and speaking.
Now, I am experimenting. Exploring what else I can do. I am trying to discover what all new possibilities this accumulated confidence opens up for me. Let me explain.
When my juniors asked me if I would like to host TEDx ABVIIITMG that they were organizing in August this year, I said yes. I knew that I didn’t have the experience to host that event. But, I was confident enough to go up the stage and make a fool out of myself for a 3-hour long event. I was not afraid what people would think of me in case I didn’t do well.
I did it. And, I did it quite well.
Read more about it here: Jayant Shilanjan Mundhra’s answer to How was your experience of anchoring a TEDx event?
When I got to know that an open mic was about to happen in my college in association with Nojoto, I didn’t take a minute to make my mind that I was going to participate.
I had three options. I could do poetry, storytelling or stand-up comedy. I knew that given my past experience, it would be in my best interest to do a poetry act or storytelling. Had I been sane, I would have done that. But, I didn’t. I said, fuck those things. And then I went on to do stand-up comedy act which turned out to be quite a success. People laughed, clapped, hooted and hollered in my support. They cheered for me. Bingo!
Read more about it here: Jayant Shilanjan Mundhra’s answer to When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Before that day I never knew that I could make people laugh every few seconds. Now, I know. Also, I could never have even thought that I could don a stand-up comedy act in the first place. Now, I know that I can. Okay no. That’s an exaggeration. I am not good enough to say that. But you see? I am confident about it as well, even if I am not good enough. I know that even if I am not good, I can surely work something out if I were to be pushed under the spotlight.
That’s the thing I am talking about.
When you get out of your comfort zone, its only then that you learn that comfort zone is nothing but a scam that your mind is playing on you. If you heed to your mind, it’s going to keep you where you are. But if you choose to defy it, the possibilities are seamless.
Think about it. From being a person who once sweated like a sloth in a heat chamber after just 2 minutes of speaking, to hosting a 3 and a half hour long TEDx event and doing a successful stand-up comedy act and also winning sleuth of debates, GDs and other events as aforementioned, my growth has been phenomenal! For some that might be mundane. But given where I stood four years back, I know for certain that I have grown a lot, and have the potential for a lot more.
Back then on 1st Sep 2014, sweating and shivering after my first such public speaking experience, could I have even thought that someday I would have such things to write about in a post like this one? Hell no! But today, I know. All because I defied my mind.
And, that is the point I wanted to highlight in this post.
Practice and Participate. Step out of the scam that your mind is playing on you. And, possibilities will be seamless. If they have been for me, they can surely be for you as well.
PS: Liked what I wrote above? If yes, then you will surely like what’s in my upcoming book, Redemption of a Son which releases this 22nd October 2018 on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Source: Shilanjan on Instagram